Bergman: Accepting the rejectionWritten by Keith Bergman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Can’t use you bro, but keep doing what you do!”
That was the email that ended a six-month game of on-again, off-again Internet tag between a comedy booker and me. It involved technical critiques of my videos, long silences, unsolicited advice about my act and more long silences. It finally culminated in that dismissive sentence, leaving me in the position of either writing this guy and his shows off forever, or continuing to pester him and coming off like an increasingly desperate jilted paramour.
Rationally, this makes perfect sense. Comedy is not universal. No art form is. Even the most successful comedians of all time have their detractors. It just stands to reason that you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. And who really cares anyway? This guy isn’t a gatekeeper to my whole career — he books a few pissant rooms in the middle of nowhere. I’d barely make gas money working for him anyway. Who needs it?
I do, obviously, or I wouldn’t be ranting about it now. Rejection is a staple of any artist’s diet, and the inability to deal with it keeps otherwise funny people from pursuing their dreams. I take it personally, even as I know I shouldn’t, and even as I get exasperated with myself for caring that much about it. It’s a huge character flaw on my part and it’s my Achilles’ heel as I attempt to expose myself to more audiences, more bookers and — inevitably — more rejection.
Contests are another fact of life in entry-level comedy, and they’re huge ego bruisers. You can have the set of your life, go up against a guy so new that all his co-workers still come see his gigs, and watch him win the “audience participation” vote and take home a check you really could have used. You can drive for hours, only to be told upon arrival that you’re going up first out of a three-hour roster, so no one will remember your set by the time the proceedings lurch to a halt. You tell yourself not to think of it as a contest, it’s just stage time and practice, but some yutz is going home with what could have been your next car insurance payment, and it stings a little.
Even seeing your friends get opportunities you didn’t get feels like rejection. No one wants to be that petty, but when you’re playing Angry Birds at home on a Friday and you know your buddy is gigging with a big national act, it takes a much more heroic pal than me to feel happiness for them undiluted by just a little jealousy.
That booker can’t use me. And I am gonna keep doing what I do. Nothing is wrong or weird about either of those facts. I just wish there wasn’t a small, ugly voice in my head yelling “YOUR LOSS, JAGOFF!” and punching the wall repeatedly.
Keith Bergman hosts the ‘Two Buck Yuks’ comedy show at The Blarney Event Center, 601 Monroe St., every Wednesday at 8 p.m. Zach Martina headlines Oct. 9, while Stu McCallister tops the bill Oct. 16.