Thursday, May 3, 2012


As I explore my new career as a stand-up comedian, I am reminded of a line I loved from a review of my bestselling book, Moneylove, in SUCCESS UNLIMITED magazine. The late Og Mandino, author of the classic motivational/spiritual book,  The Greatest Salesman in the World, said in his review, "Jerry will have you laughing all the way to the bank."

I loved that line, and a year or two later got to meet and become friends with Og, a true gentleman and great speaker as well as writer. As I sat in a prison cell a few years ago and reflected on my life, I came to a conclusion that is reaffirmed by Og's quote being one of my favorites of all the comments on my books and seminars through thirty-some years. That has led me to my current path, and is simply that when an audience responded to something I said (usually spontaneously) during a lecture or workshop with laughter, it was just as satisfying--and maybe even more so--than a standing ovation. I have heard top comedians describe this adrenaline rush activated by audience laughter.  Many have said it is the one thing that makes it worth going out and taking the risk that your jokes or stories will totally bomb. 

I am enjoying the beginning comedy class at the San Francisco Comedy College, where my fellow students are mostly in their twenties and thirties. They weren't even born when I did a couple of open mike stand-up bits in 1970 at what was then the only comedy club in the world, The Improvisation in New York. At the time, I was a newsman at WNBC Radio, and looking to mostly try out my comedy writing skills. I did get to write some material for some successful stand-up performers, including the legendary Henny Youngman and Phyllis Diller. Frankly, I didn't have the driving ambition to want to go out and start out as a brand new comic performer. I was happy in broadcasting, as I was a few years later when I started writing self-help books and becoming a motivational speaker (always with a dash of humor). 

Also, it was a lot harder to get going in such a career in those in-between years. The opportunity to learn and grow as a comedian in the resorts of the Catskills had substantially faded, and the surge of comedy clubs hadn't yet started. 

Now I am willing to go out, if this all works, and do the comedy club circuit full-time for a year or two and see where it takes me. And it is the doing of it that excites me, the beginning something new at this stage in my life, rather than any results I aspire to. I don't need to be a comedy superstar to be happy and content with my efforts (though I wouldn't turn down a major gig in Vegas or role in a sitcom). 

When I compare myself to my fellow fledgling comedians, what I do not have in common with them is the nervousness or stage fright of a newcomer to stagecraft. Also, in my part-time efforts writing gags for magazine cartoonists, I have learned how to write funny.  What I do share is the slightly scary joy of a new adventure in life, with unknown potential as we step out on a ledge every time we say something we hope is funny and deliver in a funny way.
Laugh and the world laughs with you--or maybe not.

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