Opening for Maria Bamford closed many doubts and opened possibilities. What initially seemed like I was being tricked into sending money overseas or performing in someone’s unidentifiable basement turned out to be an opportunity beyond belief.
A week prior to the performance date I received a message on my social media “fan page”. The message said, “Hey Cecily! Maria Bamford here just seeing if you could open for me in Wilmington, DE (omitted show and business details here) LMK! Maria Bamford.” Of course my first thought was, who is trying to infiltrate the comedy community and scam me by using a world renown comedian’s name? I immediately texted my mom to say, I don’t know if this is real but if it is, it’s huge. I think I’ll reply to the message tomorrow just in case.
I was out of town visiting family and going to my high school reunion. My cell phone service works best in town. Once I had reception I called the number and proceeded to leave a message saying something like “If this is you I’d be honored. If not, not so much.” My voicemail received a reply. It was her. Whew.
I often have conflicting feelings about my career. I’ve been doing comedy for over ten years. I’ve done a lot but also see folks moving “ahead” of me. It’s difficult to really quantify most careers that do not have a final stop of being a CEO billionaire. Especially in comedy, success for everyone is different, the path is not the same. I’m in multiple comedian based social media groups and have attended many workshops and panel discussions. The question about how your career can and should progress comes up a lot. Some folks offer complex formulas and others not so much. I tend to learn the formulas and then do the opposite.
Since we’ve emerged from our lock-down stages, I’ve made more of an effort to apply for things a bit higher than “the before times.” Turns out, so is everyone else. In 2022 I have received more rejection emails than I ever have in my career. Even my first year of comedy was better than this. Actually that’s normal. I applied to things that I thought if given a chance I could rock it. Most of the letters I received mention record breaking submissions. Even with that bit of information, it is hard to not see the rejections as direct feedback on who I am as a person and comedian.
Here I am in 2022 building my craft and being rejected often, trying to find other ways, and never quite making it to the top that others want me to make it to. Never did I feel the urge to quit even when the suggestion was made by a non-industry person who doesn’t know this business really. I know I’m supposed to be here and do this but sometimes there’s no map and the roads are unmarked.
When I received the message and subsequently ended up opening for Maria Bamford, I realized I met the woman who walked the path ahead of me. She’s chopping up the heavy logs and clearing the path for more people to come along with me.
To be honest I didn’t actually have anything profound to say about meeting her. Some of my friends were texting me to get the details. When I met her in the green room there were clearly a couple of other open rooms. And yet she invited me to come sit in her reserved green room space. We chatted. She was delightful, kind, and genuinely comes off as good people. Supportive and all the things I strive to be. She works within a small business model. One thing I noticed and talked to her about is the opportunity she’s providing for so many comedians. She mostly has a different comedian for each city she performs in. Travel costs are much higher these days as we all know, so instead of flying a comedian to every stop, she pays one who is already there. Phenomenal.
By doing that she is making smart small business moves, meeting new comedians multiple times a week, and making an impact on our value. Not just paying us fairly but also validating our paths.
My comedy model and philosophy is to make sure folks are compensated for their time and to do meaningful work. I pay anyone who performs on the shows I produce. I try to give folks chances and help them move forward and grow. I am not able to provide the same kind of compensation as a world-renowned comedian but there are locals who see my work and move differently since we’ve met. I do notice that.
Maria Bamford is changing the game one opener at a time. I’m not sure if the other openers are also writing long posts or articles about their experiences. She validated my craft from the time she reached out, to the time we departed. With that, I have decided to continue this path and bring folks with me. We’ll all deviate a little from each other’s paths because we have different destinations. Even if we simply crossed paths once and never again, I’m inspired. I’m looking towards my next projects and ideas.
Thank you Maria for the opportunity to prove to myself that the doubts are not valid and the possibilities are innumerable.