A few months ago, Chris Rock was on Howard Stern. He said he knew that Artie Lange -- the lovable, self-destructive comic who is a big factor in Stern's current revival -- was back on heroin because Artie had started calling in sick to the show. Rock kept repeating, "Ain't no sick in showbiz."
He's right. It's an interesting thing since I've become a full-time comic: I don't call in sick. Ever.
I used to call in sick to my teaching job if someone sneezed in the same room as me (can't be too careful, after all). Now, I could be fighting off fever shakes with my head encased in a solid block of snot -- like I was last night -- and I'm good for two shows of 45+ minutes plus four hours worth of driving.
There's a couple of reasons for this that are probably not that interesting to the non-comic. Since my brain is currently soaked silly in over-the-counter cold and flu remedies, I'm going to go against my better judgment and list them:
1. We're contract workers. We only get paid when we show up and do our job. Teaching, which has the nice double whammy of being both a union AND government gig, pays you for pretty much everything, whether or not you actually do it. I think I got six hundred sick days a year.
2. Club owners are generally soulless. This wasn't the case last night -- the club owner is actually one of my best friends -- but it's a pretty good rule of thumb. Screw them once, there's a good chance you'll never work for them again. (Interestingly enough, it doesn't work in the other direction; club owners feel entitled to screw you repeatedly without concern that you'll stop working their club. It's in this way -- and only this way -- that club owners are exactly like hot women).
3. It's easy to talk yourself into a show. Driving isn't really that hard. Talking isn't really that hard. That's about all you have to do for a comedy show: drive, then talk. You figure that so long as you're drugged to the appropriate degree, you can get through it. If there's anybody on the planet that knows how to properly calibrate OTC medicine, it's me. I'm the Elvis of advil.
4. This is going to sound sappy, but it's true: there's a sense inside of all showbiz types that the "show must go on." Even the cynical comic types; if there's a stage, some lights and an audience, we feel obligated to put on the show, regardless of how many gallons of snot there are clogging up our sinuses.
Now, if you'll excuse me, the NyQuil is kicking in. I need to get to my happy place.