Friday, October 7, 2016

10 Years in New York City

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.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Why We Need Women Writers, Developers, and Decision Makers in Comedy

This week Adult Swim Executive Mike Lazzo responded to backlash over the tally that of 47 shows on the Adult Swim docket, not a single one was created by a woman.  He first said that women cause "conflict" in the writer's room, then clarified those remarks somewhat.  The AV Club explains this situation much better than I can, so check that out here.  

Do all women cause "conflict" in writers rooms? 

Why do we NEED women in comedy writing and development and board rooms?  

This current kerfuffle made me think back to something I watched a few years ago.  

Do you remember the Emmys in 2014 when Seth Meyers hosted?  I was super excited to tune in because I think Seth Meyers is hilarious and I love awards shows (mostly for the dresses and clutches).  The show included a now infamous bit where Sofia Vergara stood on a rotating pedestal so that the crowd could enjoy her curves and beauty as the president of the Academy recited a boring update about the state of the television industry.  I’m a comedian and, like most comedians, as a joke is unfolding, we’re always thinking of how it can be heightened, what the next beat will be, what the final button might be—we’re always thinking about the structure of the joke and rarely enjoying "the thing.”  It’s our cross to bear, but we endure it because of all those sweet, sweet drink tickets that we receive as payment for our comedy.  So as I was watching Sofia Vergara be introduced and the bit was initially explained, I couldn’t wait to see the 2nd beat which, I assumed, would be taking the hottest heartthrob in Hollywood and putting HIM on a rotating pedestal, also.  Would it be Channing Tatum?  Idris Elba? Joe Manganiello? Would they be spinning in opposite directions? This could get really silly and cute. The joke is about beauty worship and Hollywood objectification, right?


The joke was only about FEMALE objectification.  The joke only worked in one way—it only went one way.  I sort of couldn't believe it.  I felt really naive for assuming that the joke would go both ways.  I was disappointed, not just as a woman, but as a comedian.  Why did they write this joke that way? The writers could have heighten that joke MORE and had it be so much more inclusive SO EASILY, but they opted not to.  And I don’t think it even occurred to those writers that this bit could be perceived as sexist. I think they were stunned at the backlash that this segment received on Twitter and in Emmy recaps.  

I have no idea who the writers were for those Emmy awards and I can't seem to find that information online, but I'd be willing to bet money that there wasn't a woman in the group. I bet that if a woman were in that writers' room, she might say, "hey guys, I think Sofia Vergara is hella gorgeous, too, but what if we ALSO had a dude on there being objectified because I have dudes commenting on my body regularly and I'm tired of it, so how about we level that playing field a bit?"  Then the joke works for more people and is less creepy.  Women don't "cause conflict" in writer's rooms, they speak to an experience that is often forgotten about or misrepresented and that firsthand experience can improve jokes.  

And sure, it’s ONE joke in ONE awards show in friggin’ 2014 (I’m nothing if not topical), but that Sofia Vergara spinning bit is, in a nutshell, why we need women in comedy writing rooms.