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TRACI SKENE has appeared on VH-1's Standup Spotlight, A&E's Comedy On The Road and Lifetime's Girls Night Out, all of which has done her absolutely no good.

Traci Skene


Traci Skene

SHECKYmagazine Chief

The 2003 Season

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 particular.

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, 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 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." HOME Back to the Top