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

Hanging Out with Royalty

by Don Rickles

About 50 years ago, I’m sitting in the lounge at the Sands Hotel with my date, the kind of girl you wouldn’t bring home to mother. In those days, the lounge was a very romantic place — roaming violinists, flaming torches, the works. Frank Sinatra happened to be sitting at another table with Lena Horne and a bunch of other stars. I was trying to be a big shot and get in good with my date, so I offered to introduce her to Frank.

“Do you really know Frank Sinatra?” she said.

“Are you kidding, sweetheart? He’s a dear friend.”

I get up and walk over to Frank’s table. “Frank, I got a favor,” I say. “Could you come over to my table in about five minutes so I can introduce you to my girlfriend? It would mean a lot to me.”

He says, “You got it, Bullethead.”

He always called me Bullethead.

Five minutes goes by, and he gets up and walks over to us, and, with a huge smile, says, “Hey, Don, how are you?”

And with that, I jump up from my seat and shout, “Not now, Frank. Can’t you see I’m with someone?!”

• Don Rickles is, well, Don Rickles.

 

Soap Opera

by Joy Behar

Early in my career, I wanted to get into commercials, so I met with an agent. He took one look at me, and he said, “You’re a good type for Ragu and Driver’s Training Institute, but you can’t do Procter and Gamble.” Then he reconsidered: “Well, you can do Procter and Gamble, but the blonde has to have the clean floor, and you have to have the dirty floor,” which is ironic because you can eat off my mother’s floor. We often did, since she could never decide on a dining room set.

• Joy Behar stars in The View on ABC and the Joy Behar Show on HLN.

 

This Is a Tough Room

by  Wanda Sykes

I was working at a club in Newark, and somebody bent over, and his gun fell out on the floor. Everybody began checking their coats to make sure it wasn’t their gun.

Excerpted from Rolling Stone

• Wanda Sykes was named one of the 25 funniest people in America by Entertainment Weekly.

 

The Day I Let It All Hang Out

by Cory Jarvis

Before I was a stand-up, I taught English in Japan. A girl I dated suggested we go to a hot-springs resort. I said yes without knowing one crucial fact: I would have to be naked.

Walking outside the locker room, I realized something: No one but me was embarrassed. The Japanese are far more comfortable with nudity than the family I was raised in. When I was a kid, I walked in on my grandpa in just his underwear, and he still won’t look me in the eye.

Sensing my trepidation, people began to make idle chatter with me, trying to put me at ease. I got so comfortable, I chatted back. I even got a couple of laughs.

Later, when I began doing stand-up, I realized that the hot-springs trip had prepared me for the pressures of being a comic. What else would help you get used to feeling like you’re naked in front of a bunch of strangers who can’t understand your jokes besides being naked in front of a bunch of strangers who can’t understand your jokes?

• Cory Jarvis is a New York–based comic.

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