About 4 months ago I had a dream that I was on Conan (see Day 885). It was an eerie, lucid dream, and I bombed horrifically. This was before I knew I would be on Conan, but it was so real, it made me wonder if it was an omen. I just remember being on the stage, frozen, unable to tell a joke. And then the sound and lighting people just telling me to get off stage. It was a huge disappointment.
2 months later, after a really rough summer and deciding I’m going to quit comedy, I get booked on Conan. I think, wow this could be good. Or this could be that dream come true. In reality, how could I bomb that hard? I would literally have to be paralyzed with fear. More likely I should be really good, as I’ve been practicing for almost 1,000 days. Either way, I don’t want to think about it too much. I just want to do it.
The day comes, and I have a few things on my agenda before I get picked up at 2 pm. Sleep in, exercise, yoga, meditate, massage, shower, and open mic. I knock them out one by one. I have 6 of my good comic buddies come over for an open mic. I host, they all do a few minutes, and then I run my set 3 times. Now, they’ve all seen my jokes so I’m not just gonna do it and expect them to laugh, so we do 3 takes. The first one, I tell them to boo the whole time. The second, I tell them to be completely silent (this would be the same as just running my set for them). And then the third I tell them to laugh uncontrollably and walk over my lines with their laughter. This one was incredibly fun. Even though it was a gag, and they weren’t really laughing at me, it felt like they were. That’s the incredible thing about comedy…any laughter will make you feel stronger, even if it’s not directed at you.
At 2 pm the TBS SUV picks us up and we roll over there entourage style. I’m realizing how thankful I am that I brought my friends, because we are all laughing and having a good time. Even the driver was cracking jokes with us. We get to Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, where they escort us in to my dressing room. The place is laced with fruit platters and hors d’oeuvres. They keep asking me if I need anything, and I’m thinking, ‘Yes! give me every free amenity you have!’ They pick out my wardrobe and we do a sound test. Then I order a 5 course meal (salmon, prawns scampi, ahi salad, chips and guac…brain food) and go sit in the awesome massage chair that they have. Next, they have to put makeup on me, which I’m not a fan of. I know I’m not beautiful, but makeup never looks good on my skin town (and trust me I’ve worn makeup before). My natural brown works better I think, but they insist.
Seth Green does his segment then comes back, gets his stuff and leaves right away. I think about asking him for a picture, but why? I didn’t even talk to him, so I don’t. It’s really cold in the building so I start running around to warm up. They tell me I’m up next, and then what always happens, happens…I start to get dry mouth. This is the one thing my body knows to do when I’m in an important situation. Never during normal sets, just the ones that matter. What is it? My brain is sucking the moisture out of my mouth? I fill a bag with 5 different fruits, watermelon, pineapple, grapes, orange, and apple, but none of them can get rid of the dry. So finally, I’m just like eff it, I’ll have dry mouth.
They bring me to the curtain, and as soon as Conan says my intro, I have to walk out to the grey tape. I hear my name, ‘Sammy Obeid!’ The crowd cheers and I walk out comfortably. I stop at the tape, and in my head I go back to the dream. Where I was staring at the crowd and the bright lights and just didn’t know what to say. Meanwhile, my body is already going into my set. And it’s doing fine, but I’m not there, I’m still in the dream. And then I realize what is happening. That dream was my biggest fear. That I’d work so hard at something for 1,000 days and then fail. And me having that dream was a way of facing my fear so that I could do the right thing in real life. As soon as I realize this, I come to consciousness and I’m already in my fourth joke, but the moment I come back to my body, right as I say ‘Wranglers extra small!’ the crowd starts to applaud, and Conan throws back his arms with a huge laugh. Typical Sammy Obeid, get em with a corny pun.
The rest of the set goes great as I fully start to be there. I realize, what I’ve learned from my dream, and the times that I taped AGT, is that the time flashes before your eyes when you are on TV, but you only have that one chance, so you have to fully be there. That’s why I meditated, that’s why I did yoga, to fully be present in that short times slot I had. I close the set well, and Conan says, ‘That was great! Really, that was hilarious, so well done.’ I did my research to see what he tells people after their sets, and it’s often either ‘great or fantastic or nice job’ I didn’t get ‘fantastic’ but, ‘so well done’ was all just for me. Yup, like a steak.
He calls me to the couch, which I didn’t expect. And we just film the end of the show where we talk some more. He says to me, ‘I like that you are both likable and have great jokes, it’s usually one or the other.’ And then he said ‘I’m going to kidnap you on your day 999 so you cant make 1000’, and I said, ‘Go for it!’ as that would be way more interesting than anything I’m going to do already. This all seemed so cool. Almost too cool. And I finally got my bear joke on TV…well, that is, if they air it. I did my bear joke on AGT and they cut it from the program. Is that going to happen again? Spoiler alert, it makes it on TV!
After my set, I didn’t know how I felt about it. I know I didn’t bomb like the dream, so I was thankful for that. But I didn’t absolutely crush, like I know I could have if I was at my best. But everyone I talked to after, including the booker, said I killed. It’s hard to give an evaluation of yourself through other people in these situations, because no one in your circle is going to tell you you sucked if you only did so-so . But people are biased, and they want you to feel good, which is great, it’s just hard to know how you did in the critical eye.
I should make it clear that doing comedy 998 days in a row doesn’t mean you are going to hit a home run every time. It does mean that you will be more likely to though, and you will be better and more consistent, but most importantly you will know where you stand. Self-awareness is something that a lot of us comedians lack. We think we killed it when we didn’t or vice versa. I’m happy with my Conan set, but I know where it stands, it was a 7/10. For me, at least. But my experience doing the show, having a good time with my buddies, actually getting on TV without my segment being cut, and right at the end of my 1,000 days, seeing a real dream come true without the bad parts, facing my fears head on and conquering them all while in front of a studio audience for national television….10/10.