Sometimes the closest thing to feeling at home during a long trip is seeing a familiar fast food chain, and boy is that not a healthy relationship. Pro comedians often live on the road, so it either takes the kind of person who thrives in solitude, or it necessitates developing mechanisms to swallow all those generous helpings of alone time (instead of too much Taco Bell). Touring is such a vital part of a comedy career that we wanted to hear the best stories and tips from some of the top comedians working today. We asked the following questions: “Going on the road for months per year sounds lonely. Is it?” and ”How do you make it better for you, or even …fun?” The answers they gave were valuable, funny, and may hit you right where it hurts, and their insights shouldn’t be missed if you’ve ever felt lonely (in other words, if you’re human).
When I was actually a road comic, there was no internet, so I would have to go out. I’d put miles on my shoes in every new town I go to. All the traveling we do online, I had to do on foot. I think for the same reason I like motorcycling, where you would smell the neighborhood you were going through, I enjoyed taking in all the senses of the place. I think if you’re going to write a bit about something, it’s better to actually be there than to just see it on the screen. Experiencing it allows you to write about it more thoroughly. Walking is fun for me. Particularly because I live in Los Angeles where if you are seen walking somewhere, all your friends assume that you don’t have a car anymore. Instead of being happy for you getting healthy, they’re sad for you and try to start crowdfunding to get you new wheels.
The K Ohle with Kurt Braunohler podcast, Comedy Central’s The Half Hour
Fuck yeah it is. It’s lonely as shit. You think drinking helps, but then the day after is just that much lonelier. I try to stay active—go do things, work out, write, if I can. But a lot of my day is just sitting in a shitty hotel room in some random city just waiting until it gets dark. I don’t see movies in the theatre anymore because I watch so many in hotel rooms.
Conan‘s warm-up comedian, Never Not Funny podcast
It’s the worst. The only time that isn’t lonely is the time on stage.
[On how to make it better] Well, what I did for years was drink like an A-hole! I would start drinking the second I got off stage and not stop until the bar closed. I then slept it off, got up, showered, ate, did a show and right back to the bar… and then repeat that every day. These days, I kill the down time by exercising, or working on various projects. I’ll hit a movie if there is time… and oddly, the time is less lonely this way. Hanging with the other comics is always a bunch of fun… in both my drunkie days and now… we have a language that only we can speak. There is nothing better than working with a fellow comic that can make you laugh off stage. THAT really helps the time fly.
Comedy Central’s The Half Hour, writer on Late Night With Seth Meyers
Yes, it can be very lonely. Traveling is definitely more draining than you realize it will be when you are skipping from town to town to city to other city. But you find ways to make it work whether through texting or calling friends, catching up on emails or other projects or whatever it may be. You try to be more constructive with your time. Also, if people have recommendations for things to do in a certain place, I try to do them if I have the time and energy even if I have to go by myself. The nice thing about comedy is you might return to the same place the next year, and then you already know certain things about that place by returning to it. Like now I know there is a Starbucks in St. Louis. Who would have thought?
creator of Comedy Central’s 7 Minutes in Purgatory, Chicago Magazine’s Best Experimental Comedian
It certainly can be lonely, but more often I find that it’s akin to starting at a new job over and over again. You’re meeting people for the first time, everyone has a polite small talk approach with you, and you’re sort of figuring out how that particular place functions. What I love to do is ask someone local about bizarre landmarks or weird places around town. Try to cut through the tourist stuff, and it lets you find the Doll House museum in Denver, or the abandoned Magic Club in Austin. Locals are also way more down to show you stuff like that than to visit their aquarium again.
Hulu’s Coming To The Stage, VICE
I have never been on the road for months at a time—only weeks, but here’s what I recommend: Make friends with the other comics you meet. Talk to strangers. Go jogging. Call your friends and family back home.
one-hour special on Comedy Central, Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch 2015
It is lonely. You try to bring a friend with you to open for you. That way you have someone to hang with you and go do stuff. But when you are by yourself you will hang with some local comics or just go do stuff by yourself. I’ve seen a fair amount of movies by myself. I like to go to zoos. Walk around a mall. You get used to doing all that by yourself. It only gets rough when you have a long stretch out on the road with no breaks.
Sirius XM Radio’s Opie with Jim Norton, HBO’s One Night Stand
The road is great because you’re doing gigs, but it definitely can get lonely and boring. Computers help a lot because there is always something to distract you. Computers can also be bad, because instead of watching a movie you are (I am) up till three in the morning looking at escort ads.
Jimmy Pardo, Jim Norton, Kurt Braunohler, Aparna Nancherla, and header photos courtesy of Getty Images.
Ian Abramson photo by Joanna DeGeneres.
Rick Overton photo by Bruce Smith.
Jesse Fernandez is a half centaur, half man whose comedy writing has been featured on ABC, TED Talks, MSN, StarWipe, eBaum’s World, and Starbucks. Follow him on Twitter @JesseFernandez to see what’s really swirling around that cauldron of a brain.