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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

I Know What I Did Last Summer

I recently found myself with nothing to do on a Saturday night. "Big deal," you say, "lots of 36-year-old women find themselves with nothing to do on a Saturday night. Why do you think Walker Texas Ranger was on television for so long?" Well, for one thing, Herr Wisenheimer, this was a full two weeks before my 36th birthday so technically, and pathetically, I was still 35 and, secondly, as a comic, I'm used to working on Saturday nights. Saturday night, you see, is a standup comics' night to perform. Only hookers, bartenders and bail bondsmen are guaranteed to see more action.

Yet, here I was, on the seventh night of the week, with nowhere to go. I felt restless. I felt guilty. I felt broke. After several seconds of in-depth self-analysis, I realized that since becoming a standup comic, I no longer enjoy having a weekend night off. Why? Because standup comics, unlike most working people--and yes standup comics are working people--do not get paid vacations, paid sick days or even paid personal days. To put it in terms that even a child with a job could understand, if we don't work, we don't make money.

To make matters worse, my husband wasn't going to be home with me that night and the few non-comic friends that I have had already made other plans. Naturally, the men are now wondering why I just didn't go out and rent some porn. Well, gentlemen, I hate to break it to you but real women--and by real women I mean women who aren't on Sex and the City--would never do such a thing. Trust me when I tell you that I have never heard one of my girlfriends say, "Could you call me back tomorrow? I'm spending the afternoon masturbating." So, instead of doing the guy thing, I did the comic thing and waited for the phone to ring, hoping it would be a booker or a club owner on the other end asking me to fill in for another comic at the last minute. No such luck. So I did the other guy thing and turned on the Phillies game.

Much to my horror I couldn't sit still. I tossed in a load of laundry. I straightened up the living room. I put away the clean dishes. Suddenly, I was an almost-36-year-old woman sitting home on a Saturday night doing housework. What have I become?! Maybe I should clean my gun? Wait, I don't own a gun! My head...she spins! Maybe I should do comedy-related work? Write my column...fax out our schedule...organize all the little bits of paper on which I've written down jokes for my alternative set which I'll never use because I never plan on doing an alternative set. And then it hit me like a shot of tequila with a beer chaser: If I'm home on a Saturday night with nothing to do, maybe I should just do nothing. To quote Yakov Smirnoff (if he were in middle-management), "What a concept!" Miraculously, and without the aid of alcohol, I felt my newly acquired "A-type" personality melt away and my old bohemian self return.

By "nothing" of course, I don't mean that I sat around and stared at the wall. That's not "nothing," that's insanity. "Nothing" to me implies that I did something that would in no way further my career, pay my bills or generally make our lives any better in the future. When my husband asked me upon his return what I did in his absence, I said, "I drank a Corona, listened to Thelonius Monk and read Russian literature." He mockingly replied, ":Wow, you're the coolest person I know! Can I walk you to study hall?!" I should have told him that I rented porn.

What else have I allowed the comedy business to ruin? Upon further reflection, it has become disturbingly clear that not only do I dislike having a weekend night off, but I've learned to dread summer as well, which is sad since Memorial Day through Labor Day used to be my favorite time of the year. The summer months, it pains me to learn, can be tough on a comic. Sure we've all had the occassional wonderful summer working in a resort town along the Atlantic coast, getting booked in Hawaii or spending our pre-show hours baking in the I-think-my-eyeballs-are-melting Nevada sun, but mostly the summer consists of cancelled shows, lower money and smaller than usual crowds.

This year my husband and I decided to limit our summer gigs to weekends and made a concerted effort to try to enjoy our summertime once again. We figured that as long as we worked on Friday and Saturday, we were free to treat the other five days as a mini-vacations (or mini-holidays for our British readers.) Relaxing became a part-time job while stress remained our full-time occupation. My first order of stress-reducing business was to walk around barefoot, which is something I rarely if ever do and is, by the way, much harder than it looks. I had no idea there were so many ways to smash one's toes. It seemed that on an almost regular basis I would hop around Fred Flinstone-like while my husband would look at me and say, "Would you please stop hurting my wife?"

My husband's idea of relaxation is to barbecue every type of meat imaginable. (I swear I even saw him eyeing up our friendly neighborhood chipmunk.) Every night, we would sit on our 4-foot by 5-foot balcony, fire up the 18" by 18" grill and crack open a 2 1/2" by 5" can of beer. Inevitably, the flames would shoot up into the air whereupon I would squeal like a girl and run into the house, stubbing my toe in the process.

One of the best things I did this summer was read. In six weeks, I read 12 books and I'm proud to say that only three of them were standup-related. (We here at get the comedy books for free. I'm not bragging, I just believe in full disclosure.) One of the books, I Almost Killed George Burns is Andy Nulman's 15 years behind the scenes at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. Amazingly, I found the Rusian literature to be less depressing. Anytime I read a book about standup, I try desperately to let the objective psuedo-journalist in me prevail over the standup comic in me. In the case of Nulman's book, I failed miserably. On page 41: "In fact, after many years, worn out by the process, I came up with an adage to describe international talent hunting: It's like someone tossing a rare black pearl into a whirlpool of excrement; your job is to find it." As talent I'd hate to think that anyone who hasn't gotten into the festival is regarded as being part of a "whirlpool of excrement." Mr. Nulman's attitude made me angry. I foolishly allowed one of my designated fun summer days to be completely wasted.

Overall, it was a good summer. The money was bad, but I'm not as panicked about it as I would have been in the past. I enjoyed being outdoors, away from the smokey clubs and I think I've stockpiled enough energy to sustain me through the fall/winter comedy season. And the next time I have a Saturday night off (which I hope isn't too soon) I'm just going to let myself do nothing because sometimes doing nothing is really something. HOME Back to the Top