Around 15 years ago, I thought it would be wise to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. Granted, I didn’t give up my day job, but I spent three years bouncing back and forth, from comedy to music stages, using my evenings to make connections, write material and perform at local clubs. I soon found that the world of stand-up was the only job more difficult than being a musician.
It was brutal. Getting the gig was the easiest part, and that was total hell. Most towns have no-compete clauses, meaning that, depending on the venue, you can’t play another comedy club in the same area within a month, two months or longer. Which means you either have to leave your family and travel to work and hone your craft, or you have to wait long stretches before getting back on stage.
Worse was the actual time on stage. Bombing as a comedian has to be one of the most humiliating experiences a person can endure. It’s just you, all alone up there, completely responsible for making a room full of people laugh. This is very, very hard. Couple that with the downward momentum of a failing set, and it’s virtually impossible to recover. The saddest thing is … everyone bombs, few recover, and even fewer enjoy a career in the comedy business.
But what being a comedian gave me was the ability to suffer life’s little humiliations with more grace and aplomb. It taught be how to deal with people both kind and not-so-kind. Best of all, it gave me perspective on the most difficult job I have ever had: Being a parent.
My child, now 6, is a bit of a comedian herself. She understands sarcasm and timing, and she loves cracking jokes. And she enjoys stand-up comedy.
I know … weird.
So here, in honor of my favorite comedians, and for parents and kids who enjoy a good laugh together, I present four kid-friendly bits from the nerdiest comedians ever.
1. Brian Regan: “I’m the Map”
Regan, a self-proclaimed doofus, has made a career out of calling himself out for being a socially awkward nerd. Here he takes a moment to poke fun at a childhood classic, Dora the Explorer and “The Map” song. Any parent can relate, and so can most kids. In fact, a friend of mine has a wonderful child, just now entering adolescence, who memorizes Regan routines. The kid nails him, dead on. Hilarious.
2. Steve Martin: Early Routine
Adept at combining the surreal, the intellectual and the absurd, Steve Martin took a wild-and-crazy approach to being a nerd. While giving the goofy sight gag its due, which appeals to the young ones, Martin also challenged audiences to follow him down abstract paths. Older kids will get the brainier jokes, and children will love the stupid head gear and fantastic musical numbers. The balloon animal bit alone is perfect for everyone in the family.
3. Pee Wee Herman: “Luckiest Boy in the World”
Taken from Paul Reuben’s HBO special, long before the playhouse found its way into the viewing regimens of children everywhere, this clip finds Pee Wee fulfilling his wish to fly after a long battle with his conscience. The show, though tailored for adults, had some great kid-friendly moments, this being one of the best. Not only does Pee-Wee sing and fly, but we get to do the Jambi chant: “Mekka lekka hi, mekka hiney ho!”
4. George Carlin: Words
This one may go over the young peoples’ heads, but for the intellectual teen in your household, this will have them laughing — and thinking — which is what the best comedy does. Carlin, in his prime, was a master of this, dissecting language and showing us how to chuckle at ourselves. He made us all smarter … while making us laugh … a lot.