I was podcasting with my good friend Corey Adam today, as he visited me in Los Angeles before doing comedy all week in Irvine with Nick Swardson. If you’re in OC this weekend, go check them out as it’s sure to be a blast of a show.
We spent some time talking about the shows I did recently in Minneapolis at the House of Comedy (which Corey was kind enough to pop in on and perform at the last night I was there) which featured a couple of fans of an internet radio show that spends a lot of time trolling everything I do. A lot. Hours. An obsessive amount. Like, the level at which they’re creaming their jeans reading this and finally being acknowledged. They behaved themselves the majority of the night, and despite having brief interaction with them at the beginning of the show, I had no problem with them staying and watching - regardless they inevitably got booted out for attempting to record my set (a violation of club policy) after earlier drawing the club management’s attention to themselves by yelling out during the feature act’s set. They spent about $50-$100 each to come to my show and saw less than a minute of my set and ZERO of my actual material. I know this, because they recorded it, sent it in to said show, and attempted to pass it off as me “bombing.”
For this reason, I seldom acknowledge their existence, because I know that only fuels the fire. They’re obsession has gone so far down the path of delusion that it’s futile to make any attempt at reasoning with these people: everything I do is a lie, or conspiracy in their minds; they perceive all vulnerability and honesty as an attempt to be deceptive despite constantly contradicting their own logic in the process. They ignore all sarcasm and satire.
Anyone that sat through Sunday’s show knows that it was the best of the week: the audience had a great time, and that rare magic where the audience’s every move happens to play into your material was captured for an hour of fun. People stayed late, bought DVD’s, took pictures, and shared stories. It was overall a good night of comedy.
Throughout the entire week I was performing there (6 shows over 4 nights), the fans of said show constantly pranked the club - they called in fake complaints, challenged my legitimacy as a comedian worthy of such a gig, trolled the club’s social media promotion, and the list goes on and on and on. You hear that “inside every criticism is a hint of jealousy,” but why on earth would a group of people spend so much of their time trying to have a real world effect on what I’m doing? It’s a timeless catch 22, right? If I was irrelevant, lying, and full of shit about my ability or career - wouldn’t that fizzle out without your interference? Yet, at every step of my career - you’re there making noise.
Why would people spend so much time on something or someone they dislike? Here’s the rub. I’ll blow your minds. Are you ready? Because they used to be FANS.
In 2010, I met comedian Patrick Melton. We almost instantly hit it off. Patrick invited me on his podcast Nobody Likes Onions along with our mutual friend Will C, and after 90 minutes of ball-busting it was comedy love at first site. We would go on to record over 100 episodes of his podcast together, roasting current events or celebrities, sharing life’s horror stories, and having fun. For those 100 or so episodes, we had a comedic chemistry that just seemed to click. For the first time, someone with their own fan base welcomed me in and it just felt like home. My penchant for telling stories with brutal openness and self deprecation made for great banter on the show. Ratings were high, and we even started doing some live podcasts/comedy shows to audiences in LA and NY. It was FUN. It was a fun time.
Over the years, the show became what shows like that often do: 2 comedians dueling it out for the funniest quip - to be the first to “win the show” for that day. It became competitive and we often disagreed on our individual approaches to comedy as a business and what made the show the most funny. Our personal interactions bled into our professional interactions; our personal lives bled into our show personas and the lines greyed. Some fans sided with me, and some with him. In 2014, when I decided to go my own way - any fans that had discussed our disagreements with me online tried to expose my comments as “backstabbing,” but rest assured anything I discussed with fans Patrick and I talked about many, many times offline, and just didn’t see eye to eye. To this day, those episodes are some of my favorite memories in comedy, and I’ll always have appreciation for the exposure and relationships that developed from my time as a guest co-host on that show. Things run their course. People grow apart.
But the falling out left this taste in many of the fans mouths. They felt my departure was some sort of “fuck you” to the show, and everything it had done for me. They took it as a sign that I thought I was bigger than the show; or better than it. Truth was, and I’ve said this many times - I left when I felt the show became more negative than funny. Shitting on things can be fun, but when it stops being about making people laugh, it stops being interesting. It was the first time I felt like people that let me be funny started making me explain who I was an ask permission for who I am. I refused.
The fans started rooting against me. They wanted to see me fail. They felt like I was due some Karma for betraying their trust or loyalty.
in December of 2015, I started down a process of auditioning that led to Ginormous Food on Food Network. As a historically superstitious guy, I remained pretty tight-lipped about the process as it unfolded as not wanting to jinx the opportunity. At the point where eyes started to matter, I promoted it as best I could to fans of my March of the Pigs podcast audience that there was a pilot episode we filmed, and to tune in and help us try to get picked up. The trolls were outraged. NLO and this other show (which I won’t name) shared a lot of fans, and fans often defected back and forth based on which host they liked more at the moment. The shows often competed for the same audience, at one point were friendly, and over the years have gone to war with each other. Trolls have shifted from one to the other in a bandwagon fashion like fans of football teams on winning and losing streaks. Their commonality it seemed was rooting against me. When I posted social media clips about our filming, they were so convinced that I was lying that they called the restaurants we filmed at to see if we were actually filming. The restaurants (under strict NDA) declined to comment, which they took as proof of a lie.
When the pilot aired, they said nothing. “A lot of people get pilots, it won’t get picked up,” they said.
When the show got picked up they said “it’s only a 6 episode order - no one will watch and it will get cancelled.”
When the show broke ratings records for new shows and was reordered for a 13 episode second season, they lost their fucking minds.
The host of this show, supposedly being a free speech advocate for comedy, wrote an email to the network trying to “out” my previous comedy albums as “racist, and homophobic.” When confronted about it by his own listeners for being hypocritical, he blamed it on a loyal fan that gladly took the rap. We had an internal call at the network to discuss these concerns and nobody cared. Here’s the thing that people don’t know - when a network is about to offer you a “futures contract,” there’s a tremendously in-depth background check process. Every joke I’ve ever told, every podcast I was ever on, every ridiculous thing I’ve ever said being serious or being funny went into a report that the network evaluated before offering me the deal. They learned nothing new in this complaint, only that the show was successful enough to bring out the detractors and activate them. We discussed the strategy moving forward in handling these potential objections - not excluding the proposition that I quit doing comedy all together for the sake of the show - to which I replied “If you want to pay me a million a year for the next ten years, then we can discuss it” - but if you’re asking me to sell out you’re going to need to present a check first. Nobody directly asked me about my stand-up career again inside the network, or my social media presence as a comedian.
We were renewed for a third season. You could imagine the troll’s outrage.
The show chugged along through the second season, and into the third. After the Discovery/Scripps merger - our expected up-order of episodes never came. We were all due a nice raise after the first contract period, and as often happens in these situations - the network opted to scrap the show in lieu of ponying up the cash - despite having made millions of dollars in syndication and a 14 country foreign market distribution.
For my 24 episodes, I made about $96k, or $4k per episode (more than they initially offered, but still incredibly low even by modern cable standards). Had they picked up our “2nd year” option, my pay would have doubled or tripled in a renegotiation.
I went to work on pitching new shows and attempting to refocus on what I wanted to do before GF - build my comedy career and develop some scripted shows to pitch around town. Then May 19th, 2018 happened and everything changed.
If you don’t know what I’m referencing, a quick google search of my name will settle it.
I said some shit that people didn’t like on the internet, refused to apologize, defended my history of “offensive comedy,” and even walked into an ambush at TMZ to discuss my tweets and to defend language in art and thusly paid the price.
The trolls rejoiced. Finally, the comeuppance they’ve been waiting for.
The year since has been brutal on me financially, emotionally, and personally. Standing your ground on principle is noble in theory, but extremely expensive when put into practice. I lost my agents, many “friends,” in the business, all opportunities for new shows and work in entertainment. Even an attempt at jumping back into the corporate world fell short after two days, because of the digital scarlet letter of my twitter jokes and online takes.
The trolls were there for all of it. They celebrated failures, running hours long commentary tracks on my low points. Even personally went after folks that donated to a gofundme I set up to get back on our feet after our lowest of low points. The behavior of those with a true personal vendetta against my existence.
”Why such passion?” - my friend Corey asked me today over lunch.
”Great question,” I replied. They troll tons of comedians, but none to this degree. Why so much attention for me? What makes me so special.
After thinking about it sometime, the answer became clear. It’s simple. I’m theirs.
See, many of these trolls followed me from the days of my most obscure point in my career. They tuned in before I had any success, and feel partially responsible for it. I don’t give them credit, and I don’t bend to their demands.
I’ve spent many years in business (outside of comedy) and there’s a trend in business that is starting to bleed into entertainment and art: The access that social media gives patrons of businesses to shout their displeasure from the rooftops has proven effective. Angry social media mobs can storm the digital doors of any place they don’t agree with. Hell, I’m famously known for doing this too with Chipotle many years ago after a shitty customer service moment ruined my girlfriend’s nice new jeans. I demanded acknowledgement and looked like spoiled white brat in the process. I get it. But I was using the system the way I came to know it. Effective.
I get the need to be responsive to customers. I get that they get a vote on how you do business and they can vote with their wallets. But maybe all of my time in corporate America made me reject the notion of injecting that philosophy into how I run my career as an artist.
I refuse to bend to the demands of strangers. Your comment cards don’t mean shit to me, and here’s why:
You assume NONE of the risk in this pursuit. I walked away from comfort and security in my life in 2008, when I left behind nearly a million dollars in Crocs stock options to pursue comedy full time (not a bad choice as those options ended up being worthless in the long run). You don’t struggle every month to pay my rent. You don’t agonize over new material. You don’t have to figure out how to get the bills paid while you chase your dreams. You don’t have to do any of that, because you haven’t tried.
My philosophy isn’t some “holier than thou” elitism. It’s a philosophy based in one simple principle that a Chris Rock repost recently and eloquently perfected: “don't take criticism from anyone you wouldn’t take advice from.”
So True. So Perfect.
If you’re another comedian, or musician, or painter, or filmmaker, or dancer, or you name it - you could be a fucking furniture maker - you’re someone that makes things - original things from your heart, or mind, or soul - I’ll hear what you have to say. You’ve taken the risks. You’re TRYING to do it. You have my respect. I could probably learn something from you, even if it’s what not to do.
But you, the guy who doesn’t know me and doesn’t take those risks in his own life - you can shut the fuck up and keep your opinion to yourself. Or create an internet radio show and dedicate your life to commenting on mine. I don’t care either way. This is the only time I’ve ever addressed it and ever will address it and for one reason only: maybe you’re an up and coming comedian that’s trying to make it - maybe you’re a musician or filmmaker that wonders why people root against you - maybe this post helps you relate in someway - or maybe in some way it’s good for me just to get my thoughts on it out. As down as my life could ever get, it will NEVER be as low as the guy who stands by and comments on it.
The fact that you take time away from your kids, or your wives, or your businesses to celebrate in my failures makes you the ultimate loser in this story, because there’s absolutely nothing to gain from it. Your life will still be whatever it is regardless of what happens in mine. Your job will still suck, your kids will still suck, your wife will still suck, your life will still suck. I assume it sucks because you’re watching mine instead of living yours - and mine has been pretty shitty lately. Like Game of Thrones final season shitty. The writers have phoned it in, and the last few episodes haven’t been what ANYONE wants.
I’m going to keep taking risks. I’m going to keep falling and getting back up again because it’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done, and I’ll keep fucking doing it until I die. It’s what makes us different, you see. Every cool thing I’ve ever done has come on the heels of my lowest points because I keep trying and keep taking risks. I keep shooting shots, because nothing you do or say will ever feel as bad as me not trying.
So keep watching, and stay tuned.