As a comedian and author one of the things that I get asked a lot is how I handle a bad review.
Well, it depends.
If I’m onstage at a comedy club and a heckler starts slinging his Bud Light-induced opinions at me it’s pretty easy to verbally bitch-slap him back down to size. Usually he’s too drunk to even conjugate a verb properly, let alone form a complete sentence that doesn’t include the words “You suck!” In many cases, all I have to do is just stand there and let him dig his own grave (kind of like the Republican debates).
But a bad review in the media is another story. It’s become the accepted way for anyone to declare your art is crap, and unfortunately there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. For some reason if people read it on the Internet, hear it on the radio or see it on TV, then they think it MUST be true. Your only option is to develop a thick skin. But then critics come after you for being either aloof or outspoken, claiming you’ve evolved into nothing more than a jaded cynic.
What do they know? They’re just assholes.
This was my “seasoned” attitude when I had a radio interview not that long ago to plug my book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom, a hilarious account of how I gave up celebrity as a Southern California stand-up comic to become a stay-at-home mom… in Utah… and I’m not even Mormon. What the hell was I thinking? (Well, you’ll just have to read Confessions of a Band Geek Mom to find out. It’s on Amazon. If you like my blog you’ll love my book.)
In this case I thought it’d be fun to include my two teenage sons. Of course, the radio host was thrilled to have them on. Not wasting any time he quickly got down to business, asking my boys, “So is everything your mom wrote about you true?” I looked at my adoring children waiting for unconditional praise to flow trippingly off their tongues.
“No, it’s just a bunch of stuff my mom made up,” said my 13-year-old matter-of-factly.
Wait, what? No, that’s not true. I started to object, but the radio host was quicker. “Are you saying she lied?”
“She exaggerates, making things funnier than they really are.”
“Stop right there,” I interjected. “You KNOW the events in my book are absolutely true.” I turned to my older son, “Derrick, help me out here.”
“But not the way you say,” finished my 13-year-old.
WTF? All of sudden I’m being heckled by my offspring, and since I am quite fond them, I don’t feel compelled to verbally cut them off at the knees, as I would any other critic who suddenly got in my face on live radio.
Instead, the conversation quickly devolved into a family debate over things like whether or not they really do miss their mark when using the toilet and if my younger son really did refer to his older brother’s first attempt at a stick shift as “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride—only wilder.” (For the record, YES to both. It’s all documented truthfully in my book.)
In the middle of my older son trying to mediate between my younger son and me, I turned to the radio host and said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t think it would be like this.”
“That’s okay,” he said. “This is great radio.”
And that’s when I realized we were treading dangerously close to Jerry Springer territory. So I decided to end this ridiculous discourse immediately.
“Hey! Perspective is everything,” I said in my big, bad Mommy voice. “This is my truth. If you guys see things differently go write your own damn books!”
Not quite the loving mother-son moment I’d hoped for, but they did pipe down when I admitted the stories were told through my reality filter, giving some credence to their objections.
At no time had I ever questioned what my kids thought about my stories. They’d read them, laughed in all the right places, and appeared to enjoy them. But until that point no one had asked them if they believed the stories to be true. Wow. How could I have missed that? I gave our family radio experience a lot of thought, and after looking at it from all sides I realized I learned a valuable lesson that day:
Never ask your kids their opinion of your work, especially if your work is writing about them.
Ah, yes. Enlightenment feels great.
Did you like this post? If so, please click on the banner below to vote for me as a Top Mommy Blogger on TopMommyBlogger.com. I don’t win anything except a higher search engine ranking, plus bragging rights to my kids that I’m not as dorky as they think. (Okay, well maybe I am that dorky, but at least I’ll be easier to find on the Web.)
Stacy Dymalski is a stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage.
For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her hilarious book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon.com.