After all, I'm in a business that everyone expects you to be funny all the time; not just when you're on stage. In truth, I find people like that incredibly annoying. Second only to the "I'm always happy and see the best in everything and everyone" people.
When I started when you were working clubs you rarely stayed in a hotel. You always stayed in a house or "condo" of some sort with the other comedians on the show. There was nothing more annoying that being in a week with the "always on" guy.
"Always on" guy made everything into a joke or a bit. Or he was doing his material for you every time there was an opportunity. It was like this guy had something to prove and you know what? He didn't, we already knew ... he wasn't going to be funny on stage. "Always on" guys are never funny, on or off the stage. I don't know what it is but the truly funny people save it for the stage.
I'll admit that I can border on being "always on" guy when I'm with my comedy buddy's. In fact, a couple of weeks ago when I worked with Gabriel Rutledge I had to apologized for going for the joke a little too often. I explained to him what I'll explain to you; I wasn't trying to prove anything to him. I was just happy to be with a friend and I wanted to entertain him.
I suppose I was being socially awkward. Fortunately for me Gabriel is a kind and tolerant man and I was his ride all week. He had no other choice.
I will also admit to being the guy that goes for the joke in the most unlikely and uncomfortable situations. I remember once towards the very end of my marriage I was discussing my soon to be ex's infidelity. We were at a particularly serious part of the fight/discussion and I saw an opening and made a joke about her infidelity. One that had her laughing to the point of tears while my heart was truly breaking.
Why did I do that? I did it because the tension was building up to the point where there had to be a release or things were really going to get ugly. The truth is it didn't help the situation any, it just kept me in check. For me making light of the situation was my way of releasing some of the tension. Had I not done that the pressure would have continued to build until I would have just lost it. My emotions would have come out in the midst of a lot of yelling, screaming and idiotic ramblings.
Losing my temper is something I don't want to do. I'd like to think I'm a better person than that. Being humorous at inappropriate times is my relief value. The best way I can describe it is once you blow a balloon up there are 2 ways to let the air out. One is to just let go of it and have it fly around the room with no control. The other is to hold on the end and let a little air out at a time. Sure, you may here a squeak or two you weren't expecting, but you have a lot more control over what the balloon (my temper) does.
So as I said in the beginning, I'm a serious guy. I save the funny for the stage. Most people who meet me would/could never image that I am a standup comic. The only time I will identify myself as standup comic is when I'm in a town doing a show. When asked what I do when I'm not working I will choose something else depending on the situation.
If I'm situation that I will be leaving very quickly, like a line at store. I'll tell people I'm do computer work. Not only is it true, I look the part. I look like a guy that sits in front of a computer screen all day long. When I'm in a situation where I will be next to the same person for a longer period of time and there is the opportunity to have a conversation I'll tell people I paint swimming pools.
Why do I do this? Why don't I just tell them I'm a comic and why is it different?
When I'm in a town doing comedy I want them to come see a show, I'm advertising. If I'm not working I don't tell people I do standup because eventually they all ask the same question. "Tell me a joke". I have an entire story of when I cop asked me to do that after he stopped me on my CD "Road Stories". I have to be honest, it's the most annoying thing in the world to me when it happens.
When I'm not working I don't really want or need to engage with anyone, I get plenty of that being on stage. When I'm off stage I'm very happy by myself, I'm a certified (or certifiable) loner. That's why when I'm not working I do what I can to avoid contact with others. That's why in the situations I'm leaving quickly I'll tell them I do computer work. I'm trying to be polite. It satisfies their curiosity and there's not enough time to ask a real question. If they do manage to get one out I give them one that's so technical they're afraid to ask another.
When I'm in for the "long haul" next to someone I use pool painter because there's nothing interesting about it. What are people going to ask me? What kind of paint? What's the most popular color? If someone does ask me a question I just give them the most uninteresting answer I can think of. It's a one and out. I can spend the rest of my time next to them in peace.
I suppose this is why I've never chased fame. I only want the attention when I'm working I could care less the rest of the time. It also explains my fascination with radio and Podcasting. I wouldn't mind being well-known, I just don't want to be recognized ...
Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.