off stage, we waited

“There was a sense of school, I suppose. An ‘Island of Misfit Toys’ sort of thing. We were young, only a very few even in their thirties, and we had never felt we belonged anywhere else. We came from religious backgrounds, mostly Jewish and Catholic, but we were not religious. We were sports fanatics who had never been successful in participation. We were television addicts. Virtually every one of us drank, smoked, and used drugs. We lived in small, dark, under-furnished apartments. For the most part, we were unmarried. We had tempers and psychological problems. We did not like to share. We had prodigious memories for facts large and small, particularly small. Many had lived nomadic lives. We loved the Beatles, Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, David Letterman. Very few grew up in poverty. We were resolutely middle-class. We had a few close friends and talked a lot about people we hated. We were incredibly insecure, champions of low self-esteem. We didn’t just like attention, we lusted after it, chased it until we were breathless. We lived onstage. Off stage, we waited. We stayed up all night and slept in all day. Instead of laughing we would say, “That’s funny.” We had no idea where our next meal was coming from. We were only as good as our next show.”

~ from When the Red Light Goes On, Get Off: A Life in Comedy, by John Wing (Black Moss Press, 2008)

Q&A, At Eleven, with John Wing

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