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Chasing Your Dreams in a World of YES (Takeaways from My Conversation w/ Comedian Chanel Ali)
I interviewed Chanel Ali recently. You may have heard the name–she had the “best comedy album of 2020” (NPR), she’s been on MTV, The Food Network, and Comedy Central, and has opened for some of the biggest names in comedy. She talked with me a little over an hour about life, art, passion, stand up comedy, and chasing your dreams. The interview on Creative Ops will be available on all podcast platforms on June 28.
I first met Chanel when she was a stand-up toddler, as she described it. She had just graduated from Temple and was furthering her education in Michigan (something she ultimately decided not to continue). It was sometime around the beginning of the new millennium–we’ll say 2004, give or take…
She was a few years past the legal drinking age and doing comedy that she, looking back on, cringes at. But that’s how it goes when the thing you love to do is difficult. You start out bad and work towards being not so bad, and eventually, in Chanel’s case, amazing at it. Chanel told me she almost quit comedy at one point because she bombed so badly. (Bombing is what comedians call a terrible performance. Also eating shit/dicks/whatever else you can think of. But before Chanel called it quits, she read a copy of Steve Martin’s book Born Standing Up and it changed her. Not just as a comic, but as a person. I asked her, “What was your big takeaway from that book?”
“That killing is difficult”–killing as in making a room die laughing, not actual murder–“but what’s even harder is just being consistently good.” From there she said she kept working on her writing, constantly looking for a new five minutes of killer material. And she said there’s no other way to do it than the tried and true “write the joke, tell the joke” over and over and over and over, getting as much time to write and perform as she could. She did comedy in rooms that weren’t even comedy rooms, just so she could work out her art and get the right words, the right timing.
That’s something I took to heart, especially as a writer. Just keep moving forward with little steps, constantly seeking to improve. But more importantly, setting your sights on being consistently good rather than feeling a failure for not being amazing at any given time. And she reminded me that even her favorite comedian, Dave Chappelle, still has bad nights. “Sometimes he goes up…and he just doesn’t have it.” The best in the world still has off nights, so don’t beat yourself up about whatever your thing is. Even should you reach the pinnacle of success in whatever this or that, you’ll still have days where you kinda suck and things don’t go your way.
Now I started my podcast with the intention of it being a source of inspiration and education to people with an underserved passion, whether it be in business, art, food, social media…whatever. If you listen to Creative Ops, I hope you come away with it feeling like, That was just a normal-ass person like me, but they’re out there doing X, Y, and Z, and they’re having a great time along the way. I can do that…
As a comic, Chanel is outspoken with her unique take on life. As a person, she’s just as scared of where’s-the-money-coming-from as your or I. She thinks about her future as a comic, as a partner in a romantic relationship (with another comedian) and how her kid had better be funny, but most of all she thinks about what else she can do to pursue her dreams.
When I asked how she sources her material, she said, “I live in a world of yes. If someone says, ‘Hey, we’re driving to Michigan to get some good-ass weed, we’ll be back tomorrow, you won’t miss anything,’ I say yes and see what happens.”
Sometimes in life, we all need to say yes and see what happens. Someone asked me what I do in my spare time as a stay-at-home dad. I said, “I’m writing a novel.” They asked if I wanted to come on a podcast and talk about it. I said yes. They asked me if they could help me start my own podcast. I said yes.
Two years later, I’ve been a guest on that podcast (Threads Podcast: Life Unfiltered) 3 times, guested on The Drunk Conspiracies Podcast, and most recently on A Talk in the Attic w/ Kirk Ross. I followed my passion of writing, started saying yes, and now I’ve got a book that’s in the process of possibly getting published, and I get to talk to people like Chanel Ali for fun and spread a positive message to the good folks of the interweb. (**wink**)
So that’s all for now. Chanel’s interview will drop June 28th on all podcast platforms. Search for CREATIVE OPS wherever you download podcasts.
Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? High five! Follow me here: