Comedy is not a normal job and most comics aren’t normal people (although I think our irregularity is overrated). I gave a few comedians the chance to weigh in on the matter and while I don’t want to get too deep into this, here are some points I thought should be covered.
I’m often asked if I do jokes about my wife on stage and the answer is yes. I’ve always had a joke or two about whatever relationship I’ve been in and with the permanence of my wife they keep building. I try to stay as respectful as possible and her saying is, “If it makes money…” If you’re dating a comic, expect to be mentioned and to hear about ex’s mentioned as well. Comics, be respectful and tasteful. The “My wife sucks because…” rants have all been covered anyway.
Steve Poggi, who is not married, but is in a young relationship said, “She likes the attention. As long as it’s not like, “Well then the stupid bitch did….”, most of my jokes are just about me being crazy about her. She understands the joke aspect, so things never get tense about it.”
Obviously comics spend a lot of time away from home while working the road so the trust has to be there. I know of a lot of comics who cheat on their wives and I’ve heard a lot of comics tell me that their wives (or ex’s) cheated on them. I don’t think being away leads to cheating, I think it just makes the relationship more challenging. Cheaters are cheaters though, we just hear about it more because comics share their pain on stage.
The last two brief points I want to cover are about traveling as well. The first part is for someone who wants to date a comic. You must understand up front the amount of time away that it involves. It’s pretty much a long distance relationship. I think a lot of people misunderstand and think that comic is going to change his or her (let’s be frank, it’s usually his) career. I’ll admit, part of the reason I don’t work the road as much is because I don’t like being away, but I consider myself a lucky husband. So the big advice for the comic or the person dating a comic, you have to know up front about the time apart issue and realize that it’s not going to change. This means have a talk about it!
On a lighter note, I advise against taking your significant other on the road with you 99% of the time. I discuss a near tragedy in my book when I once let a girlfriend drive me to a gig only an hour away and I only made it to the show with two minutes to spare. The road is an uncomfortable lifestyle that not many comics want to endure let alone someone who’s just along for the ride. The hotels are often nasty, you can’t afford to eat well, and watching the same show gets repetitive. As Poggi also pointed out, “It’s not a vacation.” I occasionally take my wife if it’s somewhere near and really fun (free food open bar), but at this point she’s over tagging along (I don’t blame her). I say let your partner come out just once or twice to see how rough it is to gain some empathy and to eliminate the fallacy that it’s hundreds of groupies trying to sleep with you as soon as you get off stage.
For more on the topic check out the podcast Tackling Tough Issues in a recent episode with Tommy Johnagin. The issue is discussed a little further and Tommy makes a huge announcement.
I feel like I’ve barely touched on this topic and others might have things to add so feel free to comment on your experiences with this issues. This could be a two-parter.