I was thinking recently about my unlikely dream of becoming a comedy writer when I invariably starting thinking about one of my former favorite writers, the Sports Guy Bill Simmons.
Bill Simmons used to be a comedy writer. He smartly started a blog in the early days of the internet and he wrote for AOL while bartending at night. This got him a job at ESPN, where his unabashed Boston fandom and mix of pop culture references were a refreshing and hilarious break from the usual seriousness of sports writing. In fact, he wasn't a sports writer at all - he was a humorist who wrote about sports.
Then the Milwaukee Bucks incident happened.
Around 2007-2008, Bill Simmons started a campaign to become the new GM of the Milwaukee Bucks. Citing the below average results of previous GMs, he asked "What did they have to lose?" A few Bucks fans even supported this campaign. As Simmons wrote in March 2008:
"When I jokingly announced my "campaign" to become the next Bucks GM on ESPN.com, something strange happened: Dozens of e-mails poured in from disgruntled fans pledging support.
Maybe I won them over by describing their plight as "a cross between indifference and hell," or by pointing out that "You couldn't do worse!" Maybe they were inspired by my Obama-like rhetoric ("Vote Simmons in 2008! Yes We Can!") or because I like Milwaukee and have always wanted to live there. These poor Bucks fans were like castaways drawing an SOS in the sand: In their beaten-down minds, a sports columnist who fancies himself the "Picasso of the ESPN.com Trade Machine" was their most appealing alternative in years."
Bill was excited. He believed he was being taken seriously by a large group of people, missing out on the fact the reason they're pretending to take him seriously is to stick it to the Bucks, not to hire a comedian to actually run the team.
But then came the backlash.
Sensing the gravity of their jobs were being diminished, some NBA GMs and coaches actually responded to Simmons. Coach Mike Dunleavy, when asked about the campaign, responded that Simmons was a "joke writer" with "no credibility." He responded honestly and truthfully. Simmons, and several members of the media, misunderstood the intent of phrase "joke writer," and instead of understanding it as "a writer who writes jokes," they thought Mike was telling Bill he was a joke of a writer. Same goes for "no credibility." Dunleavy would absolutely admit Simmons had credibility as a writer, but as far as evaluating NBA talent and negotiating contracts with agents, Bill actually had NO CREDIBILITY.
This is where we lost the old Sports Guy.
Bill was steamed at how the NBA attacked him. He couldn't believe how stupid NBA GMs and coaches thought he was. Any normal comedian would obviously be hurt by these comments, but they'd turn it into a self-deprecating joke. Not Bill Simmons. He immediately attempted to transform himself from funny sports fan to SPORTS EXPERT. Advanced sports stats? He knows it better than you do. What should the rules be? Ask him. Eventually Bill's power at ESPN grew so much that he was given his own website. The old Bill would have hired funny writers to fill out that site, the new Bill took his dad to convince Nate Silver to join him. And of course, Nate Silver is the expert of experts.
And Bill Simmons wanted to be his boss.
So as I always ask: what about me?
A few years ago I realized I wasn't even being taken seriously at my improv theater. I realized, "if I'm not being taken seriously here, how will I, a latin man from Queens, ever convince a TV executive that I can write and produce comedy?" I changed a lot of things about myself back then, and it kinda worked. Now instead of being a completely unsuccessful comedian, I am a completely unsuccessful comedian with four TV executives' business cards.
But here's the thing about being taken seriously: it isn't good for comedy. I think about this a lot. I really actually DO NOT want to be taken seriously because I think it's funny and thus better to not be, and yet I need to be taken seriously to navigate the white hegemony that is the comedy world. It's a weird conundrum!
So with that in mind, I've decided to just be serious about three things. Just three. Why? Because not only do I want to make comedy, I want to enjoy it as well. The three things I will taken seriously are as follows:
Getting paid. (Obviously)
Getting laid. (That's what the money's for)
I can't believe you read this whole thing.