When I moved to DC to be a comedian I had $800 dollars to my name. I didn’t have the financial freedom to take my time and try to find a “dream job.” However, when you do not have a college degree, “dream jobs” are few and far between anyways unless your dream job is waiting tables. I couldn’t even wait tables because I wanted to spend my nights in bars at open mics doing stand-up. I had little time to crash on Rory’s sofa and needed to find a place to live quickly. I had expenses that were rapidly building up on my horizon (rent, bills, food, gas, drugs, alcohol & cigarettes were all very important to me at that time in my life). So, without any other options on the table, I resigned myself to work at the worst place humanly possible…The Pottery Barn.
Pottery Barn is an absolutely horrible place to work if you do not have a passion for completely worthless, yet expensive items that rich folk put a premium on having adorn the walls and floors of their homes. Wooden stacking bowls, wicker picture frames, $50 candles, and rugs made using slave labor. Seriously, they have a video that they make you watch all about how these poor natives stomp the dye into the rugs with calloused feet. Technically, I’m not supposed to share that information with you – I had to sign a piece of paper stating that I wouldn’t let the slave labor cat out of the bag.
In addition to despising the products I was pushing, I also had to put up with some real C-word coworkers. Yes. They were Crazy. I felt like Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s’s Nest” working there. I was trying to impress upon them that it didn’t matter what the sandalwood sofa cushions looked like on the display, and they wanted me to have shock therapy to realize that it was of the utmost importance. If a rich woman from Georgetown cannot adjust her throw pillows with the seasons, then this isn’t America.
The only redeeming qualities of working at Pottery Barn were my fellow stock boys, James and Justin. James was the “manager” of the stock room. It was a pathetic title that gave him an ego boost, but lacked any authority. He was a nerd that loved weapons. He honestly carried a concealed weapon. He kept a Glock in his waist band and several knifes on him at all times. I thought of him as a school shooter that lacked courage and ammunition (I would also put money on him still being a virgin). He always wanted to wrestle, which I thought was slightly homoerotic and very unprofessional. However, this was not unprofessional at all, because Justin was a Marine sniper that loved weapons and horseplay just as much as James. They both considered me to be of the highest quality of pussy and lived for the opportunity to show me “take downs” that can make a grown man cry in seconds and completely ruin your workday. Justin served in Afghanistan and Iraq and one of his favorite pastimes was to show me horrible battlefield pictures that he’d taken of people he killed. Every time I hear the phrase, “for our Freedom”, I think of those pictures.
My favorite memory of working there was breaking anything glass. Oh, the joy of dropping a $200 item off the top shelf, only to have it shatter into a million tiny pieces; just like my self-esteem every time I clocked in. A close second was my smoke breaks by the loading dock, and the occasional smoke sessions with the kids next door at the Apple store. I’m also very proud of all of the things I stole from that store. Candles, picture frames, jewelry containers, and anything else that I thought my mother would enjoy as a present. I’m serious. I stole a lot. “Oh, I bet mom would like that!” And into the trash bag it went and then I’d hide it beside the dumpster and pick it up on my bike ride home. I don’t know why but stealing from “The Man” really made me feel good. I guess I thought I was holding on to some sort of dignity by stealing something back from the people whom I thought were stealing my youth in their manicured fantasyland.
My proudest moment (besides making out with a female employee on a leather sofa in the stock room) was when I walked into the manager’s office and quit. She thought I was putting in my two weeks notice, and I said, “Yeah, I don’t think I can do that. I hate working here. I’ve got a job at the comedy club and I’m starting tomorrow. It’s been real.” She acted like I was splitting up the family and taking the kids to Istanbul. Waiting tables is nowhere near as bad as working retail. The sales goals, the shallowness, and the fake enthusiasm all lead up to robbing you of your creative spirit and sense of self (for at least eight hours a day).
So that’s what I was doing when I started as a comic. Next time, I’ll try to incorporate some actual stand-up stories. The stories are nothing too glamorous but rather humbling and spirit crushing. If you’d like to hear of anything particular (drugs, sex, famous people, bad shows and general rock & roll type stuff) just ask and I’ll gladly give them up. I just like talking about myself, yet am slightly bashful, so any help is appreciated.