[Part 1 of this story is here]

My thought as I sat in the far back of the small lounge while the host uttered my bloated credentials to the audience was…

“I would pay anyone in this room every dollar to my name (about $65 at that time) to go up there and pretend to be me right now.”

Realizing I’d waited far too long to make this proposition to even the most willing taker, I stood and walked to the stage amidst the hollow smattering of applause specific to a group of people who’ve been instructed to “make some noise” but have skeptical faith their effort will be rewarded.

I probably grunted into the microphone the same way a Wal-Mart worker sighs away their personal freedom just before punching the clock, and then meandered into my opening joke.

“Warner Robins… nice town you got here. I had some time to kill today so I went to the local police auction. Bought my bong back.”

Titters.

“You know when is a fun time to be high? Fourth of July to watch fireworks. Everyone is high on the 4th of July. Which makes it a horrible time to be on a boat. Think about it… you could be sinking out there, you shoot up a flair… everyone’s like, (stoner voice) “Whaaa… that one kind of sucked.”

Murmurs.

There’s a bizarre phenomenon in stand-up comedy where you can absolutely kill one show and then bomb the next. Same exact jokes. Delivered in the same careful order. Yet, somehow, one group of strangers will collectively find you brilliant and cheer you on like their favorite band performing their favorite song on their 21st birthday… and the very next group of strangers, in the very same seats, will resist you like a vagrant asking for money in a dark parking lot. 

Sometimes it’s us, and sometimes it’s them. 

Over the years I chalked it up to simple “chemistry”. 

The same way you can meet a single person and instantly hit it off or feel unbearable torture to be in their very presence, groups of people form a nucleus, and that nucleus forms a distinct personality. 

Sometimes you and the nucleus become soulmates, other times you detest every slow-ticking second you’re forced to share the same oxygen supply. 

My chemistry with this audience, second show Saturday in Warner Robins, GA, was unique. 

They wanted to root for me, but they weren’t. Because I was rooting against me, and vicariously, against them.

Fucked up, right? 

That’s a lot of strange energy for what should have been a predictable rhythm of set-ups and punchlines.

As if they were a group of kindergartners led to the library for story time and the book is, “Why Mommy Moved Away.”

Finally, a single voice from the dark rose up to speak, in a thick southern twang, what everyone was feeling…

“Man. Is it me? Or is somethin’ weird?”  

That’s exactly what he said. 

Easily, the strangest and most profound heckle ever hurled at me.

Not a threat (like the time a guy in Nebraska yelled, “You’re dead!”) or an attempt at one upping the comic, or a “just helping you out, bro” type heckle.

This was an intervention. 

His intent was clear by his tone. Part angry customer who was receiving bad service, part caring human who felt for the server… but either way, was not going to sit and suffer through it without saying something. 

“Yes, it is weird,” I said back.
“It’s my fault, man. I just don’t want to be here.” 


The room was silent.

“I’ve been hauling this same trunk of dick jokes around the country for nine years. I’m tired. The jokes are tired. And you’re catching us on a night when we can’t muscle through it to give you what you deserve,” I continued on in full existential confession.  

“Which is a few laughs for showering away your shitty job, driving down here, paying the cover charge, and taking a chance on something magical – or at least amusing – coming through this microphone tonight.” 

“Let’s say it together,” I continued. “Well, I guess that shit ain’t happening!”

At this, the first genuine laugh of the night.

I went on to rant openly about the road, the business, the “stranger in a small town” existence of it all. And slowly, the nucleus of people who’d previously been counting the minutes until I’d vacate their oxygen supply, started to become, if not soulmates… caring, understanding, and amused, new friends.

Despite a chunk of their night being stolen away by my sloppy service, they embraced that we were in an honest moment together and allowed the chemistry to flip. 

I ended my set with a respectable run of still tired, but now inspired, dick jokes. Thanked them for gifting me a memorable last show and said “goodnight” to a meaningful round of applause. 

And that was it. The end of a decade-long run of adventure I would not trade a second of, but had clearly run its course.  

I believe we all face these moments where we hit the proverbial wall of life. Where whatever momentum we’ve been fueling smashes to a stop with a crashing “thud.” 

We always hear it. And feel it. 

Usually others sense it, too. 

If we’re lucky, someone who cares will reach out and ask you if “somethin’s weird.”

Change is never easy. 

Accepting that something does need to change when you don’t know what it is, or how to do it, is a genuine crossroads moment in life. 

The stories we hear from people who’ve built significant things, and created interesting lives, have each stood at this crossroad. Staring down four barren, unmarked paths with no way of knowing where each one leads. 

The one thing none of them did at that moment was sit down. 

They, like you have, or will be summoned to one day, followed their best instincts, chose a path, and started walking.

It’s easy to feel, when we’ve been putting our energy towards something for a time, like we’re obligated to the direction we’ve been moving in. 

The walls are there to challenge that urge. 

Do you stop and change direction? 
Find a way over the wall?
Risk death trying to smash through it?

Only the future can say. 

But, I’m confident that if we listen to our thoughts,
trust our instincts, and refuse to sit idle, we end up in a better place. 


My wall was clearly marked with big letters: “Welcome to Warner Robins”

The “thud” was audible to me, and amplified to a group of kind strangers.

From there, I just started walking. 

P.S. If you’re up against a “wall of life” right now and you believe working as a freelancer is a path forward for you. I’m happy to give you some training that will help. Go here and tell me more about your work experience and we’ll get you the most relevant stuff we have.


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