20 Funny Stories About Becoming a Comedian

Zack Galifianakis, Joan Rivers, Wanda Sykes, Jerry Seinfeld, Jerry Lewis, and 15 other stand-ups share their funniest stories about being a comedian.

from Reader's Digest | September 2011

My First Joke

by Zach Galifianakis

[The joke, told 16 years ago at a club in Times Square, went like this]: I was with this girl the other night, and we ended up at her house, and she said, “Hey, look, you can crash on my futon.” And I looked at her, and I said, “I don’t sleep on anything that rhymes with crouton.”

I think I heard a cough and a fork drop at the same time. Silence. But after that night, I remember thinking to myself—not to be too dramatic, but I do remember—This is the path I’m going to take.

—Excerpted from the New York Daily News

• Zack Galifianakis stars in The Hangover 3 (out May 24).

 

Dealing with the Network

by Louis CK

HBO asked us why there was no nudity [while we were shooting Lucky Louie]. What they really meant was, Why wasn’t Pamela Adlon, who played my wife, nude? When I hired Pam, I didn’t tell her she was going to be doing anything like that. It wasn’t supposed to be that kind of show. So I said, “You know what, I’ll do it.” And I did that episode, and they were like, “Okay, we have plenty of nudity, thank you.”

—Excerpted from the New York Times

• Louis CK stars in, writes, and directs Louie on FX.

 

Forming My Act

by Joan Rivers

I was always very edgy, but for me, “very edgy” in the ’60s was talking about my hairdresser, Mr. Phyllis. People gasped. I talked about having an affair with a married professor. People gasped. I even talked about my mother wanting me to get married and putting up a sign saying “Last Girl Before Freeway.” And people said, “You don’t bring family and dirty laundry onstage.” So what I was doing then was very outrageous — for then.

—Excerpted from the San Francisco Chronicle

• Joan Rivers costars in Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? on WE.

 

The Wrong Club

by Heather McDonald

I was new in the business when a guy offered me a gig at his club in Santa Monica. When I got to the address and spotted the illuminated silhouettes of women flashing on the roof, I was energized. This place really supports female comics, I told myself. I walked to the door and announced to the bouncer that I was there to perform.

“Are you here for amateur night?” he asked.

Though I’d been doing stand-up for a year, I tried not to appear offended. He motioned to a waitress, who led me into the green room, where I met the other comedians. My first thought: They’re all so attractive. I wonder if they’ll be telling jokes about being single and dating like me. My second thought: Why are they wearing only their bras and underwear?

Suddenly, the feeling came over me that I had had once before when I was applying lip liner in a poorly lit bathroom at a TGI Friday’s and a man emerged from the stall — I’m in the wrong place!

They all think I’m a stripper!

Of course, I was flattered. Who wouldn’t be? And when I found out the prize was $100, I considered entering. But then I remembered the high-waisted panties I was wearing and decided to stick with comedy.

• Heather McDonald is a regular on the E! network’s Chelsea Lately.

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