Why it’s bad to feel bad

Maybe I’m supposed to feel bad right now.

Today is my last day in Paris, right now my last night and my immediate feeling is why don’t I feel more joyful. The last time I came to Paris, I felt like I processed a bunch of social, emotional shit, ate about two-three crepe Nutella and really felt like I grew a lot as a person, learning to forgive myself for moments in my life where I felt ashamed, like that year or so that I said my ex-girlfriend’s name at wistful moments (pretty shameful).

So my immediate feeling now is: why don’t I feel great?

It’s beautiful outside, if slightly rainy. The Paris streets are just as gorgeous as I remember. I don’t have to worry much about money right now and nothing terrible has happened to me, like getting mugged or shit stolen. Why am I not exuberant to be in Paris, to be on vacation. To get this time that so many have told me they envied?

I could analyze it and find blame and find reason why: I’m lonely, too much caffeine, too much or not enough alcohol, too little sleep, missing my girlfriend.

But the real thing that hit me as I walked down the Paris streets is something that I see come up a lot now. A question that popped in my head?

Why is it shameful to feel bad?

I could only really talk about myself but as a society, I’d observe that we are a group of reassurers. To cheer someone up is cool. “Don’t get down on yourself”, “cheer up”, “don’t be sad”, “look on the bright side”, “make the best of it” are phrases I hear often.

The one intent is helpful, to try to aid someone who is experiencing difficult emotions, but I think something present in it as well are these various messages:

"Hey, you’re bumming us out."
“Stop it.”
“You’re ungrateful for what you have or else you wouldn’t feel bad.”
“What right do you have to feel bad when others have it so much worse?”
“I’m ashamed of you/you should be ashamed of yourself.”

And that last one really gets at it for me. I think often times when I feel bad, feel depressed or down, *the pain of the depression itself is much less bad than the inherent shame of feeling depressed*.

We hate people who are depressed. They don’t want to go anywhere, they shit all over people’s plans, they act irrationally or in self-destructive manners and they are resistant to reasoning, which is often the way that we as humans feel empowered (see: any salesman interaction, one person reasoning another into a decision).

However I think there is another more frightening reason we hate depressed people, which could be applied much more broadly than just that category:

Seeing other people act depressed invites us to feel depressed as well.

As human animals we are observers of social behavior in order to understand normality. If everyone tips a dollar in a bar in New York and I see that, I will probably also tip a dollar unless I have some firmly held conviction about tipping more or less, which I will probably briefly question given the circumstance.

Observing behavior in others forces us to feel empathy and to contemplate our own lives. The primate response, the other monkey is depressed, am I depressed too?

And I know for me the answer is: yes, at least somewhat and I don’t want to think about it! Life is hard enough without reminding me of my own depression.

But as anyone who has either studied psychology (which I have not) or been in a lot of therapy (which I have) can tell you, the suppression of emotion is often much more harmful than the experience of it, in ways that are too difficult to go in to detail about here.

Suffice it to say that by expressing my wish not to be reminded of my depression, I both make it more powerful and make my dislike of depressed people more acute. Thus creating the experience of “shame”.

All very well Nick, you might be asking, but what the hell do you want us to do about it and what does this have to do with France or anything?

Valid questions.

There is no societal answer to the shame associated with depression. No one is going to start acting differently because of my dumb blog post, or at least I don’t hold that expectation.

But there is awareness, self-knowledge, the ability to understand one’s self and to sort out experiences.

For instance, the experience of a caffeine crash often feels to me like emotional pain. My mind, confused by the surging and receding chemicals, ascribes purpose to the chemicals and tells me I am depressed because of circumstantial things in my life, which I might believe and then in turn be ashamed of, because it’s bad to be depressed.

But, if I understand the caffeine crash to be chemical as opposed to emotional, it doesn’t remove the feeling of depression, but both helps me to understand that:
A. The feeling will pass.
B. I need not be “ashamed” of my depression because it is a chemical normality rather than a loss of emotional control.

(ASIDE: VERY BRIEFLY, though this topic deserves further exploration, the loss of control element is very important because our perception that we have control or mastery of a sort in our lives, especially over our own emotional states is one of the key illusions/sentiments that I believe keeps people “content”)

So, by being able to process and understand the temporary chemical depression of a caffeine crash, I am able to reduce my shane of it and thus my pain.

So if I can understand and recognize that in my firmly held conviction to oppose that primate instinct, that depression is not inherently shameful, then I can feel “better” without having to “feel better” if that makes sense. as I’d only be experiencing the pain of the depression and not the pain of the shame.

In conclusion, maybe I feel bad in Paris because this is where I needed to feel bad. Where I had enough distance from the people who loved me to feel my own emotions without fear of shaming myself or feeling I was a burden on them. That’s pretty valuable, too.

NONE OF THIS is to say that I have in any way figured out the answers to the big questions of my life like what I’m going to do when I get back in September from Europe or how to pursue comedy or any of that stuff.

But, to unfortunately leave you with the sort of happy ending I dislike, writing this while walking up the Rue Montmartre in the soft Paris night might have incidentally cheered me up.

Cheerio and I’ll write again from Amsterdam.

Le petit Nicolas

This Is The Face of My Mental Illness


imageI took this picture of myself at the end of a day I spent in bed, scared and crying, feeling alone and hopeless and completely desperate.

This is the face of my mental illness. This is the face of my sadness when it is at its most inexplicable and its most pronounced.

I am not ashamed of it.

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You are your biggest rejector

I’ve called my travel abroad trying to find myself which I think is good. In someways, I am myself, I have myself. I am well-liked and respected in my comedy community. I have good friends and plenty of performance opportunities. I produce several cool things that are well received like SUPERNOVA and The Hero Show. I’ve been on TV, get recognized sometimes. Probably most importantly, I have a girlfriend I really love and adore who’s pretty excellent. And while I don’t want to make the mistake of basing my self-opinion on something exterior (validation, fame, or even someone else’s affection), it’s really great having love in your life, guys, and I recommend it if you get the chance.

But in other ways, I am lost. I’m 27 with no savings, no job even and no real idea of what I should do to make money. I know I’ve worked for many years a string of jobs I didn’t like for the most part (there were ups and downs like anything) and which I convinced myself that I liked by scheduling myself really tight, giving myself barely any time to sleep, packing in the fun: seeing shows and doing shows, performing, hanging out with friends. It gave the illusion of progress, order and necessity to do these jobs which I was unhappy in, justifying them with that they allowed me to go about the routine in my life of play I had made for myself.

And that life of play, there was something missing from it too.

Because as great as it is to see and perform improv comedy (which I used to be ashamed of my skill at and now think I’m not bad), it has no end road. And as much as I love and take satisfaction in the shows I produce, SUPERNOVA and The Hero Show, and they’ve given me social entrance to a community I once felt alienated from and they WORK for the most part and it’s so gratifying to make something that *works*, they aren’t showcases for me.

Which begs the question: showcases for what?

Because as much as I want to do comedy as the main thing in my life and tell my friends that I want to be a professional comedy person, it’s just not specific enough to work towards. It’s not enough of a choice. And that lack of choice derivates from fear.

Now I want to make it clear for one moment that I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to have a lack of focus in comedy. Messing around with something on a part-time or semi-pro basis has terms for it and they are “dabbling” or “hobbying” and these are extremely valuable things.

When we have a job or situation, a routine we are in that we generally enjoy, having a hobby or dabbling is really wonderful. It helps provide us the variety we need in our lives with an extra, often creative, activity, without placing the burden of *success* on that activity.

My girlfriend for instance, has a hobby doing pottery. She take classes, she gets better, she hopes to get good enough that maybe she can sell some items. But mostly she does it to clear her mind and to give her an artistic outlet that is disparate from her life, a hobby for her. She has encouraged me to do something similar or to come with her.

Similarly I think people engage with comedy: sketch writing, stand-up, particularly improv on the level of hobbying or dabbling and I think there is nothing wrong with that AT ALL. In the past I feel like I’ve disparaged such people because I was “serious” in a class and they didn’t seem to be taking notes or making progress. But just as the writing gigs and performance opportunities that your friends get do not affect essentially who you are, nor does the presence of those “less serious”.

Which brings me back to my point: how “serious” am I and can I be honest with myself about that?

If I wanted to be a producer of comedy shows or the owner of a comedy theater, I’m doing pretty good. The programs I’ve created with the help of people like Mark Grenier, Rebecca Trent and especially Amey Goerlich are very successful even if they’re not yet profit-oriented and something tells me I could keep doing that if I want and make money at it. Maybe become an agent or a manager. Help other people.

This path really doesn’t interest me above hobbying though. My brain and my heart scream out to me that I would be unhappy if I never gave a chance to “myself” to succeed.

If I wanted to be a director or a teacher of improv as an end goal, I think I could be good at that too. I think I have a natural talent as a director of other people’s material and process. I’ve often been told when directing groups or giving feedback after shows that my coaching was “the best” that person had ever had. I’m a great learner and a sponge for information and I’ve learned well from my comedy mentors and am able to recall with ease the appropriate lessons they imparted in the right circumstances. I am also good at forming my own opinion in ways that are constructive and having empathy for performers, especially runts and weirdoes who try hard. I think given that my performance skill level is high (though not yet professional), if I pursued being a teacher and director as an end goal, I am sure I would find some success at it given my talent.

This one is harder to make a judgement on. Again, something inside me screams out that it would be a betrayal of myself not to be a writer or performer showcasing myself primarily. But I take enough joy in directing and teaching that I would do it as a job to make money for sure and as a hobby I enjoy it quite a lot.

But this is where it becomes hard to trust my heart: if everyone tells me I’d make a great producer or director, what part is my ego or my fear, or negative aspects of myself rejecting that and what part is what I truly want?

Finally, there are the elements of being a comedian that feature me in the forefront: being a writer or comedic actor. These are both difficult for me in that they involve direct risk of rejection of the self and ones efforts and that is painful to me. And the pleasure of success is great, being told your work is good, but that pleasure is counterweighted by the difficulty of the work involved to find a professional level of skill or “voice”, which is not necessarily to end up on SNL or in movies, but to provide a consistent product good enough that people will pay for your services.

But if the life of the performer/writer is hard and full of pain, my human condition recommends I apply logic to my situation to determine pain versus probability of “success”, or do I have “talent”?

I could go through this and my pedagogical successes and failures in the comedy world, at the UCB Theatre, at the Magnet, but I’ve determined that’s immaterial. There are no guarantees anyway and the most “talented” don’t necessarily win in the entertainment industry.

The question is: do I want it? Do I want to be a writer/performer? And if so, what is the *SPECIFIC* goal I am working towards that excites me or interests me.

I learned some of this, it should be mentioned, in Betsy Capes’s very useful PATH class, which I don’t mention more often because as an admittedly lost and unemployed 27 year-old, I don’t think I am a good exemplar of its effects even though I enjoyed it immensely and surely benefitted from it.

This is what I do know:

What makes someone a comedy professional is having a specific, exciting goal they are working towards systematically and doing what it takes to make that happen.

Anything without that focus is probably a non-admitted hobbying or dabbling, at least where I’m concerned.

So now, back to my current life and why it doesn’t currently work.

-I had (have had) a non-creative job which I did not particularly like nor spoke to my interests.

This is fine if this is not my end goal (if my job is essentially a paid hobby where I don’t care about success) but it is not fine if nothing else has an end goal either.

-I have a life in comedy which I enjoy but, due to fear and lack of choice, does not have an end goal.

This is fine if I like my job and/or am satisfied in my lifestyle for the present moment, but not fine if I want my situation to change (if my life in comedy manifests as a hobby when I want it to be something professional).

-I have a social life which is great and fulfilling and nurturing and a good relationship with my family and even a cute-and-cool girlfriend.

This part of my life doesn’t need to change. It’s good.


So what do I do?

I don’t know.

That’s why I’m on goddam vacation.

What I did get to figure out was why my life wasn’t working:

-because my job that should either be fulfilling or be treated like a hobby was making me unhappy and I didn’t have a strong objective to offset that unhappiness.

-because my life in comedy was unfocused and I was unwilling or unable to make a choice about what I wanted to pursue professionally.

-because I wasn’t sleeping enough and packing my life full of enough supplementary happiness in order to not recognize or be in denial of these facts.


So that’s what I’ve got so far. That along with this nugget:

"You are your biggest rejector of your own ambitions, wants, desires."

If I’m going to make a choice about what I want to do in my life I need to get more used to dealing with rejection and fear. And while I’m not sure how to experience that out here, I know how I can stop my own inner rejection of my thoughts, my self-censorship; by saying yes to more of my own ideas.

So as I write this I’m off walking a 2 hour walk across Paris to a video game convention. Walking it was an idea I shut down. Writing this was an idea I thought was dumb too. Here I am doing them.

More to come.

The First Annual Indie Show Awards

Hey there.

As part of my function in the NYC Indie Comedy Community, I end up booking a lot of variety acts for shows I produce or help produce. I also get asked a lot for recommendations of who to book for shows. So I figured I’d put this together. It is entirely unscientific and based on whims and made up on the spot. You can agree or not.

And just in case you were wondering, there are MANY great groups and acts in the city to book. This is really just my opinion at one point in time, singling out certain people.

This doesn’t include The Stepfathers or teams or acts you’d rarely see at variety shows, only people who are or could be frequently seen on stage. People one could book easily.

So I hereby present: The first annual Indie Show Awards as created arbitrarily by me.




Runners-up: The Serling, Villain, Gulf Oil

Their motto is: no plans, never the same thing twice. I saw one show where Ian Stroud recorded the set he was doing with a go-pro strapped to his head the whole time and another set where Mark Vigeant showed the rest of his team his real, live penis. They have the right balance of people who are on teams at UCB and fun players who everyone enjoys, they show up consistently and always put on an entertaining show, sone of which are presentational and thematic, some of which are one scene played slowly. Very compelling and the easiest choice on this list. The runners up, it should be said are all excellent and consistently provide hilarious, involving shows, but no one does what Multiball does or really anything close.


Runners-up: Pompadour, Three Dogs, Fuck Destiny (Oh Shit)

Again, like the previous award, individuality and voice counts the most for me. No one does what Powder Keg does. Their slow but very silly, deadpan style of play always cracks me up, as much an unironic deconstruction of improv comedy as it is an enjoyable show. Joe, Nathan and Eddie have a chemistry that can’t be manufactured or faked.

Pompadour is consistently funny, positive and enjoyable. Three Dogs have the same chemistry and enthusiasm at a higher speed. FDOS doesn’t perform very regularly but is very fresh and enjoyable.


Runners-up: Kokomo, The Rolling Scones, The Hubbies

It’s not a coincidence that Mark Vigeant has two teams on this list. The man is unafraid to take chances, goes big with his choices and has an infectious positive energy to his work.

His duo sketch work with Dan Kenkel (Kingmaker) is fast and funny without being prop or tech heavy, things that can be difficult for an indie show to accommodate. It’s just a bunch of funny characters and sketches and non-sequiturs presented by two blazer-dressed best friends.

Kokomo has a great indie presence and a Will Ferrell-like star in Michael Delisle, Scones has a gonzo nerdy energy and also features Delisle as well as wild-card Pat May, The Hubbies are filled with enthusiasm and a kooky originality (one of their sketches is a poem about sex with Martin Luther King) but haven’t been doing as many shows recently.


Runners-up: Joe Pera, Brandon Scott Wolf, Brian Frange

This was the most difficult category to judge and there were MANY more stand-ups I would have liked to included as I’ve seen many excellent ones.

But the fact that Matt, originally a Magnet-trained improviser and currently a writer for The Daily Show, is so fucking good at stand-up and will randomly do your free show if you email him is criminally good and speaks to how nice of a guy he is.

I’ve seen him many times with a mix of fresh and old material and every time he crushes like some crazy mutant and then thanks you for doing the show. What a guy.

Joe is part of Powder Keg but as a stand-up brings that same originality and voice to the stage in a way that is immediate and a bit scary. BSW has a fine tune on his act and delivery that makes his job look effortless while digging in to himself. Frange, who is doing Montreal this year, is one of the smartest stand-ups out there, placing his opinions about news and government in a way that challenges us to be smarter while just being that funny.


Runners-up: Chelsea Davison, Sebastian Conelli, Justin Tyler

Frank has honed his craft to a place now where his characters and impressions aren’t just funny but surgically accurate and well crafted to show you what his sense of humor is and what his target is. His videos have been circulating online but rather than rest on his laurels he’s constantly doing mics and small shows to hone and time new and old bits. His doggedness edges this one out.

Chelsea is hilarious, a young up-and-comer off to Montreal. Sebastian, my buddy, has more pure funny than anyone else at UCB right now. Justin’s energy and craft is evident every time I’ve seen him perform in a way that is very impressive.


Runners-up: Free Kittens, Howl Hour, The Hurly-Burly Show

At this point Mimi Fischer and Morgan Phillips who host Dessert Cart are the patron saints of indie improv here in New York City. Their Sunday late-night show is often the first exposure for new teams or a chance to put on rare combinations in a timeslot where otherwise people might not be available.

Their improv too is rich and silly in a way that is fun to watch and keeps the audience up at such a late hour.

Free Kittens is almost the longest running of the indie shows now other than Jerkface and Thank You Robot (correct me if I’m wrong) and consistently features high quality acts. Howl does a great job hosting an up and coming show with a lot of young stars. Hurly Burly has proven with their variety and commitment a worthy successor to the slot formerly filled by Scrambled Legs.


Runners-up: Bridge and Tunnel, Sketch Show: The Sketch Show

There should be more of these but sketch is hard and the teams don’t often stay together.

That said, Ian O’Keefe and his cast of collaborators has created something really excellent here that is rarely seen: a live sitcom, not an ironic presentation or deconstruction, but a real original fun thing. His integration of live music and sketch “commercials” between the character games and scenarios of the bakery really makes his show feel whole and complete in a way that most UCB or Magnet teams do not. There is clearly thought and a concerted effort (as opposed to scattershot or slapdash effort) going into these shows and that it is done outside the theater system with such quality is a testament to the cast and crew’s resolve.


There isn’t a category to fit this show but Micah, Jared and Drew have created something awesome and already super popular: a rollicking hella-cool party where people create and premiere their comedy web videos to a supportive audience. The fact that this well-run and evolving show encourages the sort of creation that any serious comedy person should be participating in is only underscored by the free drinks and the warm atmosphere.


When I was coming up, Terry Withers would do the craziest indie shows anyone had ever seen including weirdly self-righteous short form improv and direct mockery and antagonism towards the audience. His shows defied all convention so I dedicate this award to him and to the people who do shows and acts that defy convention.

The obvious choice for this mantle is Jo Firestone, a woman whom the mere mention of her shows (PUNDERDOME, Friends of Single People, The Incredible Game Show Showcase) inspires amazement and considerable confusion. Jo also does solo acts when booked that fit neither under the category of stand up or characters but veer more towards an interactive piece of funny and endearing performance art. She is a great get for a show and a boon to the community.


And that’s it for this time. I only listed things and people I had seen directly so shows I had heard about but have not a attended were not considered. Best Host and Best Musical Act, categories I’d intended, were not listed for lack of consistent performers I knew though I’d look at NANCY for funny songs and Evan Altshuler for solo good music.

Love to hear some thoughts or recriminations and congrats on your arbitrary awards.



On Sunday I decided to take myself to the movies. It was a last minute decision and since it was a movie that would be inevitably disappointing I went alone.

I got on the subway. It was a semi crowded car and when I saw an empty seat I decided I would be better off taking it than trying to keep…


My one man sketch show, HEJL IS OTHER PEOPLE, goes up for review again TONIGHT at 6pm at ucbtheatre NY (chelsea theatre)! Directed by michaelhartney! I will also be performing in Character’s Welcome at 8pm after the show. Check it out!

Frank is the best! Check it out.


My one man sketch show, HEJL IS OTHER PEOPLE, goes up for review again TONIGHT at 6pm at ucbtheatre NY (chelsea theatre)! Directed by michaelhartney! I will also be performing in Character’s Welcome at 8pm after the show. Check it out!

Frank is the best! Check it out.


So I’ve been thinking a lot about The Chris Gethard Show lately. Its very existence. Why we started doing it. Why we’re doing it now. I’ve noticed a few things.

And it is time for us to BURN IT DOWN. It’s time for us to set a FOREST FIRE to this show, that might be…

Come take a ride.


Hey all! I’m going to Europe for a month to figure out my life and take a break and all that jazz!

Being 27 and involved in an alternative/performance/writing path feels hard, as does working a string of jobs I don’t enjoy! I want to get some distance and perspective and I’m lucky enough that I have this opportunity to do so.

So this means a few things:

1. If you have anything awesome you think I should see in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid or Berlin, please let me know! I don’t have any plans currently so I’d love to hear what cool things I should see!

2. I’m subletting my room for the month of August! It’s discounted: 650 plus utilities! It’s a six block walk to the Jefferson L train and there’s a laundromat and bodega near by! Let me know if you know anyone who’s interested (or if you are)!

3. There will be guest hosts for my shows!


-SUPERNOVA will be hosted by:

-Magnet house team member and former SUPERNOVA coach BRANSON REESE on the 3rd and the 17th of August!

-Former SUPERNOVA member and current FART POLICE-man IAN O’KEEFE on the 10th and the 24th of August!

-Former SUPERNOVA member and current SUPERNOVA coach STEPHEN GARDELLA on August 31st!

These guys will be hosting the show and functioning as me, giving notes to teams that do not have coaches present. They have my full confidence and a ton of handsome charm!

Come check them out and all the great teams every Sunday in August at 6pm at Brit Pack!


-The Hero Show will be hosted in August by my great fill-in hosts for June: Mr. Joe DiBella and Ms. Jenny St. Angelo!

Come check them out and a bunch of great people playing with their heroes on Saturday August 23rd at 6:45pm at The Creek!


And I think that’s it! Thank you so much to everyone in this wonderful community for making me a part of it, to my rents for giving me this trip for my admittedly extremely adolescent 27th birthday and to my great friends. PLEASE give me your cool spots to visit in Europe and any leads on a subletter and if I don’t see you in the next two weeks, I’ll see you in September!


I did things in my 30s that were ignored by the world, that could have been quickly labeled a failure. Here’s a classic example; in 1974 I did a movie called Phantom of the Paradise. Phantom of the Paradise, which was a huge flop in this country. There were only two cities in the world where it had any real success: Winnipeg, in Canada, and Paris, France. So, okay, let’s write it off as a failure. Maybe you could do that.

But all of the sudden, I’m in Mexico, and a 16-year-old boy comes up to me at a concert with an album - a Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack- and asks me to sign it. I sign it. Evidently I was nice to him and we had a nice little conversation. I don’t remember the moment, I remember signing the album (I don’t know if I think I remember or if I actually remember). But this little 14 or 16, whatever old this guy was… Well I know who the guy is now because I’m writing a musical based on Pan’s Labyrinth; it’s Guillermo del Toro.

The work that I’ve done with Daft Punk it’s totally related to them seeing Phantom of the Paradise 20 times and deciding they’re going to reach out to this 70-year-old songwriter to get involved in an album called Random Access Memories.

So, what is the lesson in that? The lesson for me is being very careful about what you label a failure in your life. Be careful about throwing something in the round file as garbage because you may find that it’s the headwaters of a relationship that you can’t even imagine it’s coming in your future.

Paul Williams  (via albinwonderland)

I agree with this. Very eloquent.

TCGS @ DCM 16: TCGame of ThroneS (And a chance to see the pilot!)



Tickets and Info at DelCloseMarathon.com!

Last year at the Del Close Marathon, TCGS put together a show where you were able to enter a series of tents to hang out one on one with your favorite members of the TCGS family. It was interactive and weird and super fun.

This year we’re upping the ante by linking you up with cast members so you can FIGHT other cast members and other AUDIENCE members. It will be a tournament unlike anything the world’s ever seen, with your favorite public access absurdist goofballs honoring Del Close in a series of competitive trials.

It’s going to be interactive theater of the most competitive and perhaps physically risky caliber.

I don’t know if anyone else in America feels this way, but the past few years I’ve been into this TV show called Game of Thrones, and the book series it was spawned from. And that gave me an idea – why can’t we try to live for one night in a world that works like that world? Why can’t we layer the TCGS universe on top of a pseudo-medieval society, then hold a tournament where actual audience members compete in a tournament where they face off for an ultimate prize?


Here’s how our show at DCM will work this year…

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This is crazy and fun.