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October 17, 2009

Mad Pimpin'

One of the fun things about having a blog is being able to write unfunny posts about depression and desperation. SO FUN! I’ve been a depressive my whole life, both to myself and to those around me. The kind of guy who makes people say, “Let’s not hang around that fellow anymore.” Several years ago I started taking Lexapro, a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which I think means that it works like the urine recycling thing in “Waterworld,” only instead of recycling your pee it recycles your happy moods. The Lexapro has been very good for me because it reduces the amount of time I think about hating myself to a manageable level, and when I do think about it, it’s not as bad.

I’ve also done therapy, although I find that the pills work a lot quicker. Rather than explore the causes of my problems, I’m much more interested in suffocating them under a blanket of complex chemicals. Lately though, as in the course of this tour, even the pills haven’t really helped.

Part of the problem is that the tour isn’t selling as well as I had hoped it would, which I take to be a referendum on my talent and worth as a human being. You can obviously understand why I would equate mediocre tickets sales with failure at humanity. The other thing is a vague unease with my entire career. I can define the unease like this: “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.”

I’m confident this is a common problem among people. They feel like a fraud to everybody around them and live in desperate fear that they will one day be discovered. That’s how I feel pretty much all the time. For a comedian, I have never felt very funny, and do not have any idea how to be funny. This a really bad combination for a comedian. And the older I get, the more I feel like the mainstream Hollywood community agrees with me. As a younger man, I thought it was only a matter of time before I got discovered and sent on a fabulous rocket ride of fame and fortune. (In my head, I think of that “rocket ride” as the end of the old “Wheel of Fortune” where you got to go shopping for ceramic poodles and elegant light fixtures with your prize money. That seemed to be the height of wealth and sophistication.)

Now that I’m older I realize that Hollywood has looked me over and found me lacking. My big chances have come and gone and I am left scrambling to keep my umpteenth basic cable television show on the air. I am left with this malaise, this feeling like I tried my best and my best was found to be marginal. I imagine a lot of people feel that way, like the dreams they had for themselves ultimately matter only to them, and their failure to achieve them is a letdown to themselves, but worse, to the people around them. By the way, nobody around me is telling me I’m a failure. On the contrary. But when those around me say encouraging things, what I hear is, “We’re just telling you this because you’re a failure.” So it’s a kind of a no-win situation for them. If they don’t encourage me, I think it’s because they think I’m a failure. If they do encourage me I think it’s because they think I’m a failure.

Do they make extra-strength Lexapro?

This kind of desperate feeling makes me want to do more, more, more. Like if I just make enough stuff, eventually something will break through and I’ll be able to breathe easy about my own self-worth. If you think, “That doesn’t sound like a healthy way to live a life,” I would say to you, “I agree.” It’s not.

In the last few years I’ve felt less and less like an artist and more and more like a hustler. Now, I like hustlers. I admire their wide-brimmed hats and coats with large lapels, but I don’t know that I want to actually be one. I don’t want to be a guy with ulterior motives or somebody who is doing something just to get paid, even if that something is extolling the rich, delicious chocolatey shell of a Klondike bar. (Which actually are delicious – no joke.) I’m sure I’m just like all of you: all I want to do is what I want to do when I want to do it. And like all of you, I can’t. Because, like you, I have responsibilities greater than myself. So I continue to hustle to meet those responsibilities.

Ideally I would just disappear for a while. I would sit at home and learn piano and play with my kids. I would lay in my hammock and read internet articles about Kevin Federline getting fat. I might write jokes on Twitter. I might get good at rock climbing. I don’t know what I would do, but I would like to figure out how to live in such a way that I don’t derive my self-worth externally, from the public. That’s the danger with my business. So much of it is designed to feed ego that people forget how to feed themselves. A lot of people like me maybe were never good at that in the first place so we always feel hungry for more. It’s a kind of reverse anorexia: the more we get fed, the more of ourselves we lose.

This is why celebrities get increasingly desperate to hold onto whatever fame they might have had at an earlier point in their lives. They need the attention because the attention is how they came to define themselves. I don’t think I’m like that but I would be lying if I said I was so far off. Fortunately, when you’ve only ever been a C-Lister, you don’t feel like you’re missing that much when you’re treated like a D-Lister. So thank God for small favors.

Anyway, the point is that it’s hard out here for a pimp. And it’s even harder when the ass you’re pimping is your own. 




UPDATE: Just wanted to write a quick note to tell everybody that, while I appreciate the supportive notes and such, I really wasn't looking for that. I just thought it might be interesting to share with you that I experience a lot of the same self-doubt that a lot of people go through and that I get depressed like a lot of people out there. Separately, I think there is a lack of honesty from people in my business about how scary and sad it can be. When everybody tries so desperately hard to be "somebody," it's hard to admit that most of the time we don't feel like anybody. Our real selves get sublimated by the image we're forced to create. Too often that image is supposed to be invulnerable. And I don't think it's just my business, either. I think it's the business of being American. Just wanted to share that I don't feel invulnerable.

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Kristen [Rage Against the Minivan]

Thanks for being so vulnerable with this. I really think you are expressing the feelings that so many people share, especially in regards to self-worth. I am a therapist myself, so I am resisting the urge to psychoanalyze in a blog comment. But I do think that there is something to be said for not allowing vocational success to be the gauge of your self-worth. I've worked with many people in the industry and it seems to be a universal occupational hazard, which is especially dangerous since vocational success is largely determined by the masses. And we all know the masses are asses.

Anyways, just wanted to say that I'm sorry you are dealing with this, but glad you are writing about it. It's refreshing and I think many of us can relate.

ChloeJ82

Thank you for your honesty. It is nothing if not totally refreshing.

And know that I and so many others truly appreciate all that you do and share with us.

Desiree

HEY!!!!
Saw you last night in Denver. You both fuckin' rock. You are a cult god.Sorry I got up during the show, haha. Saw ya looking at me when I sat down. It was one of those OH SHIT eye contacts. I was in the front row center...about the guy that wouldn't shut up, you should have frogboxed his ass!!! Thanks for signing my shirt, I will rock that shit. People kept asking me are you going to frame it because it's autographed. I laughed, I'm gonna wear the shit out of it! About the daughter halloween jokes. I wanted to yell the word i came up with "prostitot" I own a rock n' roll/venue bar here. Next you should come try to uptake your alcohol intake and come hang out!!

esther

Keep on rockin' Johnny Blue Jeans. You are the coolest.

Kristina E.

I applaud you for writing this and expressing your feelings. You are a great person!

Halstad Blanchard

Michael,

We're big fans. But, regretfully...

WE HATE YOUR BLOG.

http://wehateyourblog.com

Darren

I believe you told Terry Gross something like, "Besides the fame and the fortune, being a celebrity sucks." I understand that more now. Your honesty in this blog makes me feel better about myself. Thanks.

Sharilyn

I'm convinced that nobody in any line of business - not just the arts - ever feels like they've "made it". If you're driven, you always expect more out of yourself. You think that all your previous successes were flukes or luck, because you still feel like the same person you were at the beginning.

Allow yourself a break if you feel you need it, and the parts of all this (other than the public approval) that you miss will come to light pretty fast. Yes, your fans want you to work. But you cannot generate your best work when you're in this state of mind -- which will then make you feel even worse. It's a viscous cycle.

(Failing that, Julia Cameron is teaching an e-class through the Learning Annex!)

I think it's incredible of you to have posted this, btw. You're someone who struggling comedy performers consider "successful", and I suspect there's a lot of them reading this right now and feeling a little less crazy for having similar thoughts.

Stephen

when you are depressed, you should look to your headshot of david copperfield for support and luck. Thanks for sharing, interesting change of pace blog for you.

Matthew Lowe

Hey mib,

2 things

1 -- People, especially the type of people who like you, are scared to spend money.

2 -- Your commercial success is substantial, so it's irrational to think you are 'marginal.' Half of hollywood's performers are ass clowns anyway. Who do you want to be Dane Cook? Performing in front of thousands of people with People Magazine subscriptions?


I hope you can find happiness beyond tickets sales and renewed seasons. Good luck sir.

cancer survivor

MIB - This is hokey, but your humor helped me during a rough patch. Someone got me your stand-up CD to listen to and My Custom Van to read while I was struggling through chemo. Spirits lifted. Your extradinarily irreverent and hilarious observations, quite literally, helped cure cancer. Your art matters. Even in small ways - it matters.

Jen

I discovered you way back when you were on Best Week Ever. You were hilarious on that show and I was so sad when you left. The show just didn't seem the same without you and I no longer watch it. I liked catching on my gossip with all your witty comments.

I was so excited to find you again on Twitter (which eventually led me here). I love your blog. It is a must-read for me. You are a fabulous writer and I really agree that you should pursue that career path some more. This would allow you to continue to be funny (trust me--you are hilarious)without all the pressures of tv shows/ tours.

I think the lack of ticket sales are all about the price. I hate to admit this but I looked into the DC show, but then saw the cost and couldn't bring myself to put the money out. That has nothing at all to do with your talent or worth as an entertainer. It has to do with my bank account and lack of funds.

Thanks for such an honest post!

Sara

Stars! They really are just like us. Big non-ironic hugs to you, Michael.

Kendra

Sorry you're sad, Michael. I am hugging you with my words.

Collette

Much love and respect to you for opening up about the feelings you are having as well as the use of your meds. So often people don't even try and get help. You are so brave to even put this stuff out here on a daily basis and then to share this with us, I feel honored and happy to know that you are just a normal guy. I hope you start feeling better soon, please know that you are in ou thoughts and prayers as you go through it. We all do, you're right, and sometimes, even when we are "on top of the world" in other people's eyes, in our won, we are still this small person. So I say know you are adored!.

Audrey

Thank you for writing this, Michael. Really, truly.

Patrick

Hey Mikey? Please read this one. Only you could manage to write on your personal woes with such humor. Truth is, I myself deal with depression, bi-polar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It weighs on you, and it takes a special man to make you laugh about it. In my opinion, you've always been pone of the funniest comedians. EVER. I know this doesnt put too much money on your table (but I put as much as I can!) I will always support you, and its mainly because I believe in you as a person. This post solidified any doubt. You're a genuine guy, and if you go down burning (not an STD/blowjob joke, there) I'll go donw burning with you, man. Bottom line, love your family, let them love you, and remember, we all love you, too. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say we arent going to let you fail. We love you, brother.

Abner Schmuel

In response to your update: You poor thing! Waa, waa, waa! It's like you don't realize that your bullshit is gay and stuff. I hope you feel better, you goddam Hollywood phony! And I mean it. Except that usually great comedy comes from the darkest frame of mind a person has. So actually I hope you continue to realize what a giant piece of shit you are. You should go drink a Lexapro cocktail with all of your Hollywood whore friends you piece of subhuman fecal spray. Love you XOXOxo, Your Manager, Abner Schmuel

Bobby

Michael just remember you have already achieved great success in your career!! A lot of us strive to be as successful as you have been.

You ARE hilarious. Don't listen to anyone who says otherwise, including yourself!

Felicia

I'm thinking my husband needs that Lexapro stuff; the man has never been happy with work. We're moving to Nebraska, so he'd better start liking that job, or I'm going to have to find a seratonin dealer and just inject that into him every day. I told him no whining about work if I'm uprooting the family half a country away.

On a side note regarding celebrity, PLEASE do not start "designing" furniture or other home goods. My high school classmate/supermodel is currently doing that and honestly, whatthehell does she know about design other than wearing clothes? I want her to just age gracefully, go back to school, maybe get a little paunch so she doesn't make the rest of us look bad. Not that I think YOU need a paunch.

Seriously, I hope you find the true niche that will bring you and your family some happiness

Ethereal Zoe

I guess the good part is that for the people that truly care about you? Exactly who you are is more than enough. No acting and no compromises. Surround yourself with those folks to the extent you can, and when you're away from them, get back to them as soon as you can.

More unsolicited wisdom from your many fans, but I hope something gets through.

Jacob Halton

The most creative people are usually the most pained inside. Because you may not be "making it" in a fucked up mainstream industry that only values bullshit must mean that you have more talent than them. Do your own thing and make your own shit and promote it so we can find it.

step 2: profit.

heatherv

Seriously, I want Taco Party read at my funeral, even if I am fucking 80 years old. I have loved you since $240 of pudding. Don't stop making us laugh for those that get your humor.

C.

I'm never compelled to comment on blogs but I was so struck by your openness and frankness that I'm breaking away from my own trend.

I, like several of the people who have commented here, am an aspiring writer who's found a lot to be inspired by with regard to your work. This may sound trite, but whatever it's the Internet and I have anonymity. My Custom Van really changed the way I thought about writing non-fiction (that wasn't journalistic or a David Sedaris-esque memoir) as well as comedy (that wasn't stand-up, television, etc). Comedy's something I've always appreciated and loved but I could never quite put my finger on a medium that suited what I wanted to do.

Artists are always bogged down by responsibilities and the things they do to pay the bills (I'm taking Business classes for that very reason) but I think at least a small part of being an artist is inspiring - leaving a mark on people. And if the comments on this blog are any indication you've done that much.

Guess who's coming for dinner?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp9dc9im3-M&feature=related

There's no problems, only solutions.

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