In college, I was on the wrestling team. Before practice, my teammates and I would sit around the training room and try to make each other laugh, primarily to distract ourselves from the misery we were about to endure. I often had the most to contribute.
Once, my friend Chip Bunner and I thought it would be funny to order a pizza to the wrestling room for our heavyweight, Bobby Henderson. In the middle of practice, the delivery guy entered and walked across the mat holding a large pizza.
The exchange between our no-nonsense, grizzled coach and the poor pizza guy went something like this:
“What are you doing here?”
“I have a pizza, sir.”
“Henderson?!!! Does he look like he needs a #$%in pizza?. Get the #$%@ outta here.”
One of the older guys on the wrestling team convinced me to enter a contest at the local comedy club. I stacked the audience with a bunch of my friends and won. I did comedy a few more times in college, but I was more focused on wrestling and school.
After graduation, I thought about becoming a comedian, but I was nervous about jumping into something so nebulous. I took a corporate job in sales, moonlighting off-and-on as a comedian.
One morning, I was waiting to see a buyer on business. I tried to focus on what I was going say, but my mind kept wandering to the first of a two-part episode of the show Renegade on the USA Network. The main character, Reno Raines, appeared to have died at the end of the episode. Instead of focusing on my big pitch, I kept wondering if they were really going to kill off Reno. I mean, how could there be a show without him? He was The Renegade.
At that moment, it occurred to me that maybe I was not as committed to my job as I should have been. Soon after, I quit to become a full-time comedian.
I took a 90 percent pay cut and lived out of my car for a year. I moved to Los Angeles. I traveled the country. I was fortunate enough to appear on several national TV and radio shows. I experienced some big successes and equally big failures. When I was 45, I thought I needed a change of scenery to take my act to the next level. I moved to New York City.
Three years later, I was living in Queens in a two-bedroom, 400 square foot apartment with a roommate, 20 years my junior. I was uncomfortable, but I was definitely honing my craft.
One day, I had a commercial audition in Manhattan that did not go well. I got on the subway to go back home to Queens, and I remember saying to myself, “I would be so grateful if I could just ride in silence for five minutes.” Three minutes later, a lady got on the train and started to sing: “All I want for Christmas is a Fish Sandwich. All I want for Christmas is a Fish Sandwich. All I want for Christmas is a Fish Sandwich.”
I was irritated and despondent. I hated the lady. I hated the fact that I just did terrible at an audition. I hated the subway. All of those separate hates comingled into one big “I hate New York.”
I didn’t think anything more about the lady and her Christmas wish until a week later while journaling in a coffee shop. Through trial and error, I’ve learned to start with, “What interrupted the continuum of the day?”
I wound up writing a pretty good bit about the whole experience. My latest CD is actually called “Fish Sandwich.”
When I was on that train and that woman was singing, I saw absolutely zero humor in the situation. A week later, I thought it might be somewhat interesting. A month later I tried it on stage. A year later I put it on a CD. Two years later, it was the key bit in a comedy special.
At some point, we all fail. We become disappointed, defeated, and sometimes depressed. During these times, it’s important to remember that we may have a different perspective on our failures in the future. The failures may not turn out to be the defining moments of our career, but we may actually look back and find humor in them.
The Fish Sandwich Lady was annoying. But she came along at a time when I was down on myself and became the centerpiece of my act. If anybody knows where she is, I owe her several fish sandwiches.
About the Speaker: Greg Warren is a nationally touring headliner and has been featured on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central Presents, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, BET and CMT. Greg is a fan favorite on the nationally syndicated Bob and Tom Radio Show and can be heard daily on Sirius/XM. Greg’s corporate comedy act is 100% clean and appropriate for any audience. He’s a seasoned emcee making him the perfect host for any event. Greg can customize his show to fit his client’s needs.
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To book one of Greg Warren’s hilarious keynotes or his corporate clean comedy act, contact Midwest Speakers Bureau at 515-974-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org