I used to want to be on Saturday Night Live. This was in the days of Kristen Wiig, Andy Sandberg, Vanessa Bayer, and Seth Meyers. I thought, “I’m pretty funny and I’ve done improv like five times… I could totally do that.” The main thing that kept me from going down the path of a comic, besides an utter lack of experience, was the idea of needing to be funny all the time and on demand. The side of me that will do absolutely anything to get a laugh is not always my best side and does not need any encouragement.
So for now, I’ll settle for hosting. When I saw Lin Manuel Miranda host, I thought, “And now, there is precedent for a purely theatre writer/actor hosting. That’s my foot in the door.” He had not been in Mary Poppins Returns at that point, as this was back in 2016. This was back when I was auditioning for musicals and also writing one. Even though my life has taken a left turn, I still hold out hope of finishing my musical, performing in it, and winning enough Tony’s to be on SNL.
In case you’re wondering, yes, all of my goals are exactly this ambitious.
It’s hard to be creative on demand. I am too dependent on the spark of inspiration, the right mood. There are writers who combat the fickle creative juju by ritualizing their writing. They sit down at the same time every day and write for X amount of time. This is the advice that Anne Lamott gives, and she’s just the best, so I really should listen to her. The idea is that you take the pressure off to write great stuff all the time by just writing and giving yourself permission for it to be terrible.
I suppose it comes down to a question of worth. Is my worth in my ability to get a laugh? If so, then I will of course take no prisoners. Is my worth in my ability to produce amazing words every time I sit down at the keyboard? If so, then I will limit my creativity and growth because I’m too scared to make a mess.
If my worth is in something higher, something outside of myself and my ability to achieve, then what happens? All of this gets to be an experiment, a continual learning process. If I write out of the knowledge that I have nothing to prove because I am already infinitely loved, then my words get to be freer and more true. Maybe they will be funny. Maybe they will even be good. But regardless, I’m writing out of a deeper, truer part of myself than the one that wants all of y’all to just think I’m amazing and hilarious.
How does that work though? I mean, it’s a nice idea. But it’s not something I’m going to learn right away. Part of living out of this love and grace at this point means simply showing up and saying yes, no matter how begrudging that yes is. I know that I will overcompensate, that I will write out of a desire to impress, that I will tell the wrong joke at the wrong moment.
The disciples were forever derping like this. I was reading in Mark 18 this morning, and they were asking about how to be great, which is different from doing something with excellence. Relatable. I probably ask Jesus the same question (dressed up in holier words, because that’s my M.O.) all the time. Jesus says that they have to be like children.
Jesus keeps coming back to this idea of humility. The pastor at my church preached on a similar passage this past Sunday. He said, “Everyone loves the idea of servant leadership until they are treated like a servant.” This humility is so against our nature as humans, especially for humans living in New York. We are compulsive achievers. We constantly ask how we can do it bigger and better than anyone else.
That presumption can lead us to do great things, but sometimes at the cost of our souls. I think that’s why Jesus was so insistent on flipping this idea on its head. If we get too caught up in the idea of our own greatness, we forget the whole point of the gospel, which is to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit those in prison. The gospel is good news for the poor and the oppressed, the widow and orphan.
My guy Paul writes, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
I hope that, as my writing career progresses, I am constantly humbled. I hope that I am reminded of the above verses, that I am called to write out of love. I hope that Jesus doesn’t let me get too big for my britches. I hope that I can strive for excellence over greatness.
I also hope that you laugh. Let’s be realistic here.