A letter from comedian Mark Normand

mark normand on stage

One comic’s journey

Hey hey Mark Normand here, NYC stand-up comic.

Mark Normand jumping onto bed in the air. He wears sunglasses and a white under shirt and blue shirts. Two prints of roses hanging on the beige wall behind him.

I moved to the Big Apple from the Big Easy (New Orleans) in late 2007. I came to NYC with $800 in my pocket and a dream. I lived in a shoebox I found on Craigslist, deep in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The whole setup was highly illegal and shoddy, also my landlord was slowly dying of AIDS. My roommate and I had no heat, no hot water, and the first day we moved in, a pigeon was flying around the living room. Good times. It’s very hard to complain about your chilly apartment when your landlord has a fatal virus. It was a good hour-plus commute into Manhattan for work. I was mugged three times in a year. This city was trying to spit me out. Not to mention the unforgiving annals of the New York open-mic circuit. It was brutal. Now as a comic who’s about fifteen years in, I look back at those times and don’t know if I could go through it again. 

People have said to me, “Did you ever wanna quit or move back or get a real gig?” Honestly, I never thought about it. My life pre-comedy was so rudderless and empty that even though this city can be wildly cruel it still felt like an adventure and better than the loserdom I came from. What’s worse: Being a nobody on the NY comedy scene or being a nobody in a cubicle chasing some invisible stability or whatever bullshit we’re taught about adulthood? 

Take breaks, be grateful, enjoy what you’ve accomplished, but you still have to keep creating.

Trying to break into the comedy world is lousy with hardships and obstacles, but until you go through it you can never feel the insane varieties of rejection, shame and humiliation. Bombing is one thing but being booed, begging people on the sidewalk to be your audience, or getting stiffed by a club owner-the list goes on. There’s always some new way this biz can kick you in the taint. But you just gotta keep going. I get a lot of these newbies asking to pick my brain or out to coffee, but all that is really just a waste of time. Time that could be spent on writing new jokes or soaking up stage time. There’s no shortcut. Go get better. Fast forward ten years and millions of sets, bombs, flights, shows, hotel check-ins, hangovers, handshakes and heckles. Now I feel like I’m finally cooking and the challenge is maintaining it, writing new material, staying in touch, etc. It never ends! But hey, what else are we doing? That’s what life is, right? Pushing that ball up the hill. Syphilis, right? Is that his name? (Sisyphus) 

Take breaks, be grateful, enjoy what you’ve accomplished, but you still have to keep creating. Success has its flaws and hiccups but I don’t know too many people who’d go back. Keep going, folks! And be nice. 

Mark Normand Out to Lunch Netflix special. A white man with dark hair and a dark navy jacket sits inside a store looking out through a window. Across the window the words "Out to lunch" are painting. The man is wiping his face with a napkin and in the other hand holds a pink donut.