Inside the Comedian Mind, Part Two: Negativity and Anxiety

by | Feb 27, 2020 | Comedy

It started with a simple YouTube comment: “You were mentioned on Rogan today! Thought I would stop by.”

I read it like a confused dog, my head cocked to one side. I was mentioned on the Joe Rogan Experience? Me? A nobody in Iowa? There must be some mistake.

Then I got personal message, from a friend. And then another.

Several people wouldn’t make the same error, which meant it was true. I, unknown comedian Nathan Timmel, somehow got acknowledged on the most popular podcast out there.


And like that, I was nervous.


Not afraid, but cautiously curious. Hesitantly hopeful, if you will. My mind started racing: What was said? Was it positive, or negative? Jesus, I hope it was positive.

As those worries worked their way through my mind, another thought crept in. My head swimming, I wondered: why does my mind automatically drift to worry?

And I paused, and pondered. Is flinching first a personality trait of mine? Imagine the other direction the information could have, hell, should have taken me: I was mentioned on Joe Rogan’s podcast? Holy shit! That’s amazing! Yippie!


It should have been a positive moment. Something exciting. But not in my mind; that’s not how I operate.


Again I wondered, why?

If I had to go armchair-psychologist, I’d have to turn to my childhood. Without blathering on for too long, the gist is: moved a lot, met-then-lost friends, parents hated one another, was poor white trash on food stamps for a while, was abducted by one parent, causing the other to return instead of seeking out the divorce they wanted…

In short, if I learned anything during my time as a child, it’s that good things don’t happen in life.

I’m not sure it would be appropriate to rank childhood “traumas,” but if I had to, I’d put making and losing friends as a big one. There are people cemented in my memory—Michael Kivi, Kyle Phillips, Kurt Nordstrom—men I haven’t seen in since we were all boys.

But I remember their names. For a period of my life, they were important to me. They were friends you make during formative years, people who welcomed me into whatever new school I was attending… and then they were gone. Or, more honestly, I was gone. My dad would lose another job and needed to chase work. For some reason, that always seemed to mean leaving the city we were in. Constantly moving embedded in me the idea “nothing lasts, so why bother?”


Not a very sunny outlook for someone to have.


My negativity could also be a fear of the unknown.

When I got word I’d been mentioned by Tom Segura on his popular podcast, I was happy. Tom and I were good friends back in the day. When I lived in Los Angeles, we’d hang out, and nobody made me laugh harder.

Then I moved to Iowa, and for no reason other than distance, we drifted apart. I’d text him very randomly, usually when something nice happened in his career. I didn’t reach out too often, though. I didn’t want to be that guy, the guy who used to know someone and was trying to re-establish a friendship now that the other person had connections and was successful. I didn’t want to come off as a leech.

That said, when Tom and his wife Christina had their first child, I was happy for them and texted him. “Shoot me your address; I have something for you.”

Tom responded, and address in hand, I fired off a book I’d written about my daughter. Not for any other reason than, “Hey, becoming a dad was the best thing that ever happened to me; I hope you enjoy your experience, too.”

Turns out, Tom mentioned the book on his podcast, Your Mom’s House.

It’s not what I expected, but when people started asking me, “Hey, do you know Tom Segura? He was talking about you,” I wasn’t nervous. Anything coming out of Tom’s mouth was going to be complimentary.

It was out of the blue, and a nice surprise, but not disconcerting.


That said, hearing I’d somehow been mentioned by Joe Rogan… there was no context for it.


When I heard Joe’s guest was comedian Owen Smith, I was still lost. Had I met Owen? Had I been a dick to him? Why was my first thought, “Was I a dick to him? Am I a dick in general?”

These thoughts aren’t healthy.

Listening to the podcast, I was more anxious than excited. I couldn’t get it out of my head that the mention could be a slander. Two hours deep, my mind was set at ease; the mention was an innocuous little nothing.

A while back, I posted a blog involving Malcolm Gladwell and stand-up comedy. On The Joe Rogan Experience, Owen Smith referenced Malcolm Gladwell and stand-up comedy. Joe Rogan’s producer, Jamie, went searching for information about Malcolm Gladwell and stand-up comedy, and stumbled across my blog. Joe read an excerpt, mentioned my website, and that was that.

It was a completely random, arbitrary, accidental event, but it was positive and I was as happy as Navin Johnson finding his name in the phone book. I was over the moon, as the kids say.

(Do the kids still say “Over the moon?” They do, right? I’m hip and cool.)


In the end, my anxiety was for nothing.


Which I should have known. I listen to The JRE, and know that Joe himself is a positive, force for good. Needlessly shitting on people isn’t his thing. Especially people he’s never heard of.

They say the first step to overcoming a problem is acknowledging it. So, I’m aware. Does that mean I can change? I’m not saying I should become an overly optimistic idiot—”Hey! I got a one-second mention on Joe Rogan! He’ll probably have me on as a guest now!”—but I know being mired in negativity isn’t beneficial to my well-being.

Maybe it’s time to start looking on the bright side of life.

That worked for Brian Cohen, right?


Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

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