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 Mad Party

by Andrew Daly

Like most people, I got into show business for the parties. So when I joined the cast of MADtv in 2000, I posted a sign at the show’s offices: “Party at My Place! Bring Anyone!” It would prove to be poorly worded.

My first guest was a demure-looking stranger in her 60s. She arrived at 8:30 on the dot and introduced herself as June. She said, “I’m a friend of Jackie’s.”

“Jackie … ”

“She works with you at MAD.”

I pretended to know who Jackie was, and I got June her Sprite. Then two of my friends showed up. We chatted with June until two more strangers arrived. “We’re friends of Jackie’s,” they said.

Next, some friends were followed through the door by a short, fat guy with silly-looking curly hair. His name was Howard, and then, as if in a horror movie, he added, “I’m a friend of Jackie’s.” Now I was concerned. Who was Jackie, and how many people had she invited?

I was right to be worried because by 10 p.m., the air was heavy with social ineptitude. There were 25 of my friends, 50 friends of Jackie’s, and no Jackie. And Jackie’s friends were poorly cast for a young-Hollywood blowout. Eventually, I learned that Jackie and her friends were enrolled in something called the Flashforward Institute, where they had taken classes in confidence building and networking. Their homework: Attend a party. Apparently, Jackie, who held an administrative position at MADtv, had passed along my invitation — to all 100 of them.

Around 11, a woman thrust her big, smiling face in front of me and yelled, “Hi, I’m Jackie! I’m the one who invited a hundred people to your party!” She then handed me a wooden end table and said, “Everyone brings something with them to a party, but nobody ever brings anything to put those things on!”

Jackie was what psychologists call a “crazy person.”

At the end of the night, I gave Jackie and each of her friends a class evaluation: Everyone got an F in networking, except June, who got credit for being punctual.


Adapted from the LA Weekly

• Andrew Daly is an actor, a comedian, and a writer.


Joan of Arch

by Whitney Cummings

The way comics show love and admiration for each other is by insulting one another on the Comedy Central Roast.

But the key to a roast working is that the roastee has to enjoy it, or else it feels mean. That’s what happened when we roasted Joan Rivers.

Greg Giraldo went up first and ripped into her, but he got no reaction from her. The next comic went up, same thing. Everyone was laughing except Joan. The comics were getting nervous. We were whispering, “Her feelings are hurt. Look at her. She’s not smiling!” I was panicking. Here she is, my hero, and I was convinced she would never speak to me again.

But Joan Rivers — the butt of all these nasty jokes — saved the day. Sensing the unease among the comics, halfway through the show she stood up and assured us, “I’m having fun. This is funny!” It turns out she was a victim of her Botox. She had to subtitle her own face so that people would know she was enjoying herself.


• Whitney Cummings stars in Whitney on NBC this fall.


My Successful Career

by Judah Friedlander

People often ask me, “How did you get started in stand-up comedy?” I tell them, “I got drafted right out of high school.” I was in tenth grade, about to turn 24. In the middle of class, I decided to make fun of the teacher. Everyone started laughing. Students fell out of their chairs and were convulsing on the floor. Other classrooms emptied out and squeezed into our room. The principal entered to stop the chaos. But he laughed harder than anyone. It got too crowded, so I karate kicked the wall down and took the show outside to the parking lot. The cops and military were there. Not for security, but because they really appreciate a quality comedy show.

Two hundred miles away, Jeff Bloomwichz, the top comedy scout in America, was driving his speedboat in the Atlantic Ocean. He followed the sound of earthshaking guffaws to my show. Afterward, Jeff stepped out of his speedboat and said, “Funny stuff, kid.” I signed a deal to turn pro right there in the parking lot. The rest is history.


• Judah Friedlander plays Frank Rossitano on NBC’s 30 Rock.


Learning to Be a Pro

by Andrea Henry

I was backstage at a talent-based reality TV show watching another comic being interviewed on camera. This, he said, was his last shot in the business. He had a wife, a baby, and one on the way, so he either wowed them tonight, or he was quitting the business forever and getting a real job. As he spoke, he choked up, and I saw a little tear well up in the corner of his eye. When he finished, the producer said, “Great! Now let’s shoot it from a different angle.” After they readjusted the camera and lights, he did it pitch-perfect again, even the same little tear.


• Andrea Henry’s There She Is … was named best comedy at the SENE Film, Music & Arts Festival.

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