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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

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut

I've often wondered why people outside the comedy industry feel it is necessary to analyze a standup comic's mental health. Others in the performing arts are rarely held up to such scrutiny: singers sing, dancers dance and actors act, but a comic is never allowed to just tell jokes. No, a comic is always dealing with the emotional scars of an uhappy childhood which resulted in feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. And I thought I was just telling sex jokes.

What makes a person want to be a standup comic is, apparently, still a great mystery. Theories abound. But, theories are like assholes--everybody's got one. And I propose that these theories are usually put forth by people who are dealing with the emotional scars of an unhappy childhood which resulted in feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. At least that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

The most popular theory contends that a comic becomes a comic because he is insecure, starved for attention and in need of love. (As a woman, you might find it curious that I use the singular "he" to describe a standup comic. You may suspect that it has something to do with being an insecure woman in a male-dominated industry and, you may be right. But, let's save that psycho-babble for another column, shall we?)

I've always concluded that I'm a standup comic merely becuse I CAN be a standup comic. My husband and I have labeled this the "canine lingual-testicular contact motivational theory." In other words, why does a dog lick his balls? Because he CAN. (In this case, I use the singular "he" to describe the dog, because female dogs don't have balls and, if they did, they certainly would never be caught licking them in public. Again, that's another column entirely.)

Looking back on my life, I realize that I've always wanted to be in comedy, I just didn't know it at the time. When I was ten years old, I was hooked on Saturday Night Live and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. As I grew older, my love of comedy only increased. I would race home from school to watch Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore and Mike Douglas. I would skip my homework to watch Soap, Taxi and M*A*S*H. I stayed up late to see Johnny Carson, Benny Hill and Monty Python. As a teenager, I had my favorite standup comics and I would seek out television appearances by Bill Kirchenbauer, Gary Muledeer and John Byner. I was the ultimate fan, but never once entertained the notion of pursuing a career in the comedy industry.

Then one night, something odd happened. My mother and I were sitting up very late watching "An Evening At the Improv." Carrie Snow was performing and, for some reason, my mother turned to me and said, "My girls could do that." It was the first time anyone had ever articulated the idea that I could do standup comedy.

I'd like to think that I'm a comic because I wanted to be part of an industry that gave me so much pleasure as a child. I loved comedy in the same way a young boy loves baseball and will stay up late listening to a Yankees game on a transistor radio. That boy wanted to be Joe DiMaggio. I wanted to be Albert Brooks.

When I hear someone say that comics are insecure, starved for attention and in need of love, I can only reach one conclusion: Who isn't? The whole world is full of people who are insecure, starved for attention and in need of love, but most of them have no sense of humor at all. If you ever meet a person who says they are secure, get plenty of attention and have more love than they know what to do with, run the other way! You're probably talking to a homicidal maniac who will eventually eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

I like to think that I'm a comic merely because I like being a comic. I like the autonomy, I like making people laugh and, in some ways, I like being in control. And if you conclude that it's my insecurities and perceived inadequacies that makes me like these things, well then, so be it. At least it's better than being a serial killer. HOME Back to the Top