Jessica Michelle Singleton

Usually I try to come up with some snazzy, artsy, punny title for my posts. You know, something that has a vague allusion to the subject I’m writing about, something a “Writer” *hair flip* would do. Not for this one. It’s important to me that right off the bat, we know what we’re dealing with.

Jessica – or JMS, as I (never) call her, when I want to make her sound like a battleship – is so many things to me. I told her at…let’s check….11 PM last night, when I wasn’t quite drunk but was starting neatly into my cups, that I had to write about her, that it would kill me not to. That wasn’t the alcohol talking. It’s the fact that she’s phenomenal.

I went to school with Jessica. She was a year ahead of me, and I had transferred from a different high school after my sophomore year, so we only got a school year together. I’m not sure exactly how or why we crossed paths, but we got along immediately and became friends quickly.  We’ve kept in touch since.

She had a dream, and it was… well, to be honest, a daunting one. She wanted to make a career as a comedian, one of the hardest artistic professions to not only break into but do well at. It’s a profession that very often doesn’t take women seriously, and Los Angeles is a city that I absolutely love but fucking eats the souls of those not ready for it. I know. I moved there when I wasn’t ready for it.

When I turned 21, I moved to L.A. with two friends and no plan. I was going to be an actor/writer, I thought to myself, with six middling theatrical performances and a handful of questionable short stories under my belt. I even got headshots done. Did it matter that they were taken in a mostly abandoned warehouse by a man with half a dozen cats, arranged by a guy who ran a softcore pornography website as a side business? Not to me. I didn’t even see it when my friend said that one of my pictures looked like someone had just told me my pet had been run over by a car.

I was going for, I don’t know, pensive? It doesn’t matter. I didn’t become an actor/writer and my sheer unpreparedness for the city left me chewed down to gristle. The distance from the only home I had known, financial concerns, an unsupportive woman and, ultimately, myself left me broken. I moved away, defeated.

Jessica didn’t give a flying shit. Or maybe she gave all the flying shits. Either way, she moved down with an idea of how difficult things would be, discovered first hand the reality that it was so much more difficult than she could have imagined, and she endured it. With the storm that raged inside her continuing to roil and churn, she pushed it back and let sheer force of will keep her there, keep her fighting for every minute she could get on stage, every single person she could tell a joke in front of.

And she made it work. She has been making it work. She’s made a full-blown career out of it, doing a mind-boggling amount of shows each year, a cross-country tour, an international tour, radio shows, television pilots, YouTube sketches. She’s partying with Brian Regan in Las Vegas.

She came home for her high school reunion and did a couple surprise performances. I caught the latter of the two, the fourth time I’ve been fortunate enough to see her perform live, and she absolutely slaughtered the crowd. Just killed it. In a scarce three years, she has gone from doing fifteen-minute spots for nobody headliners to headlining shows with an hour and a half of solid material and hosting tours.

She’s a woman who had a dream, a horrendously difficult one, and spat in the face of adversity, wrestled that dream into something that not only supported her but brought genuine joy to others, and continues to make it work for her. The opportunities continue to flow her way, due to her hard work and her talent.

Professionally and artistically, I respect and admire her a great deal. She is doing what I meekly tried to do and continues to pursue her dream ravenously, with a fervor and talent that leaves me dazzled. It was a pleasure and a privilege to see her give an audience so much, so gleefully, striding across her element with a confidence I haven’t felt in over half a decade. She’s a hero to me.

And if it was just that, it would be enough, but she’s still so much more.

Jessica has been an invaluable friend. She’s that rare breed that won’t bullshit you, but also understands exactly what you’re going through and empathizes. Empathizes, which is much more difficult to do than sympathize and is typically much more emotionally taxing for both parties involved.

There is parental resentment. There are creative struggles. Most critically, there is trouble with mental instability, something I’ve come to learn recently is shockingly more prevalent than people are comfortable discussing. She talks about depression and bipolarism in her sets. She mentioned it in the first (and only, so far) guest post I’ve had written for my blog, which you can read here. Fun fact: That was written exactly one year and two weeks from yesterday.

I have texted her drunk, and not, at 3AM or 3 PM, wracked with angst and insecurity and desperation, and she has walked me through some storms. She is patient and guiding, despite the distance, despite anything else, because she gets it. She has been supportive and encouraging, and I will always, always be grateful for that.

Three days ago, I caught her warm-up set at an open mic comedy show. Afterwards, we had an opportunity to catch up some, and I expressed how proud I was of all that she had accomplished and was continuing to accomplish going into her high school reunion.

“Mine’s next year,” I said. “I’m 27 years old, and all I’ve done is write three books that don’t sell for shit.”

“But you’ve written three books,” she said. “Do you have any idea how crazy that is? What you’ve actually done?”

It’s so easy to discount every aspect of my life and get into a rut where I feel like a failure. Like I haven’t done anything. Like I’m not doing anything. At several critical moments since I’ve met her, Jessica has been there to gently pull my head from my ass. She has reminded me of the positive things that I have, that I’ve done, that I am. She’s been there, a thousand miles away, while I’ve wept and railed against the world, and she’s made me feel okay and normal when I was anything but.

I love her to death. That my first novel is on her bookshelf is a deep moment of pride for me. That we are friends is a shining diamond in my life.

image

Jessica Michelle Singleton. Beautiful. Loyal. Intelligent. Raunchy. Wild. Hilarious. True.

You can follow her on Facebook here, check her site out here, and follow her on Twitter at @JMSComedy. Also, just Google or YouTube her or some shit. She’s funny. You won’t regret it.

Advertisements

Recap Redux

I’ve written or shared a hundred posts now, and it has been an absolutely rewarding experience so far. From being able to experiment via short stories set in worlds I plan on exploring in more detail later to reflecting on my life/my relationships/my family and friends, what started out as sort of a trial outlet for my thoughts and creative endeavors has turned into a cathartic routine.

Even more so, by sharing it online and via Twitter and Facebook, I’ve received a number of comments and personal messages expressing a wide variety of emotions. That’s good! That has been the point of this. I want you to be able to experience my type of art. I want you to think and to feel things, and if you’re going through an experience or feelings similar to something I’ve gone through,  I want you to be know you’re not alone.

Every fifty posts or so, I’ll create one of these as sort of a recap. With so many posts coming out of me and with no real regular schedule,  there’s a chance you may have missed something that pertains to your interests. This is meant to act as a quick guide to the posts, separated more or less into different categories.

If you read something you feel particularly thought-provoking or touching or infuriating or garbage, I encourage you to share it with others.

First off, you can find a quick recap to the first 49 articles here: FIVE OH.

Then:

About Me:
My Own Worst Enemy
I’m a Man Who Was Raped
Oktoberfest, Or That Time I Crippled Myself
Vagabond
Distilling Who I Used to Be
The Metal That Gave Me Mettle
Hundo
I Fell In Love
Playing the Doldrums
Kisses Have Pictures Beat
Office Space
Story Time With Grampa Jered
Just Plane Silly
The A Word

Family and Friend Profiles:
Go Out and Get ‘Em, and a Birthday Note
Mama Mia
Blondie
Father Of Mine

Writing Tips and Opinion Pieces:
Six Reasons Why 50 Shades of Grey Sucks, and Why It Doesn’t
Ten(ish) Books That Tickle My Fancy
Getting the Gang Together
Things I Love: The Malazan Book of the Fallen
Thanksgiving: A Better Christmas
No Place Like Home

Miscellaneous:
The Best Medicine
The Beautiful Last Breath of Day
Remembrance
The Wedding Bells Are Ringing
The Carolina Reaper

Fiction:
A Nice, Slow Day
Satori and the Key
The Wrong Kind of Flop
The Velvet Anchor
Love and Bullets
The Balloon Trick: An Absolute Zeroes Story
The Owl Part I: A Curious Shoppe
Trixie: A Flatliners Story
Yellow
The Lost Journey of the Stalwart

Poetry:
Shadow Hurt
Stoke the Fire
She, Of the Pale Stars
You Know
I Could Write
The House In the Ocean

Guest Entries and Shared Posts:
Life Is a Coping Mechanism by Jessica Michelle Singleton (follow @JMSComedy)
10 Tips and Tricks For Creating Memorable Characters by Charlie Jane Anders (follow @charliejane)
As Good As New by Charlie Jane Anders
How to Create a Killer Opening For Your Science Fiction Short Story by Charlie Jane Anders
Cars. Booze. Central Oregon. by Robert Brockway (follow @Brockway_LLC)

So there you go. Hopefully you’ll find something you haven’t seen before that you like, or you’ll have a convenient way to link a friend.

Thank you to everyone who has followed, shared, commented, read, or even encouraged since Word Whiskey has started. It means the world to me.

GUEST POST: Life Is a Coping Mechanism

I am incredibly excited and incredibly blessed to bring to you my very first guest post. Jessica Michelle Singleton is a stand-up comedian who came from humble origins in Alaska and didn’t let it put a hitch in her step to becoming a successful stand-up comedian who does hundreds of shows a year. She lives and performs in Los Angeles primarily, but she tours the other states and even won a contest to participate in the Montreaux Comedy Festival, taking her jokes across the European nation.

Jessica and I are school mates. She’s prettier and funnier…and more successful than I am, but I love her dearly. In fact, that’s why we’re friends. I get her runoff paramours.

In all seriousness, I love her dearly. Artists tend to come from a certain place where things hit us a little more deeply, and Jess has been one of those rare few who understands where I come from in my darkest times and encourages me to pick up the pen and always get back at it. It’s a blessing to have such a support.

She’s home in Anchorage tonight for a one-night show and I can’t wait to see her perform again. I could use the laugh. AND SO COULD YOU! Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @JMSComedy. Worth every second.

Anyway, I asked Jessica if she would write something exclusive for my blog. Anything she wanted, I told her, and about any topic. She said she did better with direction, so I thought about it and I realized that – as with writers or actors or painters – there is more to comedians than their material. Fucking obviously. But when I asked her how her personal life affected her career, instead of rolling her eyes at me, she was eager to explain.

For you, this was her response:

Life is a coping mechanism.

I suppose I should preface the rest of this by telling you that this isn’t a humorous piece. That’s not to say you shouldn’t laugh at anything I’ve written here. It’s just that if I’m going to open up, I’m going to need to lower any expectations that everything I say is hilarious.

To be fair, most of what comes out of my mouth is meant to make the people around me laugh. It’s a sickening type of pride you feel when you can make people laugh in the worst of situations. I’m not great at having real emotional connections with people, but I can flip the fuck out of a frown. I don’t know if I would trade the ability to make people laugh for the ability to connect at a deeper leve, simply because I can’t even imagine my life without comedy.

People will always appreciate the person who can make them laugh when they feel like crying. And believe me when I say there isn’t a much more desirable thing to me than to have someone appreciate me. This is a skill I am so glad I can share with the world, but it hasn’t come for free.

If you are the type of person to get offended when someone makes light of a serious and sad situation: Congratulations! You have probably never really suffered. That’s where the ability comes from. When I make jokes about a terrible situation, or my own insecurities, or the fuck ups in my personal life, it’s because that’s all I can do. What are my other options? Wallow in sadness? If I didn’t twist the dark thoughts in my head into jokes to make others or, at the very least, myself laugh…all I would have is a head full of terrible thoughts.

Everyone has their own means of coping. Some people smoke, some people write poetry, some people sweep it under the rug and just pretend everything is okay by ignoring the problems in their life. I tell jokes.   There is a common saying that “Tragedy + Time = Comedy”. Given that theory, if I told you my entire life story, it wouldn’t make sense for me to be anything but a comedian.

I was abandoned, neglected. I’ve lost several friends in unbelievably horrific manners. I’ve been sick and I’ve more or less been on my own my entire life. But I wouldn’t be the person I am if I hadn’t gone through all of those things. There are moments when I think I would trade being a comedian if it would erase some of the hurt or if I could have the ability to let people in. But all of that fades the minute I get on stage and hear the laughter I’ve created. People need laughter. There’s a reason it’s called the “best medicine”. It makes you feel good. It takes you out of your own head full of dark thoughts and allows you to escape to a moment of sheer happiness. And if you ask me, in today’s world there aren’t nearly enough of those moments.

Yes, I’ve hurt. So many of us have. I don’t think character is developed through suffering, but I believe you learn a lot about a person’s character in how they handle that suffering. Laughter is how I handle mine. And if my pain manifests itself into material that will brighten other lives, then maybe life isn’t so bad after all.

I can’t say much more than that except reiterate how amazing Jessica is. She’s incredibly hard-working, so driven, ridiculously talented, one of the best friends you could have and an inspiration to artists of multiple arenas.
Again, check her out on Twitter and Instagram at @JMSComedy . Thanks for stopping by Jess, and break a fucking leg!