Caption "Lessons in Loss" above clouds low in the sky at sunset
Lessons in Loss

Lessons in Loss 10: Show’s Over

I think about loss from time to time, as you probably know if you’re a regular reader over here. I’ve discussed recovery from loss of a baby and other people’s reactions. But, we don’t only struggle or grieve over the loss of a person – whether they were fully-formed or not. Sometimes loss is part of growing into the person we have become, sometimes it leaves us feeling like something’s fundamentally missing, sometimes we can’t remember what it was like before we lost whatever it was. In this series of posts, I’ve asked some of my favourite blogging colleagues to write about a loss that they’ve experienced and how it affected them. You can find the full list here.

This post has been contributed by Eric at The Thoughtful Beggar, I’ll let his own intro do the talking because I love the ethos:

… an online magazine dedicated to thought, and the sharing of it with like-minded people. Like-minded in the pursuit of a deeper, more fulfilling existence, not in a lockstep agreement of beliefs or opinions. Being united in our desire for love and compassion to be shared, outweighing any demand to be “right.” Here disagreement is celebrated and different beliefs are seen as a new introduction to the divine. A place where artwork and writing is shared and spirituality can be discussed openly with or without religious affiliation.

About the Thoughtful Beggar

Do head over to The Thoughtful Beggar and browse the thoughts and symposium sections, I hope you’ll be struck by the beautiful artwork as well as the wonderful words.

Show’s Over

He shut the car door and turned towards departures with his sad and soiled yellow bag and his only money, a plastic sack full of spare change. Midway airport was busting at the seems as usual with passengers pouring in and out, while cars honked over the always angry attendants yelling “keep it moving!” It was a brief moment in time that seemed to slow down as he walked away. We moved to Chicago together in a U haul truck over a decade ago to pursue stand up comedy, but today we were separating and all of the plans and the partnership were officially coming to a close, and from here on out we were going to have to deal with that on our own.

Back in Denver during college my brother and I had a sketch comedy show that we loved doing, and got good crowds. It was at the Mercury Cafe downtown, a weird little place that served hippie food and was known mostly for their punk shows. Over time we were even able to negotiate a better percentage of the door with the owner (a particularly odd woman that allowed her dog to run freely about the kitchen, and would make her business decisions based off of which tarot card she pulled from the deck while speaking with you). We had a full room of people laughing at every show, and we were completely hooked.

A couple of years before that, I had tried stand up comedy on my own and did quite well. At first it was too scary for me to do normally so I dressed up and acted like different characters. There was the Boy scout troop leader, the beatnik poet who sang “Highway to the Danger Zone” while playing a bongo drum, and the street preacher that compared each of our spiritual lives to a hemorrhoid. Obviously not all comedy gold, but I really enjoyed it, and knew I wanted to keep trying to get better. With the success of our sketch comedy shows, and both of us having a real desire to perform, we decided to do stand up as a team.

Our grandparents lived in southwest Indiana, so Chicago seemed like a good choice to move to, and literally get our act together. There are few things as difficult as being broke in a new city while trying to pursue a creative dream. We pulled together though, and met some wonderful people that I still call friends. Those days were a combination of feeling like we could beat the world when we had a great show, and absolute dog shit because we could hardly eat or pay bills. Our youth and enthusiasm kept us going, and we eventually got noticed by people in the Chicago comedy scene. Which was great and meant we performed more, and would be even less available for any kind of steady work. We did what we could to stay afloat, but I remember the cold nights with empty bellies and the lights getting turned off. It was in those moments that the laughter of strangers began to mean less and less to me.

Stand up comedy is not just a job, but a way of life. It means late nights hanging out in what is essentially a bar with a stage in it. It means constantly traveling to get in front of the next audience. It means getting stiffed or scammed by club owners for reasons you had nothing to do with, and without notice. It is an unapologetically brutal world, and it requires that performing and making people laugh be the most important thing to you without question, and I have never felt that way.

Over the years we got to know some producers and people at different production companies that liked our sense of humor and wanted us to write for them. We even sold a couple of scripts to a producer that was seriously considering letting us direct one of them too. Things were starting to go well for us, and we were performing less and less.

It was at one of our stand up comedy shows that I met my wife. It was like a lightning strike and instantly my whole life changed. What little desire I had to perform stand up was completely gone, and replaced with a love for her and writing. Why waste my time hanging out in bars, when I could be home, being with and doing what I truly love?

Even though I felt that way it still took a couple of years to fully wind down doing comedy together. When we did perform, it was always old material and when we were done my brother and I would go our separate ways immediately afterward. There was no ill will or anger, we were simply growing up, and apart from each other.

At that point in my life I was falling head over heels in love with my future wife, and receiving more opportunities with the film industry, that I jumped at with everything I had. It was a wonderful time for me to learn about film while working on them, and making my own when I could. But I was so busy that my brother and I hardly saw each other, and our lives were now almost completely separate from one another.

Unfortunately during this time, while I was experiencing so much success, my brother was not doing as well, and was wondering why he was still waiting tables and sacrificing for no reason. It got to the point that he decided Chicago had nothing for him, and he wanted to go back to Colorado and leave the madness of the city behind.

On that day when I drove him to the airport, our comedic partnership had been done for a little while, but my heart was heavy, and it didn’t seem real until I saw him actually leaving. As he walked away my eyes flooded from the memories of endless writing sessions and thousands of dark, smoke filled rooms erupting in faceless laughter while we stood on stage together. Now all of that was behind us. The show was over, and we both had to move on as best we could.

13 thoughts on “Lessons in Loss 10: Show’s Over”

  1. What a beautiful loss—if that’s possible. Loss is obviously emotional and can be extremely heavy but it can be beautiful, as this story seems to be. One door closes and another opens. You can feel the heaviness of the goodbye but also the wonder and excitement of the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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