Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Comedic Romance: By Lauren Vino

Before falling in love with New York, I fell for a boy that lived inside it. Meeting at a Chicago open mic, he was a sexy transient otherwise known as a road comic. Passing through town and not my lady parts, we had an intensely funny flirtation and went our separate ways. He had the self-effacing charm that got Woody Allen laid while being objectively attractive, and despite the limited space he lingered in the back of my mind. I soon learned that such sexual and intellectual curiosity was mutual and we started talking everyday. After one trip to New York, two impulsive I love yous, and an unlimited amount of sext messages, I had a boyfriend and plans to meet his entire family on our next reunion.

This was my first long distance romance and the first time I thought I was in love, which was no coincidence. Chronically single and self protective, I had been dating my comedy for the better part of three years. Now I was in a relationship moving at a pace that suggested I had weeks to live. I was equally attracted to the person and the arrangement - the possibility that I could experience the comforts of commitment without changing my routine or sacrificing any autonomy. I thought I could just have a series of romantic getaways punctuated with sex and comedy. To me, this was having it all.

We rendezvoused in Tennessee, staying at a condo above the comedy club he was working at. If you haven't experienced this kind of lodging before, we were essentially playing house in an apartment covered in the bodily fluids of past performers. The weekend went on and his family warmly welcomed me, as my emotional fantasy continued to convolute. Sending this crazy train off the rails, I even agreed to do stand up in front of them. So diluted in my own self-described fairytale, I thought nothing could go wrong.

As I took the stage, my only concern was that I dressed too revealing in front of his parents. I should have been worried about being funny, which I immediately failed at in a very obvious way. My comedy can be described as silly, self-exploitive, and slightly slutty, all qualities that my southern audience was very uncomfortable with. In less than five minutes I was in a hole no dick joke could dig me out of and ended in defeat. My boyfriend, his family, and myself went about the rest of the night ignoring the embarrassing elephant I brought into the room. The trip ended with what I thought was a blemish on our relationship and my comedic judgement, and we capped it off with a kiss goodbye. Two hours later I got dumped on the phone while I was driving, which is the equivalent of bombing in a relationship.

I never started doing stand up with the intention of dating comedians. Instead, I started having sex with the intention of sleeping with my friends and it just worked out this way. I always assumed people fell in love with the best friend that they wanted to sleep with, and I am still unwilling to comprise on this ideal. As a comedian, it is not enough for me be with someone who accepts that. I want a person who understands that. I don't want a boyfriend that tolerates me getting on stage every night. I want someone who knows that if I am not doing that, something is wrong. It always seemed more logical to build relationships where this kind of compatibility already exists. I simply don't want to explain the part of me that feels inexplicable.

From my first week of open mics, it seemed like sex with my peers was more taboo than a period joke. I was specifically cautioned against coupling with comedians more established and successful, which was basically everyone at the time. These social restrictions confused me, as I thought the best part about comedy was the lack of rules. This made me more suspicious that such warnings were dares in disguise, and I inevitably ignored them. Having romances ranging from casual and secret to committed and obvious, I am in no position to tell comedians what to do with their hearts and parts. Who am I to deny anyone the experience of breaking up and deciding who gets to keep the jokes? The dynamic that drew me to that person in the first place turns into something that gives me a creative push. It quickly becomes a competition of who can process the fall-out faster for the sake of creative utility and personal sanity. This can often be as valuable as the relationship itself.

When I fall out of love with a person, I fall back in love with the process. I like putting myself through the emotional wringer and coming out to examine it as a changed person. Bombing in Tennessee and in my relationship felt like the worst possible outcome, yet it turned out to be exactly what should have happened. It challenged who I was as a comedian and partner, validating areas I liked and driving growth where I didn't. I simultaneously became a reluctant expert on eating shit and shitting where I eat, all while evolving as a comic.

For so long I thought being single made doing stand up easier, and logistically it does in many ways. Writing my self off as an undateable comedian was a comfortable default position that allowed me to pursue stage time over a boyfriend. It took a phone sex based, long distance relationship to teach me that creating conditions to make comedy easy would not make me a better comedian. I needed new experiences, mistakes and challenges, even if it meant driving ten hours to get dumped over too many boner jokes. That was all instrumental in growing as a person and as a comedian.

The most irrational comedic romance I took part in taught me so much I would not otherwise know. I learned that most relationships end because they should and that creating legitimate love is the most difficult thing people do. Trying to sustain someone's attraction while progressively becoming more vulnerable and disgusting overtime is as impossible as it feels. When I start to like a guy, I am uncomfortably aware of the best case scenario - things will work out and they'll eventually see me cry and fart. I don't know if I'll ever be hot enough to pull that off. I learned that nothing that perfect is ever that easy, and happy endings are for massages and not my reality. I started to value my failures, finding them far more interesting and useful than success. Knowing that all this came from doing what was so frowned upon by my comedic colleagues, I am left with little regrets. It is interesting to look back at my first few months of stand up, when I was given more advice about what to do sexually than comedically. I really wish someone just told me to like who you want to like, bone who you want to bone, and work hard to be too funny for it to matter.

Lauren Vino
Contributing Writer