Comedians Give Advice to Their 18-Year-Old Selves
"I know it seems impossible right now, but you will lose your virginity. Eventually. I promise."
With high school graduations happening across the country this month, it's an important time to remember 18-year-olds know absolutely nothing. The summer after high school is a coming-of-age purgatory, when you feel like you've become a real grown-up, even though you're probably still asking your parents for $20 to see a movie or spend on weed.
When I was 18, I was about a year into doing stand-up comedy, eating grilled cheese sandwiches in my parents' basement, and driving to open mics in Washington, DC. Now I'm 22, five years into doing stand-up comedy, eating grilled cheese sandwiches in my shared two-bedroom apartment, and finally getting paid enough to buy my own grilled cheese supplies. I still don't know a damn thing. So VICE asked me to email my famous comedy friends who are older than 30 and ask them what advice they'd give to their 18-year-old selves.
If you're 18 and you're just out of high school, get a passport and get the fuck out of the country. For the rest of your life, you'll never be able to "find the time" or be able to get off work. This is the only time when it makes sense. You have no real responsibilities. So explore. Learn. Do it for a year and then come back and start your life. Even if you just go to college you'll be way ahead of the game. If that seems out of range, then just spend a week in Epcot Center in DisneyWorld. It's roughly the same thing, just about 75 percent more expensive.
Hey buddy, two huge things: You have to stop trying to be what you think girls want you to be. Like, really. Like, really, really, RILLUH (RILLUH RULLUH) try to be yourself and make yourself happy first. Follow that shit and develop yourself, don't just agree with everything a girl says. You don't really like Led Zepplin—you're just pretending to like Led Zepplin, 'cause that girl likes Led Zepplin. You're spending hours listening to dumbass Led Zep deep cuts so you can be like "Oh yeah, the 'Frost Owls of Zultamar,' underrated" or whatever their songs are called. Don't just nod your head and say "Oh yeah, of course" about this advice, either, 'cause you do that shit too. You're a smart kid, so you understand shit on a surface level, 'cause it sounds like what you're supposed to believe. But you don't understand it on a deep level. Really understand this on a deep level. Actually internalize it and live your life trying to be the most you possible.
Second thing: Cargo shorts are a poor choice and you will regret them half-way through your 29th year on Earth. Start regretting them now. People aren't "hating"—they're actually terrible.
OK Brandon, I want you to include every single thing in this interview with me, even what I just said. And quote me exactly, or I'll punch you in your fucking face. The question is "What advice would I give myself to me at 18?" which is a good question. But I'll tell you why I'm apprehensive to answer it. Because what you're really saying is, "what would you do different?" If you went back and gave your 18-year-old self advice, and hopefully you would take it, it would alter the way the events of your life fell in front of you. And as much as "yeah, I always want a little more, you want your career to be a little better," but I don't know if I would want it to happen any other way. I'm actually happy, so the advice I would give myself as an 18-year-old is nothing. I would shut the fuck up. Just let it happen the way it happened. But... if you're saying, "C'mon, Todd. Just do the interview. Stop being difficult," then I'm gonna have to say this: more pussy.
Hi, 18-year-old Ron. I bet you think that FUBU baseball jersey is gonna be a good look forever. It isn't. You're gonna wanna probably not even think about college and not waste the three weeks of time you're gonna spend before you drop out. Wear a condom and maybe ask yourself if the man really is holding you back, or are you just a lil bitch that likes to just take gravity bong hits and pass out all day? You're pretty cool on wrestling and video games though, that's gonna work out for you.
Don't date your best friend's ex-boyfriend. "Ex" doesn't mean she doesn't love him. Also: Stop baking full cans of biscuits and eating them in bed while watching Degrassi re-runs. Teenage eating-out-of-boredom is fleeting, but butt stretch marks are forever...
Don't listen to the comedian onstage before you and get psyched out. Don't try to act tough all the time—let yourself be silly too. Have compassion for the audience but also know they are just a room of people on a given night. If some distracting thought crosses your mind onstage, say it. Let yourself go onstage looking raggedy sometimes. Record your sets. Bonding with comedians at festivals is more valuable than bonding with industry. Bring your own opener as soon as you can. Tell your comedy heroes you love them, because they die all the time.
Hey 18-year-old me. What's up? Would you like some advice from a fictional future-you? Here it is: Don't be so hard on yourself. Get off your own back. You have your whole life ahead of you, barring some horrible unforseen disaster. So have fun. But don't go blue. And even though it sounds like a brilliant idea, don't base your entire act on disparaging your co-workers.
Hey idiot, I know all you want to do is move to LA and do comedy, but you are gonna stay in Hawaii, start drinking for the first time, playing in bands, and trying to get laid unsuccessfully. Then! A year later you are gonna move to Los Angeles thinking you'll start doing comedy, but all you are really gonna do is drink, do drugs, and sometimes successfully have sex. Then, a year later, you are gonna finally start going to open mics and continually think: "Fuck, I should've just moved straight to LA and started doing stand up at 18." This is gonna be a constant nag for years. But then, you realize: fuck that, I had fun, I fucked up, I got fucked up, I was a complete mess, and it was the best thing I coulda done with my life at that time. Things happen when they happen, your best bet is to not feel bad about the regrets you'll have.
I know it all seems really hard right now. And it is. And it's going to get harder. Things are going to get very scary and you'll change your mind about lots of things, big things, that are currently very important to you. And your life is not going to go the way you want it to right now. But that's very good. Just know that, one day, it will get easier. And then each day will be better than the last. For now, work on being comfortable in your own skin and don't be too hard on yourself for things you can't control. And I know it seems impossible right now, but you will lose your virginity. Eventually. I promise.
Oh, and invest in some kale farms.
Follow Brandon Wardell on Twitter.