Diana Spechler is the author of Who By Fire and I am very happy to have her to feature a guest post on my blog today.

Please welcome Diana Spechler to Melody's Reading Corner!

When I was a child, my father wanted me to grow up to be a comedian. He used to tape Margaret Cho specials and make me study them. “Watch,” he would say, pausing the tape to show me one of her facial expressions, then rewinding to show me again. “She’s hysterical.” He would wag his finger at the television screen. “You could do that. You could do that!”

Years later, when Sarah Silverman hit it big, my dad was disappointed. “That could have been you,” he said, since, like Sarah Silverman, I’m Jewish and female, and (in his opinion, although not in the opinions of some other people…like, you know, those imbeciles who don’t love me unconditionally), I’m the funniest person ever.

But alas. I chose instead to be a writer, one who’s only kind of funny sometimes.

The closest I’ve come to “doing comedy” is dating a comedian. My boyfriend Chris does stand-up all over New York City. Every night, he goes from comedy club to comedy club, doing the thing that, if I were to do it, would make me vomit from self-consciousness: He climbs up on stages and tells jokes.

When we first started dating, I told him, “My dad always wanted me to be a comedian.”

“Try it some time,” he said.

“I should,” I said. “I’d be funny.”

“Everyone thinks they’d be funny,” he said. “Please try it?”

I was flattered. Did he, like my dad, think I could make it as a comic? “I couldn’t really,” I said coyly, glancing at him from beneath lowered eyelashes. But could I? I mean, could I? Oh god, maybe, just maybe, like my elementary school teachers said, I could do anything I set my mind to!

“Please? I want to watch you bomb,” he said. “It would be so, so, so funny.” He held my face in his hands and kissed me. “Please?”

When my first novel hit the shelves in September, my publisher sent me on a national book tour.

“I’m so scared,” I told Chris before I left. “What if people are mean to me?”

He tried to give me tips. “You’ll need to think of some stock comebacks. You’ll need to do crowd work.”

“What if some guy raises his hand and says, like, ‘I think I got dumber from reading your book’ or something?”

“Then tell him we all take risks. You took a risk by writing a book, and he took a risk by wearing that shirt in public.”

“What shirt?”

“If he’s wearing an ugly shirt.”

“I can’t tell a stranger he’s wearing an ugly shirt!”

“Baby,” Chris said solemnly, “yes you can.”

And then something amazing happened: After my book launch in New York, an audience member approached Chris and me. “You’re so funny,” she said, touching my arm. She turned to Chris. “She should be a comedian!”

When she walked away, I said, “You see? You see?”

“See what? That the general public has no idea what it takes to be a comedian? Just because one person, one random person, tells you that you should be a comedian--”

“She’s not one person. My dad says it, too.”

“Right, right, your unbiased father.”

But it wasn’t just a random woman and my dad. On book tour, every time I gave a reading or a talk, someone would approach me afterward and say, “You should be a comedian!”

“That’s fabulous!” I would say. “I can’t wait to tell my boyfriend!”

I would run outside as quickly as I could, and call to tell him the news. He was consistently delighted.

Just kidding. He wanted to kill me. And I kind of understood. His annoyance was like the annoyance I feel when people belittle the difficulty of my career. “Have I got a story for you,” some people tell me. “If you knew my life story, you’d make a million dollars. You’d be on Oprah.”

Right, I always want to say. Your life story is to my career what the Clapper is to a desk lamp. Thank god for you.

I mean, people should know how I suffer. People should feel sorry for artists. We are, after all, artists. By which I mean sensitive and fragile.

But because I’m a terrible person, I started to enjoy tormenting my boyfriend. “Three today,” I would call from the road to tell him. “Three new people who think I should become a comedian. And one asked if I was funnier than you.”

“What did you say?” he asked.

“I said yes,” I said.

Thus began my identity crisis. Maybe I was a comedian in the body of a writer. Maybe my inner comedian was screaming to be let out. Maybe my mean comedian boyfriend was repressing my inner comedian, like a hand pushing down on a jack-in-the-box lid. Maybe I needed to reassess my career path.

I was thinking like this by the end of my book tour because, in medical terms, I had lost my shit. The month and a half of travel had done me in. Being constantly “on” had contorted my face into a strange simulation of a smile, like the smile of an infant with gas or of a person who has undergone a frontal lobotomy. My insomnia, which had once been a condition, was now a lifestyle. My thoughts were coming to me in jumbled messes, like silly string.

When I was signing books at one of my last events, a woman approached me. “You know,” she said, “you should really do something with your sense of humor.”

“Do something?” I said stupidly.

“In your career,” she said.

I brightened. “Like be a comedian?”

She squinted her eyes into slits and shook her head. “No,” she said. She patted my hand. And then she uttered the sentence that made my whole book tour, my whole year, my whole life, the sentence I have since repeated to Chris approximately seventy-six thousand times (as in, Have I told you about that woman who said…): “You’re too smart to be a comedian.”


Diana Spechler’s fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, Moment, Lilith, and elsewhere. She received her MFA degree from the University of Montana and was a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University. She lives in New York City, where she is at work on her second novel.

Please visit Diana Spechler's website and say hello and be her fan on Facebook.

Read what other readers say and/or buy her book at Amazon.
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14 Responses
  1. I recently received a copy of Who By Fire in the mail and am eager to read it. It will be one of the first ones I dive into next year. :-)

    And what a wonderful guest post! It was quite funny and entertaining. I love the ugly shirt comeback!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Hee hee. Diana's guest posts just keep getting better and better!

  3. Jeane Says:

    Wow, that was great. I enjoyed reading her guest post so much, I'm going to go look for her book now!

  4. The Bookworm Says:

    interesting guest post, very entertaining :)

  5. Sandra Says:

    I enjoyed that very much. I recently read her book Who by Fire and listened to her interview by Book Club Girl. This is a really good book. I recommend it highly to everyone.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks, everyone! I'm so glad you liked it. I'd love to hear from all of you.

  7. Melody Says:

    Wendy - I'm looking forward to reading your review soon. :) I'm still grinning over the ugly shirt comment, that was so funny.

    Softdrink - I really enjoyed working with Diana on this guest post. :)

    Jeane - That's great! Can't wait to hear what you think of her book after you've read it. :)

    Naida - Thank you! :)

    Sandra - Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog. I'm glad you enjoyed the book. :)

    Diana - Thank you for giving me this opportunity to do a guest post on you. I really enjoyed it and I'm hoping we'll do this again next time! ;)

  8. Ladytink_534 Says:

    Well, you made me laugh at least!

  9. Shana Says:

    Diana, what a great story. I need a line like that to repeat to my husband over and over!

    I'm so excited to read your book.


  10. Anonymous Says:

    This was such a fun guest post. And that was an obsolutely brilliant last statement though I don't agree with it. I think some of the best comedians are the most brilliant people around :)

  11. Melody Says:

    Jen, Shana & Violet - Thank you ladies for reading and commenting! :) I had a great time doing this guest post with Diana. I can't wait to read her book.

  12. Iliana Says:

    This was great! I just finished Who By Fire (which I still need to review - so behind all the time) but definitely a good book and glad to hear Diana is working on her second novel. Will have to be on the look out for it!

  13. Melody Says:

    Iliana - That's great! I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it soon. :)

  14. This is the second guest post by Diana that I read and I have to agree, she's hilarious! I definitely want to read her book now.

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