I’ve always been addicted to humor and its power to bring people together and the power humor has to heal. The clubs I’ve worked in and the showcases, festivals, corporate shows and road gigs beg to differ. I’ve spent decades trying to figure out what I was doing in Stand Up, was I soapbox comic, the angry chain smoking recovering alcoholic with a story to tell? Kind of, but without the cigarettes and a lot of the anger diluted by years of “The Artist’s Way,” journals helping expunge my demons.
You might argue that anger is funnier than humor that heals. I was coming out of my first divorce when I started comedy. These were a few of my jokes back in the early 80’s. “Me and my wife broke up. I still see here though; she’s in my freezer.” or this chunk. “What’s with that song, ‘I am Woman hear me roar?’ Let me hear the vacuum roar. Do your job.” “I blame Oprah for my breakup. She said if I loved my wife I’d find her ‘G SPOT.’ I went looking for it. Turns out it was in my wife’s cousin.” These were absolutely stupid jokes made for drunk people that told you that I was an angry idiot but they never told anything about me. Life should be an evolution: body, mind, soul and I’ve spent decades looking for punchlines when I realize I should have been looking for myself.
What does that mean? First of all, angry is funny, rage, desperation, panic and all the emotions that come out of a disintegrating relationship are ripe for Stand-Up. It’s no longer my audience or who I am. But you know what? Heart, spirit and a soul’s journey is not hilarious. But these are the things I’m searching for in my story. They’re calling to me. And they are my audience.
As I’m writing this, my random I-Tunes music selector chose Gregorian Chanting. Coincidence? I don’t know you tell me. There’s still a million reasons to be mad, bills, regret, shaming, bullying on media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. When we put ourselves out there we invite those that prey on others. The old me would have lashed out at being bullied or shamed but now I chose to use these moments as an opportunity to reinforce my spiritual muscle.
I chose to grow in all pillars of life, my marriage, emotionally and creatively. When Nernie and I started dating almost 20 years ago she had this dream where I was on stage and a rope was being pulled out of me. I’ve come to believe her dream was her asking me to be real, allow the real Paul to show up. I’ve never really known where I belonged. I’ve just known I needed to create, that has taken the form of music, writing live theatre, novels, teaching, performing Stand-Up and Keynotes. I’ve been in too many miracles not to believe they’re real, all the near fatal car accidents I’ve been in across the country. Planes that should have crashed but didn’t. Me, twenty one years sober and in love with the woman I preyed for. Don’t tell me the Universe isn’t listening to us.
Once, I was driving in the middle of a nightmare blizzard, in a piece of junk truck with faulty wiring; at three in the morning my head lights go out. The comic in the passenger seat SCREAMS looks at me and swears like a mechanic that we should have never left the hotel we were in. Yah, well if we would have stayed we wouldn’t have this story would we? He smashes his hands into the roof of the truck trying to ready himself for the impending head on collision. I’m in shock. That’s what I do in moments like this! When my wife asks where the remote is, when a vendor in a food court asks if I want extra mayo, when an AMAZON driver asks if I could please write my name on that electronic slab from the future. I panic. So, here we are pitch black in a whiteout blizzard, no lights going one hundred and twenty kilometers an hour. I do the cardinal sin of driving in the winter on the Canadian Prairie; I slammed on the breaks! The truck slides sideways on the QE2, the six lane highway between Calgary and Edmonton. I’m white knuckling the steering wheel staring out into the blizzard likes it’s a horror flick. The comedian next to me isn’t talking to me. He’s hyperventilating and seeing his life pass before his eyes. The truck slams into a snow drift I never saw and my vehicle explodes into the ditch up the side and slides sideways over an access road and my truck slides through a truck stop parking lot and shimmies into an empty stall near a massive gas station until seconds earlier did not see and did not know existed. The comic I’m driving with stops shouting and I say: you want to get some breakfast? Swear to God. It’s true. There’s something looking out for all of us and that’s the place I’m going to start with my humor.
I’ve burnt more bridges than the Nazis because I chose to grow and be true to myself and my heart and be the Paul the Universe has been asking me to.