Comedian @SamGrittner is holding onto sobriety much like the dog hanging onto the horse in the header photo on his Twitter account.
On Monday the St. Paul-born, now NYC-based, comedian said: “It feels like it’s not teaching a dog a new trick every day. It’s teaching a dog a foreign language or how to drive every day. It goes against every instinct in their body.”
But Grittner is holding on well right now.
Sobriety has enhanced his appreciation for helping others by sharing what works for him. “I’m always happy and eager to help anyone suffering, if they ask,” he said. “If somewhere down the line I were to get into public speaking, some kind of combination talking about sobriety and mental illness and get to put some jokes in there, that would be a dream come true. If I end up being a real estate agent or river boat casino operator — I don’t know what the world is going to deal me CJ — but I will take whatever comes because I should have died a couple of times and here I am. What more can I ask?”
This is Part 2 of my interview with Grittner, the first installment of which continues to attract Twitter plaudits.
Q: Why were you so confident about leaving Minnesota?
A: I’ve been doing comedy since I was 16. I hustled in Minnesota and was a medium-size fish, then I came here and had to start over and I’ve seen a lot of my peers move up and I kept saying to myself “Why not me?” I’ve come to realize [sobriety must comes] first. I had seven months and then I relapsed in February of last year and then I got sober again on Halloween of last year. [Because] of sobriety I’ve come to realize that I don’t deserve anything. I’m very lucky just to be alive at this point. When I attempted suicide a couple of years back the doctors told me with the amount of prescription drugs I tried to overdose on I should’ve died. I took a lot of pills, woke up six hours later and went to the hospital and they didn’t pump my stomach. They said my body processed it. With overdoses and how much I was mixing and consuming, prescriptions and alcohol and stimulants, every day that I’m alive is icing on the cake.
Q: Tell me about these sometimes heart-wrenching jokes you post on Twitter?
A: So I try and put out at least one joke that I’m satisfied with on Twitter per day. I usually end up writing five or 10 then I go back and I’m not really happy with them. I’m still a perfectionist in terms of that. Probably the best thing that’s happened to me in the last years, as I’ve been getting sober, is the podcast appearance on John Moe’s “Hilarious World of Depression.” Talking about that openly, talking about trying to take my own life and then doing that show has not only been EXTREMELY cathartic; I get so many e-mails and messages from people telling me how much my having a conversation and talking openly helps other people. And when other people tell me that, that makes me feel good and helps me, so it’s this really beautiful cycle. If I’m having a good day or a bad day, I’ll tell people online or in real life. I don’t say “I’m fine” anymore. That is a sentence I’ve eradicated from my life. Everybody would ask and my standard response was “I’m fine” when most days I wanted to die and on good days I couldn’t say “I’m having great day” and come to terms with the fact that not every day was going to be great. Life is going to be ups and downs, but with a big picture of everything I can see that if I’m really depressed for a while, I know now that it’s not always going to be like that. That will eventually lift. When I’m having really good days I know they’re not going to last forever but that tends to make me, if I’m on my game & calling myself out and being realistic, really try and enjoy these days, to the utmost. It might sound lame to a lot of people but at 36, I’m incredibly grateful for my friends and family.
Q: Who’s given you the best perspective about pursuing a comedy career?
A: As far as comedy goes, I got the best advice a couple of months ago. I posted, on Twitter, I was having a frustrating couple of weeks and I was very depressed and I said “Is there any comedy writer who can give me advice? I would really appreciate it ‘cause I don’t see why I shouldn’t just quit at this point.” Anything you’re going to do is going to be hard but comedy is such a nebulous thing; it feels like it comes and goes. Some days I feel like I know the formula. It just clicks. Other days I’m like: I’m not funny at all. Alex Baze, head writer at “Weekend Update” at “SNL,” and now is the head writer I believe at Seth Meyers, responded to me publicly and said: I didn’t get my first writing job until I was 37. I consider him to be one of the top 10 writers in the world, when it comes to comedy. Just the sharpest guy and so funny. To hear that, and I’ve heard that from other people, from someone I respect so much, it just showed me [there’s] so much hubris involved. You’ve just got to keep working it. If it’s not in the cards maybe I’m supposed to do something else. I’m totally cool with whatever comes my way. I’m in a program of recovery and that is as far as I can go talking about that. I’m extremely dedicated to it. I take four hours out of every day to maintain my focus on sobriety and sometimes more.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.