This was pretty strange to see: my "comedian" page on the Comedy Central web site. (Not much else there to see, unless you click on that link to "EXTRAS" on the left. I was supposed to submit a bio, but I don't have a manager and I'm no good at writing things about myself like, "Todd brings a freshness and energy that lights up audiences from Branson, Missouri to Kalamazoo. He has literally redefined 'Naughty Hypnotism' as a comedy form.")
What's weird about that picture, besides it being featured on the web site alongside people like Woody Allen and Sinbad, is that it puts me in a context that I've sort of been denying for a long time. It makes no sense, but it used to really frustrate me when people described me – either to myself or to others (most often as a way to set a link to a post on this site) – as a "comedian." When people asked me what I did, it took me such a long time to have the confidence to answer, "I'm a writer." But when I started to do that, I didn't feel pretentious or phony, as I feared I would. I felt pretty good. Cool, even. Fresh and also def. I felt all those things. And gnarly and wicked awesome. But not grody.
I still tell people I'm a writer, and sometimes I'll add, "and I also do comedy." I do it. I'm still too nervous to say, "and I'm a comedian," because I'm dealing with all those phony/pretentious feelings all over again. Plus, it's much worse with comedy. It's a much more petty, jealous group. It's easy to claim yourself as a writer, with just a couple of published piece. But if you tell people you're a comedian, there's always a few hundred struggling comics who will refute that status. Talk to a few comics, and you'll find out they have an amazing set of personal guidelines that dictate whether someone can truly call himself (or herself) a Comedian. You're not a comedian until you've played this room. You're not a comedian until you've worked the clubs. You're not a comedian until you've worked the road. For five years. Or ten. Or until you've been on television. Fuck that, NETWORK television. You're not a comedian until you've gone down on Mitzi Shore. Or featured for Chris Rock. Or played a black club. Or performed in front of the Klan. Or been heckled, or threatened with violence. Everyone has a different rule, and the debate is held in the backs of clubs, along bars, or anytime a new comic starts getting any kind of attention.
But check that picture out. It's telling me I'm a comic. Man, I even look like a comic in that picture, shrugging my shoulders, grooming my hair, and letting a slight smile leak out. I'm not wearing glasses, though, which I should admit was a totally conscious decision. I was worried that when I walked out onstage that night, looking the way I do, the audience would see me in glasses and instantly think, "Oh, he's one of those comics." The Glasses Kind. It sounds dumb, but I think there's truth to it. Glasses really set expectations – and that's fine – but I was worried about telegraphing myself as a "character" too clearly so I thought it would be better to lose the spectacles, even if it meant being unable to read my set list off the giant teleprompter facing the stage.
I keep saying it, because I don't have another word for it: it's strange. The goofy smile and all of that. I keep coming back to that goofy smile, which is self-deprecating speak for, "holy cow, I actually look really happy." Now, whatever I decide to answer when asked what I do, I'll know, at least on comedycentral.com, I'm a Comedian under the letter "L." Just like Larry the Cable Guy.