While on a walkabout today at my local waterfront park, I realized I’m on the verge of not just a milestone birthday, but also two landmark anniversaries in my life. It was just about 25 years ago now that I auditioned for and received an invitation to join my first professional comedy troupe in Seattle, marking the first of many times I’d get paid to goof off in front of strangers. And a decade before that, or 35 years ago this autumn, I snagged my first byline as Sean L. McCarthy in my school newspaper. How time flies.
It was 16 years ago, in the summer of 2005, that I took over the comedy column at The Boston Herald and convinced my editor to let me carve out my own online space for anything and everything that didn’t fit in print. The fall of 2007 when I left my staff job reporting for the New York Daily News to launch The Comic’s Comic.
As I wrote when I first started Piffany in 2019, comedy does not represent “the whole truth of my existence, my thoughts, my passions, nor my concerns.”
I needed a place where I could break out of the branding I’d given myself in 2007.
It couldn’t be called The Comic’s Comic’s Newsletter’s Newsletter. That’d just be silly. I thought about reviving my old Blogger brand from the mid-2000s, Popular Thinking. But Substack already informed me on its home page that one of its big newsletters is called Popular Information. And that’s too close for comfort. Nobody would understand the irony if I called this The New McCarthyism. Seansplaining would have, could have been a great name if the term hadn’t already been applied mockingly to Sean Spicer. I thought that if my friend Adam Conover could become successful by revealing that Adam Ruins Everything, then perhaps I could follow suit. But by offering solutions instead of merely putting a spotlight on our societal problem. Sean Solves Stuff? Close. But somehow missing something.
Then I had one of them thar piffanies. Epiphanies, as it were.
You know, a spiritual breakthrough. Mind explosion. That moment when you suddenly realize something so essential about the way we live, and the way we could live. Perhaps you’ve encountered such a transcendence before. Perhaps you merely long to. I hope that by tapping into my own understanding and desires to better understand the world around us and just why or how things are the way they are, that I can experience more such moments and share them with you.
It’s about time we all experienced an epiphany.
I’m going to be sharing my epiphanies (or Piffanys, sic!) with you on a regular basis. Likewise, moving forward, my expert insight on the comedy business will show up here. The Comic’s Comic will exist as a free archive and repository of information. For 14 years, I curated the massive amounts of comedy content to filter out only what you needed to know about comedians and the comedy business. As part of Piffany, my dispatches From The Comic’s Comic will exist exclusively here, not only distilling what’s happening in comedy but also why it matters. You’ll also be able to find new episodes of my podcast series, The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First, here (although you also can listen wherever is most convenient for you to listen to podcasts, of course).
So you’ll get critical essays, an amusing and illuminating podcast and comedy news every week. Mostly for free!
Last week, for example, I wrote about how and why Saturday Night Live guru Lorne Michaels is so desperate to stop any of his current SNL cast from leaving.
But wouldn’t you like to know what’s really happening in the comedy industry?
If you’re in the comedy industry, then wouldn’t you like to know who and what you should be paying attention to these days?
I just may have insights on New Faces and Old Faces and all of the other faces to share with you, so consider subscribing so you can stay in the know.
As far as my past Piffanys go, I can go from the personal anecdotes with pop culture references:
- A Piffany About Groundhog Day (and how the movie is a beacon of hope for 12-step recovery, even if you’re not in 12-step)
- A Piffany About Clout Chasing and Complicity (or how I knew I shouldn’t be working at the Daily News)
To the purely pop cultural:
- A Piffany About Badvertising (or how I rail against TV ads that don’t even make sense for what they’re selling!)
- A Piffany About Fast Food Fish (or how the fast-food industry still believes in the power of Lent to fuel capitalism)
You also can decide which parts of Piffany you want to receive in your inbox, and which ones you don’t!
What happens if I pay for it?
I suppose I should let you, first things first, that The Comic’s Comic does not pay my bills. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of business relationships over the past 14 years, where my outside partners handled the advertising for me. But I’ve been on my own now for the past couple of years and change.
And that leaves me with a lot less spare change.
Corporate interests don’t tend to support independent thinking or independent journalists, which is why we rely on our supporters, and I’m asking for you to support me now.
Paid subscribers can get bonus access and nerd out.
Tuesday Transcripts will allow you to read my Last Things First conversations with fun and funny people about how they’ve overcome personal and professional obstacles, along with bonus commentary from me about each podcast episode.
Friday Office Hours will allow you to have discussion threads with me and with other paid subscribers about comedy news of the week, ask me anything about the comedy business, or offer suggestions about what you might like to see me add to Piffany or cover in the future.
Employee of The Month will spotlight an outstanding comedy performer on the first Friday of each month (coinciding with the U.S. jobs report), with honorable mentions when and where applicable. Because Comedy doesn’t have an HR department or a boss, I might as well assume the duties they’re neglecting! This honor is a monthly mini version of the annual Comedy MVPs discussion I have at year’s end with Jason Zinoman of The New York Times. I touched on this briefly in a recent Piffany.
I may also decide to make other posts paid-only, and introduce even more features.
If you become a paid subscriber, then you can tell me!
Thanks for reading, and please share the good word.
Sean L. McCarthy