If there’s anything this crazy world needs right now, it’s more laughs.
In Reuters’ latest installment of our First Jobs series, where we talk to prominent American achievers about the early gigs that set them on the path to success, we spoke to a few of the country’s top comedians.
It turns out it’s no accident that some of their first jobs – modest, quirky, even humiliating – proved to be rich mines of comedy.
“I worked at a restaurant at the Tashua Knolls golf course in my hometown of Trumbull, Connecticut. I would wait on rich, white guys who played golf all day.”
“I loved it because as a 16-year-old, I could eat like crazy and never gain weight: Fried food, hot dogs, hamburgers. I ate my ass off, and it didn’t even matter.”
“One of the line cooks was a really cute bad boy who was a few years older than me, so of course I decided I had to make out with him. He was the first guy I ever made out with, so in my mind, that meant he was my boyfriend and we were going to get married.”
“I was really surprised when he stood me up on a date. It was the only time in 53 years I’ve ever been stood up. I remember sitting on a love seat in my parents’ house, looking out at the driveway, wondering what was going on. I never saw him again.”
“I’m a kiss-and-tell kind of girl, so I’m sure I told everybody about our makeout sessions. Then I got fired, because I guess I wasn’t supposed to be kissing guys at work. They didn’t want the distraction, and the line cook was more valuable to them.”
“That job taught me to stop making out with people on the job, and just eat instead – which resulted in a massive weight problem. So now I’ve decided to change back: I’ll stop eating, and just make out with people on the job.”
CARL REINER’S FIRST JOB: DRESS DELIVERY BOY
“I was a delivery boy for a company called Eleanor Frocks, carrying around bags of dresses that went for $1.37 wholesale. I would put a dozen or two in a bag over my shoulder, and accompany salesmen from buyer to buyer and building to building in Manhattan.”
“Then, when people actually ordered them, I would wheel them on a big cart along streets like 38th St. and Broadway and 6th Ave. It was very hard work, and long days: I would start at 8 in the morning and go until 7 at night, and I remember it was usually dark by the time I took the subway home.”
“I started at $12 a week, and they went out of business in a month. Then they hired me back two weeks later to work for a new company – at $10 a week. But my parents appreciated it, because I put half of my salary into the home kitty.”
“It wasn’t until later that I got my first job in show business, playing at a little theater called The Gilmore. I got the role of the young lead in a play called, ‘The Family Upstairs’. But it was that first job that taught me that life is a struggle.”
AISHA TYLER’S FIRST JOB: APPLE SALESWOMAN
“I came from a real working class family. My parents, and especially my father, believed deeply in the power of hard work. So I always had summer jobs, from the time I was a little kid.”
“My first one came when I was about five or six. There was a big flea market in my neighborhood each weekend, and when I was in the first grade, my dad would get up at 5:00 a.m. on Saturdays, buy a crate of red delicious apples from the wholesale produce market, and take me to the flea market to sell them. They were massive; somehow my dad always knew how to find the crate of apples that had the most dazzling case of gigantism.”
“He made me an adorable sign, that had a worm crawling out of a shiny apple and read “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: And also gout, rheumatism, belly button lint, dandruff, toe jam, angina, croup, dropsy” and a host of other vintage maladies.”
“The apples sold for a quarter, which was pretty steep for a single apple back then, but no one could resist an adorable little kid with a headful of braids and a toothless smile. I always sold out.”
“The margin on those apples was huge: Like, 500 percent return on investment. I was rolling in dough. And my dad didn’t even make me pay back his angel investment. On my daddy-mandated lunch breaks, I would go get a ‘char siu bao’ from the Chinese food cart, where I was a regular, and then just sit back, devour barbecued pork, and count my money.”
“To this day, I believe deeply in the power of focus and industry, and the idea that you can make something out of nothing if you work hard enough.”
“I may also be a raging workaholic, but that is a topic for another story. I am also highly addicted to ‘char siu bao.'”
(Editing by Lauren Young and Bernadette Baum)