Holding a Scalpel on a Tight Rope

Andrew Valdez
4 min readMar 14, 2023
https://unsplash.com/@seanbenesh

I have a big show coming up. An audition for Broadway Comedy Club. As much as I like BCC (which also happens to be the acronym for big Caucasian c***) as a venue, I am mostly excited by the prospect of getting more stage time. I heard somewhere that mastering a skill is just a matter of dedicating ten thousand focused hours to it. Up until this chance, I have essentially been chipping away at my ten thousand hours, five minutes at a time. This show on Saturday could be an opportunity to change that.

Throughout my preparation for the show, I have been excited and nervous simultaneously. Today, however, I felt a new feeling. I felt sad. For the past month, I have been preparing my set to ensure it’s polished for showtime. I’m proud of the effort I have put towards it. That’s not the reason I felt sad. Effort has not been my issue, thought has. Today I realized that I have been working without thinking. When I say thinking, I mean pondering my bits. Asking how I could make something funnier, of course I have considered that. But how I could make my premises more thoughtful, being meticulous while maintaining a position of kindness, that’s something that has been missing from my process.

Beyond the compelling point I was hit with, how I came to realize this just added to its importance. Given this is a new comic showcase, the audience will be made up of friends and family of the comics performing. Up until now, I somehow glossed over this detail when I booked the show. Although most of my material isn’t edgy, some of my favorites are like walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon. One wrong step and I’m falling to the depths of cancel cavern. What if I say something that rubs my friends the wrong way? What if my mom showed up? She’s not but that question led me to new understanding about comedy. My mom should be able to enjoy all my jokes.

My philosophy on comedy has slowly evolved since I first started. In the early days, I was doing anything I could to get a laugh. More often than not that resulted in crossing a line. Parallel that with all the external factors that have reshaped how people perceive jokes; the Trump administration, COVID, the rise of cancel culture, the death of her royal highness Queen Elizabeth II, McDonalds failing to bring back the McRib, and that line continues to blur and shift. Telling jokes during this time has felt like I have been running a marathon with ankle weights on. It has also made me jaded to key parts of our culture; the internet, 24/7 news, the federal government, law enforcement, social media, even schools and children. All have become a part of my act. Some of these are sensitive subjects that take incredible amounts of care, confidence, and kindness to discuss.

My mom would always tell me growing up;

“In this world, things can be addressed by using a hammer or a scalpel. Your mind is the most powerful scalpel in the world. Use it far more than you use a hammer.”

I’m worried that for my upcoming show that I may have neglected my mom’s advice. After four years of doing this, I am still learning how to be a better scalpel than a hammer. Both have their purpose. In comedy I liken punchlines to the hammer. A successful punchline can only follow a thoughtful premise. That’s the scalpel. For the past month, I’ve been banging my hammer, chasing a laugh, when I should have been sharpening my scalpel.

In the context of happiness I have learned and even written about how if you make it your sole focus, happiness will elude you. Laughs are no different. A good punchline reveals itself from the effort and thoughtful care put into a premise. Only then can a comic like myself truly believe in a joke and know for certain it will work. Fortunately I have been doing this for awhile and still have a ton of premises to work from. Unfortunately for me, time is running out.

So here I am; five days out from a show figuring out something that I should have known from the start. That’s comedy though. A journey of continual effort and near disasters all for a fading moment of bliss; closing that chapter which only opens another that begins the same way. Seeing as I’m following the script, let’s hope Saturday I complete another chapter of the journey.

If you find that yourself bored on Saturday, March 18, 2023, at 6 pm, come by Broadway Comedy Club (318 West 53rd St.) and support the New York Comedy scene. Tickets can be purchased on BCC website, and if you use the code ‘Valdez’ you will save $5. Think of all you can do with those savings!

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