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This past December, our friends' seven-year-old
son wrote a letter to Santa Claus. In it he said,
"Dear Santa, We don't have a tree because
we're Jewish, so could you please leave the presents
by the door." After I threw my head back
and laughed the laugh of a person who isn't faced
with the dilemma of having a Jewish child who
believes in St. Nick, I realized that what I had
just read was probably the most brilliant example
of problem solving I had ever encountered. Yet,
how could this little boy, who usually solves
his dessert predicaments by deciding to have
Go-Gurt and Oreos, suddenly have the situational
clarity of a high-powered mogul? In my mind,
I could see our pint-sized hero chomping on
a candy cigar and barking into a Fisher Price phone,
"No tree? No problem. We can work around it."
However, as much as I admired his critical
thinking-- and hoped that someday he would become
my agent-- I'm experienced enough to realize that
a good plan isn't always a guarantee you will get
what you desire. Sometimes life, as I like to call it,
gets in the way.
I have an unoriginal habit of becoming painfully
aware of this fact every December 31. Since the end
of the year is a time for looking back, and the
beginning of the year is a time to look forward,
each New Year's Eve I join millions of people around
the world who say to no one in particular,
"Well, I screwed up last year. Would you
please pass the gin?"
The more optimistic among us choose the New Year
to discover ways to better themselves. We
pessimists drink even more as we half-drunkenly
listen to their littany of New Year's resolutions.
Would you be surprised to hear that I despise
New Year's resolutions? In my tiny mind,
resolution implies that I actually have
complete control over any given situation, and,
if there's one thing I've learned in the 37 years
I've been stumbling around this planet, it is that
quite often, I do not have complete control. None of us
do. Don't believe me?
Well, go to the self-help section of any bookstore
and you'll see row after row of over-priced books
all claiming to teach you the necessary skills
to control your life. Then go to the folding
table section of any yard sale and you'll see
row after row of those same books marked down
to a quarter.
In other words, we pitch Santa our perfect idea
only to find out that he can't help us because
he isn't real.
A couple of days before the New Year-- on December 29
to be exact-- I sat down to watch (what I had hoped to be) the
Green Bay Packers losing to the New York Jets.
The day before, my beloved Philadelphia Eagles had lost
to New York's other football team, the Giants, and to
secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs,
the Eagles needed the Packers to lose this final game
of the season. It was at that moment that I realized
the NFL playoff structure is a perfect analogy to
life in general and a career in standup comedy
In other words, sometimes your fate depends
on the fate of others.
Just look at what needed to happen in the AFC East
for the various teams to reach their goals (as
of noon, Dec. 29):
"The Miami Dolphins (9-6) can clinch the division
title with a win or tie Sunday at New England.
Can clinch a playoff berth with a loss by the
New York Jets and a win by Denver or a loss
by the Jets."
"The New England Patriots (8-7) can clinch
the division title with a win over Miami on Sunday
and a loss by the New York Jets to Green Bay.
Can clinch a playoff berth with a win and losses
by Cleveland, Denver and San Diego."
"The New York Jets (8-7) can clinch
the division title with a win Sunday against
Green Bay and a loss by Miami to New England.
Can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a loss
by Cleveland and a win by Denver."
Of course, the only way to avoid such
life-altering calculations is to win constantly,
but no human is infallible. Even Johnny Unitas,
the greatest quarterback who ever lived
(according to NFL Films), threw an interception
about once every 20 attempts.
In other words, no matter how hard you try,
no matter how carefully you plan, sometimes you
have to sit back and wait for the outcome
of the other games.
For example, not too long ago, my husband called
a booker from the Comedy Palace in New England.
The guy actually said, "I already have all the comics
I need. I guess you'll have to wait for
somebody to die."
"Brian McKim and Traci Skene can clinch
a booking at the Comedy Palace with a winning tape
and the loss of several New England headliners."
That's not to say that we shouldn't work hard
and try our very best. I may be bitter, but I still
make my To-Do lists with the utmost enthusiasm.
I just know that sometimes things won't work out
the way I had hoped. So, instead of resolutions,
I make wish lists. Then I do what's needed to be done
on my part and hope that the Steelers beat
the hell out of Santa... or something like that.
2003 Wish List:
Acheive Goal of Working In All 50 States:
Several years ago, I managed to work in my 49th state,
but Tennessee, which would be my 50th, still eludes me.
I've sent tapes. I've made calls. I've checked
the obits. I even managed to get a booking
in Tennessee in 2002, but it was cancelled at
the last minute. I know it's the Volunteer state,
but would somebody please pay me to work there?
Publish a Book: While Christmas shopping
at Barnes & Noble, I wandered over to the humor
section to see my jokes in Judi Brown's
"The Funny Pages." I was tickled just to
have my words within the walls of a book store.
Elements of SHECKYmagazine.com, I'm convinced,
would make a great book. Now we just have to
convince a publisher.
Work Fewer Weeks For More Money:
Sounds obvious, I know, but to earn in one week
what I would normally earn in two, would make it
much easier to remain a standup comic.
At this rate, every state I work in becomes
the Volunteer state.
Obtain Writing Job: For two years now,
we've been part of the Fashion Police team for
Us Weekly and I've really enjoyed writing comedy
for something other than my act or SHECKYmagazine.com.
However, being hired as a writer probably
won't happen as long as we're living outside
of New York or Los Angeles.
Work On A Showcase/TV Set: I've become
such a road animal that the last thing I want to do
when I come home is go to an open-mike
and work on a 7-minute set. I hope our schedule
eases up a bit so I can work on this part
of my act again. Although, after The Osbournes
I don't ever want to be told again that I'm
too dirty for television.
While realization of any of the above
five scenarios would be wonderful, what I
really, really, really want is to just finish
2003 with some money in the bank.
"Dear Santa, We don't have a money tree because we're comedians, so could you please leave the cash by the door."
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