Years ago, I used to listen to a lot of comedian George Carlin’s old comedy albums on cassette tapes. I can’t remember exactly where I bought them. I think I might have bought the first one at Ames, a discount department store that had an outlet near my home in Gloucester, Virginia. I remember I paid about $7 for it, and thought that was a lot of money. I kept buying George’s albums, though, because he was a genius, and because I related so much to his routines.
As he got older, I liked Carlin’s comedy somewhat less. He often seemed angry and disgruntled. His humor seemed fueled more by dysthymia than goofy observations, and the really bitter routines he was doing, say circa 2006 or so, just weren’t appealing to me. I would feel depressed after listening to them. I do remember liking the very last album he did. On that one, he seemed kind of like a funny grandpa. But I specifically remember disliking his album, Life Is Worth Losing. It just seemed very negative. I wondered if George was feeling alright, but I didn’t feel compelled to criticize him for his material. Some people liked it a lot. I just wasn’t one of them at that time.
One thing I have noticed about a lot of “funny or entertaining people” is that under the surface, they often suffer from depression and anxiety. They have learned to be funny, using humor to mask how they really feel. A lot of comedians suffer from alcoholism, addiction, and other mental health problems. They make sharp and witty observations about the world that make other people laugh. But underneath that humor often lurks someone who also badly needs a laugh. Sometimes that need comes out in the form of negativity, passive aggression, or mean-spiritedness.
When I was 16, my mom and I saw the Tom Hanks and Sally Field film, Punchline. Field and Hanks were two aspiring comedians. Hanks was a seasoned performer who almost always killed ’em at his shows. Field was a bright-eyed newcomer who had a knack for being funny, but not the skill. One of the most memorable scenes from that film is in the below clip, in which Hanks’ character suffers a meltdown on stage. The audience gets to see the other side of the comedian… the masked sad side, that doesn’t come out very often. In the heartbreaking scene below, the comedian “dies” on stage. He sucks. But he really only sucks for that performance. On other days, he kills. Hanks shows the humanity behind performance artists, who so many times are people who have been through a lot, yet aren’t allowed to show it.
I can think of two comedians from some time ago who killed themselves. One was Richard Jeni, who was absolutely hilarious. He shot himself in the face in 2007.
Another was Ray Combs, who was best known as the host of Family Feud. Before he was a game show host, Ray Combs was a funny man. He used to warm up crowds and was so popular that he was recruited to take over Family Feud from Richard Dawson. But underneath that funny exterior was a man who was tormented by demons. It got so bad that he had to be hospitalized and, in fact, he died in the hospital by his own hand.
Even non-famous funny people often hide depression with jokes. When Bill and I first got married, he worked with a colonel at the Pentagon who was absolutely hilarious at parties. He would tell jokes and stories and make witty observations. But then, if you got him alone, you’d realize that he was actually a pretty grumpy person. He’d snap at people or make rude comments. I strongly suspected he might be depressed, because if you listened carefully to what he said, he was actually quite miserable, even if he was also funny.
Those who know me offline know I have my funny moments, too. I laugh a lot and I’ve been told I have a great sense of humor. In the 1990s, I had a boss who told me that I was one of the “happiest” people he’d ever met. But the irony was, I had just been diagnosed with depression. Inside, I felt really yucky, even if I was cracking jokes and being snarky. It’s more socially acceptable to be funny and sharp witted than depressed.
Which brings me to the title of today’s blog post. Every once in awhile, I get comments from people who presume to tell me what I should or should not be writing about on my blog. Last night, I got one such comment from a regular reader who has a habit of being critical. To be honest, I’m not sure what draws her to my blog. I’m not sure what draws anyone to my blog, since it so obviously sucks. It’s basically an open diary of things I think about. But this person comes back repeatedly and, more often than not, has criticisms for me. She’s not the only one, although she’s definitely the most persistent.
Some people seem to think I want or need constructive criticism on my blog. A couple of years ago, I got a very rude comment from a different woman who told me I needed to “let things go” regarding my husband’s ex wife, because she thinks I come off “bitter and petty”. Wow. What the fuck was she doing reading my blog if I came off that way and she was irritated enough to tell me? Just “change the station”. Move on to the next Web site, and leave me alone. To her credit, I think she did just that, because I pretty much let her have it, as did several commenters. She never commented again, and believe me, I don’t miss her.
I don’t get paid to write this blog. I write it for myself, mostly. If other people want to read it, that’s fine. But I don’t write it for you… I write for me. And if I want to write about TMI subjects, I have the right to. If I want to write about annoying exchanges on Facebook, I have the right to. If I want to complain or be negative or snarky… that’s my right. You have the right to keep scrolling if what I write isn’t appealing to you. I know that not everyone is going to like me or what I do. Fortunately, there’s plenty of other stuff on the Internet to read.
It wouldn’t be possible for me to know what every reader wants to read, even if I were that eager to please everyone who happens to stop by here. If the truth be told, I am feeling a bit depressed and angry lately. Like everyone else, my world has been altered a lot in 2020. I don’t have it nearly as bad as some people do, but like everyone else, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the changes of the past few months. It’s frustrating to see people on the Internet who refuse to notice what is right in front of them and cheerlead for people like Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the right winged nutjobs who are taking our country back to the Dark Ages. I know I’m not alone in my frustration. Yesterday, I wrote about one trolling session I had with a guy named Justin. Believe me, I scrolled past plenty of others without engaging. But I chose to respond to Justin. Then, because I thought the exchange was funny, I decided to write about it.
From that post, someone decided that I “kill myself” over comments. Lady, that’s definitely not true, but even if it were, I don’t understand why it’s your concern. It’s my space. It’s my blog. You are here as a guest. If you don’t like what I write, please go somewhere else. And please stop trying to read my mind. It’s beyond offensive, and it’s making me consider turning off comments and/or going private.
Lots of people don’t like me. That’s the story of my life. Lots of people think my blog sucks. Plenty of people have advised me to “let things go”, which frankly, I think is an extremely shitty thing to say to someone. What right do you have to discount or invalidate other people’s thoughts and feelings, especially on THEIR space? You have the freedom of choice, especially if you’re American. If you don’t like my stuff, simply choose another Web site and leave me the fuck alone.
As I wrote in 2018:
I have two other blogs that are generally positive most of the time. If you truly want to see a generally more positive, less TMI version of my writing, you’re welcome to check out my music blog or my travel blog. You can easily find them. But no one is forcing you to read this blog, and frankly, it matters not a whit to me that you think I’m “snotty, petty, and bitter.” I don’t even know you, and won’t know the difference if you think I’m a bitch. The fact is, I know the truth about who I am and so do the people who love and care about me… and there are still a few out there who think I’m alright. So, thanks for the “constructive” criticism, but really… no thanks.
The above still applies today. If you don’t like my style, there’s the door.