I didn’t start doing stand-up until I dated a comedian. I was a theater actor that had always loved comedy but had no idea how to go about starting to do stand-up. I knew absolutely no one in that world and frankly, the idea of finding an open mic and trying it out was really intimidating. Then I met this guy on OkCupid that was a local comic. Let’s call him Kyle. We started spending a lot of time together and he introduced me to the world of local stand-up. I had only ever gone to see big names at clubs and seeing a show full of young people giving it a go in the back of a bar really inspired me. A 6 weeks into dating Kyle I decided to write my first set. I went up at two different open mics my first night and I loved it. I was incredibly proud of myself and so inspired by the experience that I went to another one a few days later. I remember going to Kyle’s house afterward and telling him how happy it made me. I remember him not seeming very excited and asking me, “Do you think you’re going to like...be a comic now? I don’t want to date another comic.” I had flashbacks of theater kid hookups and how no one has any privacy in a small community and decided it was a valid concern. We decided to keep quiet about being an item and not hang out at open mics.
I kept doing stand-up and he kept away from me at shows and we would only really hang out in the bedroom of his basement apartment. We honestly never even talked about comedy when we were together. A few months into us dating he went out-of-town for some shows, something he had done every few weeks since I met him. This particular time, he text to tell me he wouldn’t be coming home as planned and had to cancel our plans. When I pressed him about his reason for it, he admitted that when he had been out-of-town over the past few months, he had actually been visiting another woman. I was upset enough to dye my hair purple, but life goes on and so did I.
I kept doing stand-up, did my best not to get too embarrassed or cry when I saw him at shows and tried to forget about him. Three weeks after Kyle and I broke up I went out to a showcase that I had been hanging around at every week. I was starting to feel like I knew some of the other comedians and was really excited when one of the producers of the show invited me to sit with them to have a beer afterward. While we were hanging out, another one of the producers, who happen to also be a good friend of Kyle’s, came to sit down. She was pretty drunk and ribbing everyone the way that comics do when she noticed me sitting there. She stared at me for a second with a scowl on her face before saying, “Aren’t you that girl that was fucking Kyle?”.
I felt my stomach drop to my feet and my face flush. Everyone at the table looked at me with raised eyebrows as I stammered, “Um...yeah, we were dating for a while but we broke up.” She rolled her eyes and said to the table, “Why does every new female comic have to fuck the first guy she makes friends with?” and that was the end of our conversation. I spent the next few weeks scared to go to open mics because I thought if Kyle had told her, maybe other people knew too.
I imagine if you’re reading this you’re thinking, “Wow, that is a dumb reason not to go do something that you like to do.” You’re right, it was dumb. But boy, oh boy, if it didn’t feel incredibly valid. Starting stand-up in general is very intimidating. You’re making yourself vulnerable to a room full of people (or you know, a room with SOME people in it) who probably don’t care about what you’re saying more than they care about writing down what they want to say when their spot comes up. Doing stand-up as a woman is that plus the hyper-awareness that you are a woman in a room full of men who probably will go up there and tell a joke about some girl they fucked or a crazy bitch they broke up with. Doing stand-up as a woman who was romantically linked to another performer is that plus the illusion that you must like having sex with other comedians so much that you are doing stand-up just to fulfill your comedian dick quota. I dealt with so many drunk propositions and accusations of, “What, you think Kyle is funny, but you don’t like me?” from men and disapproving side-eye glances from women in the weeks following our breakup. It made me feel very stupid and I kept having to leave shows to take a walk around the block and fend off panic attacks before my sets. Eventually we all moved on, but it was a really demeaning experience.
Two years later, I am in a relationship with a comedian once again. This time he doesn’t want to keep me a secret, we write together all the time and we go to shows together almost every day. Not one single person has made me feel bad for choosing him AND choosing to be a comedian. The moral of this story is that choosing to hook up with or date another comedian is no different from choosing to hook up or date any other person. Some people will be good for you and some will be bad. Some people are going to judge your decision and others won’t care. More than having to decide whether or not you should date another performer, you have to decide whether or not you should date that person. In hindsight, Kyle never was that great to me in person and clearly wasn’t very good to me when I wasn’t around. People who build you up don’t have friends that put you down, plain and simple. There is nothing wrong with dating another performer if you just remember what I said about comedy being like a job. Before you start anything, think about if you’ll still be comfortable working with that particular coworker after things are said and done.
At the end of the day, you have to use your judgment to decide what is healthiest for you. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for who you like and do your best to like people who don’t make you feel bad.