My first experience with FOMO was in pre-school. The teacher said it was nap-time and I wasn’t tired! I didn't see any point in napping. (Now I know it's to give the teachers a much-needed break) 25+ years later I still have trouble with naps. If I'm napping I'm probably feverish and close to death. Otherwise, I lay in bed, frustrated, healthy, and stare at the ceiling for awhile before inevitably pulling out my phone.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of being on two great stand-up shows with polished comics. Hilarious folks who I believe are killing it in the DMV and beyond. Before show #2 started I was feeling chatty. A heart to heart was had, and my goodness, EVERYONE is perpetually frustrated with comedy! All. The. Time. Even the killers.
That revelation was depressing, yet reassuring. For those who feel it, the pressure is very real. Whether it’s pressure to succeed, do better than your peers, get on bigger stages, or finally get local validation, it can push us forward to the brink of insanity… A part of me likes those insane weeks where I’m going HAM on comedy, I become very joke-focused. I cut out all the distractions. All that matters is my material and the audience(s). Then I go on this wild ride where my self-esteem ping pongs back and forth as I refine my jokes. It’s a great short-term plan, but in no way sustainable for me.
This past year I discovered I need stability outside of comedy. As important as it is for me to get up 5 nights a week, it’s just as (or even more) important to see my family, play board games with my friends, have quality time with my partner, and have fun relaxing and not being the center of attention. Because honestly, a majority of the time I feel like I’m living on borrowed time, burning the candle at both ends. It can really be so exhausting, but I know a great night will give me a couple extra days of energy. Most nights, before I leave the house I play this pessimistic FOMO game in my head, "If I stay home it will be a great show, but if I go out the show will suck and drain me even further!” I’m usually wrong in a way that I didn’t imagine.
When I’m feeling crazy, tired, or not in the mood, I remind myself that the average social human in their 20’s-40's goes out one, maybe two nights a week, but the average ambitious comedian is pushing 5+ nights a week while neglecting other parts of their lives. It can be easy to look up and see young comedian X being famous, but I can almost guarantee that somebody who put their whole life into comedy isn’t happy. They are famous, but miserable. We see their Netflix specials but we don’t see their mental problems building up. Their growing trust issues due to fame. The loneliness.
I have some ridiculously aspirational goals, but one of the things that keeps me grounded is I'm in it for the long game. Who knows, maybe I'll "make it" doing Being A Dad Comedy, if not then maybe Grandad Comedy. Ultimately, I think my point is you can totally push yourself past the human limits, but also consider balancing that out by taking a night off when you're feeling fine! (I know crazy idea) But you can totally go hang out with a friend, or call a family member, or binge Netflix in lieu of performing stand-up, even when you're not feeling like total dogshit! Or maybe if you want a little extra rest you can just lay in bed, and stare at the ceiling for awhile before inevitably pulling out your phone.
Comedian, Author, Improviser Producer, Sketch Writer and Teacher living in the Baltimore, MD. Likes sharing his thoughts on things.
Allan lives in Little Italy/Fells Point, Maryland with his wife and daughter.