I just hit 10 years of living in New York City, the point at which, New Yorker’s say, you become a “real New Yorker.” I tend to think that promotion happens the first time you watch a stranger literally take a dump on the subway (in which case I’m a real New Yorker three times over), but that’s just my take on the issue.
Two years ago I wrote a piece in honor of my 8 year anniversary of living in NYC and, upon re-reading it, it’s still spot on! I still love this city and my life here and almost every night I run around performing comedy—it’s amazing. I still pinch myself that this is my life.
But I’m a bit more circumspect about things this go-round and perhaps it’s because 10 years feels like a more meaningful anniversary. A decade in NYC—what do you have to show for it?
Well, I’ll shoot you straight—my career is not quite where I want it to be and at 10 years in, I thought that I would be “farther along.” (Oh, this is going to be one of THOSE posts, is it? Yes, it is. If I can gaze at my navel anywhere, it’s here on my old blog where I can overanalyze my own, 90s style, still pierced navel.)
OK OK so, after a decade in NYC, I thought I would be farther along.
But what do I even mean by that? I’m not sure. What IS “farther”? And who decides what it is? And whenever I decide or you decide farther IS, is that something I even want? Am I happy where I am, however far that is?
The answer to that last one changes by the day.
Some days I feel great about where I am—I feel understood, I feel like a member of the community, I think that people know who I am and that I’m pretty funny. I get called in for commercial and sitcom auditions occasionally even though I don’t have an agent or a manager, and that feels great! (Tune into RED OAKS on Amazon Nov 11th! I'm in episode 7 and I'm shameless!) Also, I truly believe that slow and steady wins the race and, as my sister Laurel and I have always said, Coppocks are never going to be overnight sensations. We’re workhorses who will get our due EVENTUALLY, but it won’t come quickly or easily.
But other days I look at my contemporaries and friends who have leap frogged over me—people I used to do open mics with or run around with who now have amazing careers and myriad opportunities presented to them, and while I’m SO happy for my friends to get their due and have these successes, sometimes I feel jealous and completely unaccomplished and think, “am I actually NOT funny at all and this whole thing has been a giant ruse of people booking me just to be polite?”
But I know that’s not true. (Right?? Right gang? Gulp.)
I’ve been living in NYC for 10 years, but I have only been really focused comedically for about 6-7 years, I would say. And that’s because it took me a while to get settled in and learn the ropes and also, more important, it has taken me a while to feel like I deserve to be heard or I deserve opportunities and it’s still an ongoing mental battle. I think that this feeling is like a cousin to Imposter Syndrome and I’d be willing to guess that a lot of comedians grapple with this one.
As a comedian, you must feel that you have something to share, that you deserve to be noticed or listened to (even if it’s just silly, strange ideas), that you can contribute to the conversation in society. And it has taken me a while to get comfortable with that. During my first few years in NYC, I was extremely intimidated by the comedy scene—by people who had the chutzpah to produce shows, by people who had the confidence to dominate conversation with news of their own careers, by people who knew the right way to be a mover and shaker in the community. So it took me probably 3 years to really plug in and start getting booked with some regularity. But then I still had my ongoing self doubts and thoughts of, why would the audience care what I have to say? I often doubted if I had anything to say that was worth hearing. And often I still do—I have a hard time feeling entitled to things.
That lack of entitlement comes from an overabundance of gratitude, I think. I thank and yet blame gratitude for the fact that I have a hard time feeling entitled to opportunities.
I’m extremely thankful for my life—for this pathway. I didn’t love growing up in a small town—I’ve always been an old soul and I just wanted so badly to meet more people, to hear more ideas, to be in a bigger place—small town life wasn’t for me. Throughout high school I was pretty fixated on college—I could leave my hometown and meet new people and I couldn’t WAIT. And I never envisioned anything post-college. I never imagined a wedding or family or kids—I just wanted to get out of my hometown and college would be that. And I absolutely loved college—my life, my friends, my studies, my activities—it was amazing. And then I was fortunate enough to live in Chicago and Boston and now NYC and it all just feels magical and miraculous. I’m not an eye-rolling hipster and I can’t be a “cool girl”—I’m so fucking excited to have an apartment I love and a “normal job” the pays my bills and to be living in NYC and performing comedy and knowing a LOT of people. I love knowing people! It sounds stupid, but I find it thrilling to pop by an event that your friend is hosting and then know this girl at this bar and stop by this restaurant because another pal works there and then run into another person you know on the subway—it’s amazing! I’m so grateful for all of it.
Also, comedic success is a moving target and the pathway is often 2 steps forward and 1 step back. A certain booker loves you and books you a bunch, then moves away. You get passed at a club and are psyched about that, then the club closes. You have a lead on a fantastic opportunity and then the project falls apart. When you’ve been in the comedy scene in NYC for a while, you can’t help but get cynical about stuff—you have seen a lot of clubs fail and deals fall though and comedians with so much buzz just sorta fade out. There’s no clear pathway of THIS leads to THIS leads to THIS. So you just have to create because the creating is its own reward. You tell the jokes because you love writing and performing and telling jokes. And if something comes of it, GREAT, but if not, that’s OK, too.
And I guess that last part is what I’ve been having trouble with lately—reconciling my feelings of gratitude to get to participate in ANY of this with my feelings of, where is it going? Will it lead somewhere? Does it need to? What is “farther along”?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll keep writing and performing because the doing is its own reward. And 10 years into NYC comedy life, that’s all I know right now.