Tiffany Haddish, the Buddha and Me
You may have heard that the actress/comedian, Tiffany Haddish, had a not-so-great New Year’s Eve a few weeks ago. She bombed on stage. It happens to the best of us.
Not long after that happened, I decided to do a longer set at a comedy club largely based off of new material I worked on during the Christmas break at the end of December. This is never a good idea unless you’re maybe Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock where the audience can give you a lot of leeway if you are “working things out” because, well, you actually are Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock.
I get really eager to do new stuff. I write a lot and have enough new material to try out at an open mic every night for the next few months if I actually got to an open mic every night, which I don’t. For whatever reason, I had a “just go for it” attitude.
I didn’t bomb but I was definitely not happy with my performance. I just did not get the audience reaction consistently as much as I would have hoped. Nor should I have. This was pretty much all new stuff, after all.
I had another gig the next night at the same venue and all day I was stressed out about it. I had a lost sense of confidence particularly since this whole comedy thing is so judgmental. You have a great set and finally a booker considers you. He or she hears or witnesses something that doesn’t feel right and you’re out of luck for the next year or longer.
While I felt some sympathy for Tiffany Haddish, I also saw the outpouring of people coming to her defense. She’s not going anywhere and people know she is not just that one bad performance. When you’re “a nobody”, the pressure to have that one performance represent whatever is needed for the person judging you (the right tone, the right material, the right look, the right amount of laughs) could be overwhelming.
All day that Saturday as I was preparing for that evening, I was wrapping myself in a cloak of doubt and uncertainty. Then I remembered something I read in “Why Buddhism is True” by Robert Wright. We have evolved to have feelings so we would be compelled to perceive things in a certain way to protect ourselves in order to pass on our genes (“it’s probably a stick but it could be a snake so best to feel anxious and fearful”). The problem is that these feelings do, in fact, lead to perceptions that drive thoughts that ultimately lead to behaviors.
This is something I keep reminding myself time and time and time again for years now. In this case, I had feelings of frustration and despair that made me perceive myself as an imposter of sorts which drove thoughts of unworthiness and a behavior that led me to first question whether I shouldn’t be giving my attention to some other endeavor. Once I took a pause to see a barrier between what I was feeling and what I was perceiving, I could start to separate it out a bit and get down to the business of watching my set, taking notes and preparing again.
And it worked. I kept three or four things from the previous night, tweaked them and weaved them into a set that went great. And the perception I had that I was not good enough to get booked again went away, too (and luckily was confirmed).
So, it seems that Tiffany Haddish might have been a lot more evolved than me because clearly she has been able to overcome a much more visible flop sooner than I did. She’s probably a closet Buddhist.
Until next time,