Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm not Joking

Louis grew up in Mexico City, and when he was seven, his family immigrated to Boston.  A few years later, his parents divorced, leaving his mother to raise him and his three siblings.  As a single mom, life was challenging for her, and the whole family.  To help maintain an upbeat environment, she would gather her children to listen to old records by stand-up comedians.  Louis loved Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, and George Carlin. He especially enjoyed watching his mother laugh, and he would try to mimic the comedy routines to crack her up.

When he was in the fifth grade, Louis was given the task of reciting a poem between acts of his class play.  On the day of the play, he stood in front of the red curtain and began to recite the poem… and he burst out laughing.  He paused and tried to start again, but kept laughing and couldn’t get through it.  Fortunately, the crowd laughed with him and applauded, as he took dozens of breaks to finish the speech.  It was exhilarating to get laughter like that from grownups.  He’d brought the house down.

After high school graduation, Louis got a job as an auto mechanic, but secretly held onto the idea that he could become a comedian.  A local comedy club was having an open mic night, and Louis summoned the courage to go on stage.  He was given five minutes to perform, but when he got onstage, he could barely get through his first minute.  No one was laughing, and his mind was going blank.  The experience was torture.

Louis stayed out of comedy clubs for over a year.  When he finally got his courage back, he tried another open mic night.  He managed to deliver a full two minutes, but just like before, no one laughed… it was agonizing silence.  But he decided to give it one more try, and this time he managed three or four jokes that got some good laughs.  He was invited to be a regular at the midnight show.  He still needed a day job, but at least he was pursuing his dreams.

After four years of working steadily in Boston, Louis was chosen to appear on MTV’s Half Hour Comedy Hour.  It was an important TV experience, and he bombed.  But it gave him the chance to see the clubs and vibrant comedy scene in New York.  Louis couldn’t make enough money doing stand-up, so he became part of the writing team for a show called Caroline’s Comedy Hour.  It didn’t pay much, but it gave him experience writing and refining his comedy. 

When the hit TV show, Saturday Night Live, announced it was looking for new cast members, Louis auditioned with a group of fellow comedians.  The following week, each of his friends was cast to be on the show… except him.  Louis could no longer afford to live in New York.  But as he was planning to move, his phone rang.  The caller said, “A friend from SNL told me that you’re really funny and I’d like to offer you a job writing for Conan O’Brien.”

Louis worked as a writer on Conan O’Brien for two years, which led to his writing for David Letterman, Dana Carvey, and Chris Rock.  Throughout the entire period, he continued doing his stand-up, always improving and gaining confidence.  It paid off when he was invited to perform on Conan, Letterman, and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Knowing that comedians don’t make much money from their comedy albums, Louis tried something new.  He allowed his fans to download his latest album from his website.  He intentionally didn’t protect it from being pirated, and instead asked his fans to contribute just five dollars if they liked it.  It was a huge success, and he earned over one million dollars.  Today, Louis C.K. is an award-winning comedian, writer, editor, producer and star.  And in 2012, at long last, he was invited to host Saturday Night Live.

Louis C.K. made a habit of turning obstacles into opportunities.  Don’t ever give up on your dreams, no matter what gets in the way or how long it takes.  There’s nothing funny about that!

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams

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