Tuesday, October 16, 2007
To An Audience Upon Leaving
I will have to say goodbye to San Francisco very soon.
And to you. . .
For I am leaving on the morning of October 28th to seek my fame and fortune in New York City.
I cannot say for sure how long I will be gone. I cannot even say if I will meet with any success. Only a few shows await me in the immediate future, alongside an all-too-familiar promise of "industry people" coming to see me perform.
However, I can say for sure that this move saddens me greatly. I have said this many times before, but it always bears repeating: San Francisco has been extremely good to me. What success I have had in the comedic world I can attribute almost solely to the fact that five years ago, Providence deemed I should find my way out here to this City By The Bay.
And I should like very much to eventually come back and once more call this place home after I have completed this vocational rite of passage. That is, if you will still have me.
My dear, I am much like a child at times. Not a sweet and adorable child, but a childish adult. And not a lovable man-child like Lenny from Of Mice And Men or the helpful Boo Radley of To Kill A Mockingbird, but a neurotic, temperamental and overly-demanding narcissist who attempts at times to shield his unseemly behaviors from criticism by hiding under the banner of "artist".
There were instances in the early months of my career in the Bay Area, when people wouldn't buy one of my CDs or I wouldn't fill up a venue or I didn't get the laughs I felt I deserved, when I would decree in a huff over the microphone: "Fuck this. I'm moving to New York."
These were all bluffs, of course. My artistic ego had been wounded and so I lashed out in return. Sweetheart, if you were unfortunate enough to have witnessed any of those early tantrums, I apologize. I never meant to hurt you. I only meant to hurt myself.
For that is what an artist does best. He denies himself pleasure in this life so that he may attain immortality in the next. To paraphrase William Blake: those with the biggest egos have the greatest fear of death.
Do you remember me telling you how earlier this year my wife was accepted into NYU? At that point, it seemed definite we were finally heading to New York; no longer propelled by my reactive and inflated pride, but by her academic good fortune. Following the debut of my last one-man show, I delivered a heartfelt goodbye to you at curtain call and surprised even myself with the sincerity of my words.
And then, two days later (on Friday the 13th, no less), a mere half-hour after she had conveniently procured my signature for our joint tax return, she told me she wanted a divorce.
This is why you may have noticed a slight streak of misogyny in my most recent writings. It's not you, my love. And it's not me, either. It's her.
Just joking. It's nobody, actually. It's just something that happens. I know that now.
Nothing soothes a broken heart more than spontaneously uprooting and disappearing from one's immediate locale. Admittedly, there is some truth to the cliche, "no matter where you go, there you are." However, if you can move quickly enough, there's a chance you may beat yourself to wherever you're going . It could take up to six months to find yourself again. And when that happens, it's simply a matter of running away once more. Such is the story of my life; a picaresque series of short-lived geographical reprieves.
This is perhaps one of the reasons why I am simultaneously the worst AND the best client for psychotherapists.
The worst--because I can intellectualize and romanticize my way out of any personal growth or major breakthrough (although I still insist I have never been molested!)
The best--because the continued absence of psychological resolution keeps me and the co-payments returning indefinitely for another crack at change; something I've never even truly desired. I merely want to eradicate the symptoms and not the disease, for I do not wish to gamble on the chance that any projected healing of the psyche will be met with a concurrent dissipation of artistic stamina.
The first three months following the split-up, I told anyone who would listen to my embittered ramblings that I was determined more than ever to get the hell out of San Francisco. I found an outward personification for an inner turmoil by scapegoating the very city that has been nothing but good to me.
Forgive me, my love, forgive me.
Yet instead of immediately disappearing to the East--as I had indicated week after week I would do--I became addicted to marijuana and convinced myself I would sleep with any attractive woman who told me I was funny. In three months, I managed to scrape together five or six kisses devoid of tongue. So I am obviously not where I need to be in my career at this moment.
No matter. As you well know, my precious, I have always believed the kiss is of greater significance than the fuck. It is romance that begets sex and not vice/versa. The absence of that rudimentary hierarchy is one of the things that you and I have often quarreled about in this town.
And now it seems as if the dust has finally settled and the emotional funnel cloud has shed its forbidding form, fanning itself neatly across the vast gray sky above. I am no longer angry. I am no longer impatient. We have often come to loggerheads over politics and religion, you and I--but as of this day, no more. Bitterness has given way to a calm that is at once pleasant and yet troubling. There is no reason to burn any bridges. Golden Gate or Brooklyn, you and I will always be inseparably linked. For everything I have achieved in terms of career, I owe to the City of San Francisco. And to you, my love.
Besides, I am emotionally spent. Soon I will depart from here for that Great Unknown that awaits me in the East. I am torn between a faint hope for something more and a blinding fear of losing everything I've accrued. Yes, this business is a bittersweet affair. I feel a great loss looming in the foreground, taking the place of an excitement I had so long anticipated I would feel.
For I have lived in New York before. Way, way before.
Before I was anybody.
Anybody, that is, other than a naive kid from the cornfields of Missouri, convinced that if he stood on the street with a cardboard box in the middle of Washington Square Park and talked in funny voices some benevolent studio executive would come by and hand him a television show on a silver platter.
It was San Francisco--and you, my darling--that made me somebody. Somebody important. Somebody worthwhile.
It was you who showed me that the voices, the faces, the characters, the sketches--that all of that was worth something. It was you who gave me the validation that trumped any a stable parent and healthy upbringing could have ever provided. It was you, my muse. Never forget that.
I've lived and loved in New York. I've broken some hearts and mine was broken in turn. And in the end, I left the city in anger. But that is not the case here. I leave San Francisco with love. And I hope to return to New York with the same. Yet with the responsibility of love comes the dual burdens of sorrow and fear.
For I remember all-too-well putting my name in a hat at Sunday night open-mikes in the Lower East Side, week after week, praying they'd call my name so I could get up there and prove my abilities to the audience, to the city, and, ultimately, to the world. And yet, as diligent as I was, it seemed as if I were never called. How I was convinced the fates were conspiring against me! I tried big slips of paper, small slips of paper, waiting till the hat was near full or slipping it in first before anyone else had arrived. And yet nothing seemed to work.
O! My love! God forbid I should be greeted with, "We don't give a fuck who you were in San Francisco. Put your name in the fucking hat." What, then, would it all have been for?
All my life, I have felt like Jimmy Stewart when he loses the $8,000 and wants to jump off the bridge. So often, in my darkest hours, I have waited for people to show up with bowls of cash, singing "Auld Lang Syne". Perhaps I will find my $8,000 in New York. Or at least a telegram from Sam Wainwright. Hee-haw!
Sweetheart, you know the options for comedians after they have attained a certain amount of name recognition in San Francisco is to head either to Los Angeles or New York. True, Los Angeles would keep us nearer to each other, but you know that would be a difficult sacrifice to make given my peculiar brand of humour.
For I rarely get laughs in Los Angeles, except at the hipper venues like the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (I'll be playing at its sister theatre in New York on November 2nd! Click for more info!)
In the more mainstream LA venues, however, I am often forced to say the words "fuck" or "pussy" or "cock" to elicit even a mild snicker, even if they have nothing at all to do with the piece. For example:
"Tonight is the sixth-year anniversary of 9-11 and fuck (laugh) is a good time to pussy (laugh) on how far we've come as a cock" (prolonged laugh followed by applause break).
I cannot compromise. Don't misunderstand me. I often have wished for that advantageous ability. But I have always been gracelessly untethered. Without agent, without manager, sitting on a minefield of talent with no compass to guide me to safety. It is my hope that this impending journey will do something to rectify this creative, yet chaotic, aimlessness.
You know well I have always desired the paradoxical comfort of those industrial chains. Many a night, I have prayed for my Brian Epstein to make him or herself known. Were I to be fettered in my material and delivery at this point, I can conceive of no potential regrets. For I am no different than any other in this field. I, too, yearn for both fortune and recognition. I always have. And I hope I have not misled you in this regard. I am only human, after all. If you prick me, will I not bleed?
But I have found none in California who would so lovingly bind me. Perhaps that security lies in the East. Regardless, I shall not know until that venture is undertaken with maximum faith and courage. And if my search proves fruitless, let your arms open themselves once more to receive me, for then I shall accept this artistic freedom and its concurrent poverty as the unalterable will of the Divine.
And anyway, my dear, I cannot handle the excessive amount of sunshine one finds in Los Angeles. It depresses me. For I am by nature a reclusive individual who contends that smarter people are to be found in colder climates--as they are forced by the weather to stay indoors and read books or watch old movies. In warmer climates, people play topless volleyball and commit suicide bombings.
I am also cautiously anxious to return where I can witness the seasons once more. For I also believe in the aesthetic value of linear thought. This is no more clearly delineated in nature than in the seasons: the beginning of spring, the ending of autumn, et alia. We may disagree on this point as well, you and I, but I will always assert that linear thought is essential to the creation of lasting works of art. Provided, of course, one equates art with individuality and not with community. For community is eternal. The individual--reaching his pinnacle somewhere between the signposts of birth and death--is merely temporal. Yet what is eternal, though it carry the seeds of truth within its infinite nature, is not always interesting. Who is born alone and who dies alone, theirs is a singular tale to be told.
This is why one may yawn at God the Father, but never Christ the Man.
I told you about the girlfriend I had in North Carolina. She was convinced she and I would elope to Los Angeles one day. It was only natural, given my spiteful tendencies, that when we broke up, I would seek my revenge by beating her to California. Yet instead of Los Angeles, I came instead to San Francisco. And to you, the angel that awaited me at its gates.
For I had always heard it was colder up here.
But when a climate consistently remains unchanged (in accordance with the teachings of Gore the Christ) the armchair philosophy of the Far East invariably springs to mind: All we have is The Now. For yesterday was mild and foggy, today was mild and foggy, and tomorrow will be mild and foggy. Consequently, there is no yesterday, today, or tomorrow.
Yes, that is logically indisputable--the notion that all time eventually collapses into a single, mystical point. But I nevertheless believe in the preservation of the illusion: that time is sequential. As books contain prologues and epilogues, as movies contain opening and closing credits, so too do the seasons have their own particular beginnings and endings. And the termination of one is the genesis of the other. Such is the cycle of life.
For now our long and troubled autumn together is nearing its end. And I therefore brace myself for the first cold winter without you by my side.
I shall keep myself warm by keeping you always in my thoughts.
I love you all,
Posted by Will Franken at 10:57 PM