You hear it all the time, right?
Going on a first date? Be yourself.
Job interview? Just be yourself!
Meeting the in-laws for the first time? Be mostly yourself, but throw in a little Anderson Cooper, like the sophisticated part (advice from my wife).
Seems like a pretty simple thing to do, this being yourself. Get out of bed and, BANG!
Who the fuck would wear this shirt? Oh yeah. Me. I was myself when I bought it, and when I put it on today, I was just being myself. The myself that is one of the few men in his 40’s who would wear a Rick Springfield t-shirt. Besides Rick Springfield. Who’s in his 60’s, so that doesn’t count anyway.
But it’s actually pretty hard to be yourself.
I thought about this after my last show. I realized in all the time I’ve been doing stand-up, I might have been myself for about 35 minutes. Give or take. I have rarely been the REAL me on stage. I don’t mean those few awful years where I went by Dave Lorayne at gigs from here to Bend, OR. HEY. No one could pronounce Mencarelli, alright? Hell some Bendites (Bendonians?) had trouble with Dave. I’m talking about doing material that I wrote hoping it would appeal to a broad range of people, from 8 drunk guys in a bar, to 300 people at the Improv, or even a bunch of Wal Mart employees at a corporate event. And it does work, to some degree, in most places (bite me Mammoth). But it’s not true to ME. It’s based on truth, sure, but it has no point of view, no passion and no edge. It’s not the Dave that my family and a few close friends know. It’s not the Dave that hates Burning Man, “Twilight”, and those assholes at mall kiosks trying to sell you skin cream. It’s a Dave that would’ve worked in the Catskills or Vaudeville. Silly, unsubstantial and bland.
When I realized this, I also realized that, I spend very little of my life off stage being myself. Work Dave isn’t really me. In fact, Work Dave is different from job to job. There’s Radio Dave, Chain Restaurant Dave, Intuit Dave (that guy was a disaster), etc. Facebook Dave is certainly not the real me, though Facebook ANYBODY probably isn’t telling the whole truth. If your life really is all “loookitmeandmycoolfamilyatDisneylandandmyhusbandcookeddinner-AGAINtonightblahfuckingblahblah” then I not only hate you, I‘m also jealous. Customer Dave aint even CLOSE to the real me. If I stopped pretending to be so understanding when the nitwits at Taco Bell put lettuce on my Enchirito, the things I’d say to them would probably get my ass kicked by said nitwits. Motorcycle Dave is so not the real me, he even has a different name. I’d appreciate it if, when you see me, you’d use it. It’s Spyder. Thanks.
All this not being myself is pretty tiring. It’s frustrating too. There’s things I want to say on stage and in real life that need to come out. I was chatting with another comic before a show recently and the subject of stage fright came up. I explained how over the last few years my fear of getting up there had gotten almost debilitating. I told him that I was sick to my stomach the entire day of the show, and sometimes longer. I told him how I sometimes felt like I was going to pass out on stage. I told him how difficult it was when I tried to tell people this and their response was always “Oh, you’ll be fine. You’re funny.” Because I sure don’t feel like I’m gonna be fine. I’m petrified that even one joke won’t work. Or that a line will offend even ONE person. I’m over thinking it so much, that it’s just me reciting lines, like a bad beat poet. Or a good one for that matter. Both suck.
It’s the same in real life. I’m scared that even ONE person won’t like me. Or think I’m smart. Or think I’m culturally, politically or spiritually unaware. I pretend to agree with things I don’t (Balzac was a genius), know about things I don’t (who the fuck is Balzac?), or understand things I don’t (19th Century French Realism). I feel like I have to be so careful about what I say that I’d rather not even interact with another human being. It’s a constant filtering process and it‘s exhausting.
So I’m not gonna do it anymore.
I won’t be tactless. If you’re reading OK! Magazine, I won’t question your right to be a vapid idiot unless you open that door. If you’re over 25 years old or 160 lbs I won’t excoriate you for wearing skinny jeans. And I won’t laugh out loud at you if you’re sitting in a Starbucks wearing a Bluetooth headset and talking to your friend about the new Ke$ha single. But I also won’t censor my own opinions or views. I won’t worry so much about what strangers think about me or how an audience reacts to me.
I’m going to REALLY be myself, warts and all. That’s a figure of speech. I don’t have warts. What it means is you’re gonna get the good (I’m anti-murder), the bad (“Don’t Talk To Strangers” is my ringback tone), and the ugly (I cry during “Grey’s Anatomy”).
I guess what I’m saying is that if I wanna sit in a Starbucks wearing my skinny jeans, reading OK! Magazine and rambling on about Ke$ha on my cell phone, I’ll do it and I won’t give a shit what YOU think.