5 Lessons Learned On The Road As A Lady Comedian
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I never thought I'd be a stand up comedian, but somehow I found my way.
My “office” is ever changing - it’s different cities almost every night. As a road comic, I spend more hours driving than writing and desperately trying to turn these adventures of a lifetime into sweet, hot content for you to consume in minutes.
Not a lot of people can pull my lifestyle off and most shouldn’t try. Currently I’m the only woman in America who is doing it! Being a funny lady in the streets and a practical, safety-focused traveler in the sheets, I’ve incorporated a few road rules into my routine that may surprise you...
You’re Safest Surrounded By … Truckers?
Nobody ever dreams they will grow up to sleep in a parking lot, but when you’re chasing your actual dreams, you will do crazy things to make them work.
Look, we’ve ALL heard you can sleep in Walmart parking lots… or at least, you’ve heard it if you’ve been to one of MY shows. But, having been arrested in my fair share of Walmart parking lots, (Ok, it was one time, and that was more than enough) I’m not going to advise anyone to be careless, nor ever go to Oklahoma. Take it from me: the notion that you can just pull off and sleep at any Walmart is false.
It turns out different states have different laws about whether it’s even legal to sleep in your car!? Which seems arbitrary and unfortunate because even as a fairly successful comedian, my car is definitely the biggest house that I can afford.
So, I’ve found that in places where it is legal to sleep in your car - the most practical and available option to get shut-eye without sleeping with a tire-iron in hand is often going to be… a truck stop. I know, they smell like feet a lot, but sometimes they're actually really nice!
Truckers are out there making this country run, and I’ll be damned if they aren’t also exhausted and looking for a safe, quiet night’s rest. I mean, do not let them know you’re a woman alone until you exit the vehicle for your morning routine. Haha oh no, truck stops are not THAT safe, but otherwise, your best bet.
Know Your Locale (And Local Laws)
When you’re on an intricately planned schedule and often moving through this world at 70MPH, the last thing you want is any trouble. I mean you’ll still gamble on certain risks, like eating Taco Bell, but there are all kinds of fluctuating regulations & weirdo quirks from place to place one needs to be mindful of.
For instance, once I went to Canada and stupidly didn’t realize that I wouldn’t have cell service. So I kept having to pull over to every Tim Hortons for wifi. One day, I drank 43 cups of coffee. There are a lot of Tim Hortons in Canada.
Also, upon entering the country I had no idea that my merch would be an issue, but apparently you need a permit to sell stuff in Canada. I promised the Canadian Border Patrol that I was there just for fun, not to make money on the trip. You know, networking and international exposure… (comedians work towards a different kind of credit score.) Good thing nobody realized there were mushrooms in my glovebox. Whoops. I wound up doing them at the Toronto Hooters, which is my kind of patriotism.
Those Canadians let me in, but then I was left to my same own devices to explain my business upon returning to the U.S. Luckily, my merch made the American Border Patrol laugh, so they didn’t care about the permit, either.
Embrace The Showbiz Hobo Beauty Routine
As a woman who has her picture taken all the time and often from angles that find chins I've never seen before, I try to present myself as best as I can. But as a gal who sleeps in her car? That appearance and hygiene thing, it’s work.
When it come to clothes, I pride myself on the size of my wardrobe, it takes up almost as much space as my merch. I like to wear new stuff without having an income for new things, so I get most of my clothes at thrift stores along the way. This requires time and creativity, but we love a lewk.
Weirdly, I’ve managed to look my very best at times when I was speeding to get to a venue, like a skincare action sequence, frantically changing my clothes at red lights. It turns out the glow of freshly-conquered panic is the best accessory.
Sometimes, you just need to pull off the road and pit out - for yourself. As such, I get all my spa services on Groupon, since it’s a great way to find deals while traveling. Pitting-out also includes taking my vehicle to the oil-spa for a change about once a month. To have showering ‘covered’ even when there isn’t one available, it’s dry shampoo, everybody. The stuff comes in second only to gasoline as being ESSENTIAL for road life.
Also absolutely necessary: face-cleaning wipes. They make a special product for men called “dude wipes” … which I resent, but the truth is I’ve had these little packs of portable-showers ready for any occasion, from years of bringing my a-game to casual relationships. Look, all I’m saying is that you can use a face-wipe anywhere. If it’s good enough for your FACE? It’s good enough for your crotch.
Speaking of crotches… it’s a comedian’s job to talk about stuff you would never normally say to strangers - like addressing politics, religion, making fun of how someone sitting right in front of you looks, or recounting that time you pee-d your pants in the 3rd and 9th grades and ok, maybe just a little at the college entrance exam. We try to be relatable up there, while finding artful ways to approach taboo topics. So especially when I talk about sex on stage, there’s a SUPER common misconception that I drove all the way to (your town) to have sex with anyone who’s game. Nope! I’m sure many men have that idea because men created and perpetuated the road comic cliche. What a fun little Mobius strip of sexism.
You will know when men have the wrong idea, because they will say it out loud, and it’s a fine line between a harmless wrong idea to being an active threat. I’d actually like to thank that man in Nebraska City for NOT physically following me anywhere after he seriously asked if he could “take me home and keep me in his house.”
Another special shout out to all the “fans” who slide into my DM’s to ask me out, and then when I respectfully decline they unfollow me. Astounding.
My favorite position is getting stoned in the hotel parking garage, and if I’m looking to score anything after a show it’s mostly decent late night vegan food. So always thrilled to accept GAS or GRASS, but keep your ASS to yourself, please.
Being Healthy Helps Your Um, Morning Routine
No matter your chosen diet, it’s hard to eat healthy. On the road? That becomes next-level difficult. When I started touring, I survived on Arby’s. Consuming all the meats™ and the toxins around nightlife can turn you into a hungover meat-filled ashtray of a person. The horsey sauce, whiskey shots and out-of-state cigarette prices are not a sustainable way to live for most people.
I understand eating like crap on the road is a natural impulse. Nobody buckles up for a long drive and wishes they had more kale. However, being vegan actually helps make food decisions faster. Because there aren't any many choices.
I may sleep in parking lots to save money, but if one’s available I’ll splurge on a vegan restaurant and if not, buy fresh produce. That adds up, but it's still cheaper than what I used to spend on drinking, and I’ve cut back on my consumption of everything besides the kind of medicine you can still go to jail for.
I’d advise starting with small changes, a “road-salad” can just be a bag of green beans or broccoli. Stock up when possible and plan ahead because there are a lot more food holes out there than Whole Foods.
People have praised my lifestyle and dietary changes, primarily for notable weight loss. I’m grateful to have made them for many reasons, but the biggest motivator, the real push was just… well… there’s no easy way to say this, but when you take morning dumps on the road, you want to be extra efficient about it. Interstate bathrooms are not a great place to hang out for an entire roll of toilet paper.
Reena Calm’s debut album "CALMEDY" to be released on Helium Records this year. Get her book of puns to help buy some gas for the house and follow her on Instagram @ReenaCalm for pictures of her travels.
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Top Image: Reena Calm