Pete Correale says the best joke he's ever heard about the stand-up business came from comedian Marc Maron, who said onstage:
"It takes at least 15 years to become an overnight success. Unfortunately, it takes the same amount of time to become a complete and bitter failure. And you never know which one you're gonna be until the night before."
Correale himself started at age 24, and he feels like he's only truly gotten good after 15 years -- but, of course, he thought he was good all along.
"When I was six years into comedy, I had some bitterness that I should have had more credits than I had at the time," Correale says.
"Then after 10 years, I was like, 'My God, I sucked at six years!'
"At 15 years, I'm like, 'I can't believe at 10 years I thought I was good!' "
"See what I mean?" Correale says.
"By the time you know if you're good or not, you're really kind of past the age to do anything else, anyway. You either ride it out, or you're doomed, man!"
THE SITCOM PITCH
Correale is funny and he has finally gotten to, shall we say, some point.
Two years ago, Entertainment Weekly named him one of the top comics to watch.
After that, he was on David Letterman's show. He had his own special on Comedy Central, "The Things We Do For Love." He co-hosted a Jim Breuer show on Sirius radio's awesome Raw Dog channel for years.
And his jokes about married life in New York seem to be a perfect template for a sitcom pilot.
But in 2009, he pitched a sitcom with a partner, Bruce Helford, co-creator of "The Drew Carey Show" and "George Lopez." That went nowhere.
Recently, he pitched a sitcom with Peter Segal, who directed "Get Smart" and "Naked Gun 33 1/3."
A network dismissed them judging, "It's too New York."
"I am just done, pitching the stupid sitcom about the married guy living in the city. I'd rather pitch a show about a guy who lives on Mars by himself and writes his name in a pile of (expletive) every day.
"They see me coming a mile away -- these networks, with their binoculars in the windows -- and they go, 'Here comes that Italian guy we gotta say no to every year.'
"It's not the end of the world," he says. "It just gets a little aggravating, Dougyboy, that's all."
To paraphrase Woody Allen, comedy is worse than a dog-eat-dog business. It's dog call dog, dog leaves message, and dog doesn't call dog back.
Judy Gold once told Correale this story:
"She said her father died, and a comic called up and said, 'I'm sorry to hear about your father. But I see on your website you were gonna be at a club in Martha's Vineyard -- do you need someone to fill that for ya?' "
Even now, Louis C.K. won't hang out with a certain comedy club owner in New York, because the club owner once canceled a Louis gig after "somebody monstrously famous wanted to come in and play the room," Correale says.
Correale doesn't have a lot to gripe about, though. He hangs with Dave Attell, Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, Jim Norton, Tom Papa and other living legends at the comedian's table in the Comedy Cellar, where Louis films his FX show.
And he's learned a few things after his favorite comedian, Greg Giraldo, died of an accidental drug overdose.
"Everyone went to the wake," Correale says. "A week later, we were laughing in the club."
So first, Correale soon learned with Giraldo's passing that, like every other comic's demise, his jokes will begin to fade.
"Whether you're the best, or mediocre, or not known at all -- once you're gone, nobody gives a (expletive). So you gotta find your own happiness within all this, or else you're destined for a life of suckiness."
And second, if jokes die after their creators die, then why has Correale been considering his own material to be potentially immortal?
"I'm acting like 100 years from now, some kid will be sitting on his couch listening to my CD going, 'Wow, this guy!' What am I, the Beethoven of comedy? Get over yourself!"
"I'm not crying here, Dougy. I love being a stand-up. We're just talkin' honest, ya know?"
"I just got a call from a friend of mine. He says he's having a party but no alcohol. I'm like, 'Well then, you're having a meeting.' "
"I wish that the length of an orgasm and the length of a hangover could flip-flop."
Doug Elfman's column appears Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. E-mail him at delfman@ reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.