January 22nd, 2016:
I just moved into a gorgeous apartment and my comedy is thriving. I’ve been asked to be on a panel for a popular NPR radio show. I’ll be on the show to discuss the comedy of Connecticut — my home state — and why the state is seen as humorless.
The show is not my typical event. I tell dick jokes for a living, and now I’m surrounded by a bunch of older stuck-up milquetoast folks who wouldn’t even stand behind me in line at CVS. Now they have to listen to what I have to say about comedy. Ridiculous. There are three guests plus a host tonight. Each guest represents a sect of comedy.
Me — Here to represent standup comedy. I loaded up Hunter S. Thompson-style on a Monday. I came with a flask filled with Stoli, a baggie of Sour Diesel, and even some old coke I had stashed in a shoe. I think I’m out of my element.
The improv chick — She means well but she’s overly peppy and can’t stop talking about how improv can bring us all together and laugh and make us best friends. I want to vomit.
The playwright — He drives a Scion xB, and has a thumb ring and a pinky ring.
That’s our panel.
My phone starts ringing. It’s my dad.
I’m at the school at the pre-show dinner. There are a few of us having a fancy meal and drinking a douchey French rosé called Ruse le Douche, talking about how dissecting comedy is awful. It’s the show’s host, the playwright, my girlfriend, and myself. I should have gotten more stoned.
My phone starts ringing. It’s my dad. Normally I’d just call him back after the show to avoid being rude to the table but I’m looking for an out from this stupid conversation. I take a sip of wine and answer the phone.
“Hello?” I belch.
“Bob?” My dad stammers in a voice I’ve never heard him use.
“My god, Bri… I meant to call my brother Bob. I just found my mom on the ground.” He’s crying.
“Is she ok!?” I say.
“No.” That’s it. He hangs up. I freeze.
Picture every bad emotion, each one representing an instrument in an orchestra, simultaneously blaring to form a dissonant, harsh chord. It is all I can hear. My pulse is an erratic tempo. Breathe. The orchestra drowns out all the noise in the room; it’s overwhelming.
I slam my phone down on the table. Everyone can tell I’m not okay.
When you don’t care you are most honest and most confident.
“My grandma just died.” I whisper.
“What?” My girlfriend asks.
I repeat loudly, “My grandma just died.”
Should I leave? Do I keep eating? Who the fuck cares about the state of comedy in Connecticut?
But I decide to do the show.
While we’re all sitting backstage, I turn to the playwright. “Hey, you want to go get drunk in the bathroom?” I ask. He laughs nervously. I pull out my flask and he realizes I’m serious. He shrugs and follows me to the bathroom. When he swigs, his pinky points, exaggerating the ring. Okay, Joe Pesci.
The show begins. We are sitting in chairs all in a row facing a crowd of about 50 people. I’m extremely buzzed and couldn’t care less about any of this.
I crushed at the show. I was very prepared and all my jokes reached the audience perfectly. My mind was so far away that it made the show seem like pointless bullshit. When you don’t care, you are most honest and most confident. As soon as it ended I left and called my family.
August 16, 2016
I’m smoking a cigarette in the back of a mechanic’s garage. Marlboro Reds. I can barely breathe in the August heat of New England, let alone inhale this delicious death stick. I’m nodding and smiling, trying my hardest to pretend I know what a lower intake manifold gasket is.
At first glance there’s nothing glamorous about a 2002 Chevy S10.
Sure, at first glance there’s nothing glamorous about a 2002 Chevy S10, but for me it’s priceless. My confidence must be soaring because this jargon-rambling mechanic doesn’t know I don’t even have enough money to pay, but hey, I’ve got to get to my gig in Philly. I’ll do what I have to do, to do what I want to do. Smoke another one.
Back in late 2015, a few months after my grandfather passed, my grandma offered to sell me his Chevy for a steal of $1,000. He’d barely used it, so she was in mint condition. As I signed the paperwork, I remember her saying that she was proud of me and that I was “a good kid.” I didn’t realize at the time that brief sentence would become important to me.
Nor did I realize that the Chevy — essentially all I have left of my grandparents — would become my home away from home.
I’ll do what I have to do, to do what I want to do.
As soon as I got her, I started hitting the road. Hard. Touring more and more, mainly alone. I would do an hour onstage confidently, building small followings along the way. Having my own transportation gave me a whole new sense of freedom.
My grandma and I didn’t talk every day. Heck, we didn’t talk most days. I regret not asking her certain questions or having trivial conversations, if only to help me remember her more.
I’d like to think that the gesture of selling me the Chevy was her nod of encouragement. It was her way to help me keep moving toward my dreams. I owe her a debt, because she helped give me the tools to pursue what I’m passionate about. She gave me freedom.
I can remember Christmases in her living room. The family would gather, with the adults in a alcohol-induced haze and the kids being weird kids. She would just smile. Her house was where you wanted to be and her smile keeps me encouraged, keeps me wanting to make the most of my days.
Life is a lot like driving from gig to gig in the Chevy. You bounce around the towns, just passing through. Arm out the window, wind in your hair, driving down a winding road. You laugh. You cry. Then the car stops. And you die.