My 10 Day Comedy ‘Shutdown’

During my 1,000 days of comedy, people would ask me, ‘So what are you gonna do when it’s over?’ A natural question, but I heard it so much that it started to become obnoxious. Mostly because I didn’t know the answer. I really had no plan whatsoever. And so people would ask, and I didn’t know what to say, so I just said ‘I dunno. Just chill.’ And most people didn’t understand that. They’d be like, ‘Aren’t you gonna go on vacation somewhere?’ I just traveled 1,000 days in a row, whether car, plane, subway, or foot. You think I really want to book more travel, go through airport security another time, have the TSA guy yell at me for having too many toiletries in the wrong sized bag again, and listen to another pilot’s not-well-planned sense of humor when he’s trying to comfort us about the turbulence, but really he is just afraid of dying as the rest of us? Truth is, I just don’t have anyone I’d like to travel with. I’m single, and all of my close friends work. I’m not going to the beach by myself. I will however, stay home by myself, for I have no shame in that. Staying home is already a loser-ish activity, so doing it by yourself makes no difference, only does it more justice really.

And then people would ask, ‘Aren’t you gonna have withdrawals?? What are you going to do?? Run to find a mic?’ Yea, so I can beat you over the head with it for trying to get in my head. This is a classic case of people unconsciously trying to create problems. Because, no, I didn’t think I would have withdrawals…until people brought it up. I don’t do comedy because it’s an addiction. I do it because it’s a choice I made. Just like the choice one makes to smoke marijuana every day or eat to survive. If it’s an addiction I’m not aware of it. Rarely are addicted people aware of their own addictions. Awareness is step one of getting over an addiction, it’s half the battle, and thus the biggest enemy of the addiction. People would be like, ‘man you’re gonna go crazy!’ Why would you even wish that upon me? Why would you suggest a negative outcome? Do you hate me? Do you really want that to happen or do you just want to know someone else out there is suffering? We all are, Steve. And this questioning was coming to me in almost every conversation I had near the end of the streak. My head already pounding from the pressure (self imposed) and lack of sleep, and now I have to listen to my brain explode when I get this stupid question. And then I wonder, maybe they are right, maybe I AM going to go crazy, I’m already crazy from the stress, and now this will be my downward spiral..

Truth is, I just took a 10 day break, I did not go crazy, and I did not have one single withdrawal the whole time. In fact, I was more at peace than I’ve been in a very, very long time. So, in sum, people don’t know what they are talking about, and vacations are awesome.

So what did I do? Here’s a run down. To safe guard from the whole potential withdrawals thing, I tapered out of comedy the first day. After doing multiple hours each night in the last few nights, I knew it would be weird not to do anything social the first day, so I signed up for two events. The first was a Palestinian convention at Golden Gate Park in SF. After a high from having an amazing sold out final show at SF Punch Line, I sleep in and drive back tt the city from Fremont to get some more action. I speak, do some of my jokes, and I essentially bombed. These events, like the MIddle East, are never well organized, conducive of comedy, and most people just don’t understand what is going on. So I took all of the good feelings I had from my set the night before, and threw them in the dumpster by bombing for 7 minutes at this convention. Most people would think, aww man, don’t you wanna end on a high note? No, this is the best way to start a break. I’ve notice every time I do bad at comedy, it makes me not want to do comedy anymore. When you kill, that feeds the addiction. When you bomb it just makes you go back to thinking, well maybe I should just be a normal person and not a comedian. Yes, so the culmination of doing 1,001 days of comedy is that you bomb for 7 minutes at the end. It’s like opening a series of packages to get a punch in the face. Next I went and gave a speech at a professional organization from Berkeley that I am a member of. It was very informal but it went well, to remind me that I am a good speaker, and that most audiences are not older Arabs and their children. And then I went home at 9 pm and watched Netflix.

My goals for the 10 day hiatus were to 1) sleep, 2) cleanse my system of the 1,000 days of comedy, and 3) learn to laugh again. Let’s briefly go through them.

1) Becoming a comedian is a tradeoff for good sleep. A person gets better sleep the earlier they go to bed. Comedians seldom go to bed early, unless they are able to take the night off, which I did not for 1,000 days. Furthermore, the adrenaline and head rush from performing keep you up later, and make it harder to sleep. And doing this night after night, you chip away at your whole system. So, for this 10 days, nearly every night I was in bed by midnight, which is way early for me, and some nights by 11. The sleep was amazing, and after a few days I felt like a new person. The power of just one night off a week to get this kind of sleep will do wonders for my body moving forward.

2) For 1,000 days I was accumulating said adrenaline, with no reset. During the 1,000 days I often fasted, exercised, meditated, but the one thing that did not change was getting that adrenaline each day. So for this 10 days, I had a chance to rid it from my system. To aid, I did a detox, which included a 3 day juice fast, a lot of heated yoga to sweat it out, massage, and acupuncture. In addition, the whole idea of the 1,000 days of comedy, the memories, and the stress, had accumulated in my mind, so I had to get rid of that, by not talking about it, or even thinking about comedy. It was tough, running into people at the store, who would bring it up. Any time I heard the word ‘thousand’ my ears would perk up. But I eventually got rid of that nausea that I would feel when I’d think about it. I did a few things on social media, but otherwise, I completely rid myself of the concept of comedy.

3) One could argue that the root cause of all the pain, stress, and suffering that one endures from 1,000 Days of Comedy, is from becoming immune to laughter. Independent of 1,000 days of working, there was an added burden of not finding much funny anymore. So I knew my mission was to start laughing again. Organically, of course, but I would have to learn to relax and enjoy some good comedy. I flipped through Netflix and watched a bunch of these new series that people are talking about. I must say that a lot of these network sitcoms are really, really bad. I did, however, find a lot of laughs in Workaholics. Re learning how to laugh is a process that requires patience and really allowing yourself to let go. I also made sure to go out with my friends for drinks to get my laugh muscle lubed up. And I must say, after a few minutes of laughing, I feel no pain whatsoever. Trite as it is, laughter is indeed the best medicine. Thus, depriving oneself of the best thing, must be the worst thing. Hence I’d say 1,000 days of comedy-itis might just be one of the worst conditions you can have. But it’s all over now, folks.

My shutdown really flew by, but I enjoyed and needed every second of it. Any day less I don’t think I’d be able to return to comedy as healed as I am. Any day more I may have started to get bored or feel lazy. But on the 10th night, I did my first return set at Rooster T Feathers…a 15 minute set for a smaller crowd, a great way to ease back in. I’ve never felt more refreshed on stage. 10 days is the longest I’ve taken off since I ever started comedy. But when I started I was nervous as hell, so I couldn’t enjoy it. This return from hiatus is a very special feeling. I’m back, rested, and ready for a new beginning that will, overall, benefit the world. Hope the government is taking notes.