This weekend, I was listening to an old podcast of This American Life (#104 Music Lessons)*, and it gave me a bit of an existential crisis. I'll never be as funny as David Sedaris singing TV commercial jingles in the voice of Billie Holiday, so why even try?
Now, I realize that there are many humorists living perfectly happy lives and carrying on wonderfully successful careers without being as funny as David Sedaris singing in the voice of Billie Holiday. Hell, even David Sedaris has to get out of bed every morning knowing that he himself will probably not be that funny before bedtime rolls around.
But still, sometimes you encounter something done so well that it can't possibly inspire you. And I'm honestly not sure where that line is. Sarah Vowell is also on that podcast and everything she writes just makes me want to read everything she's ever written. Same thing with Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Same thing with most of what David Sedaris does. But then he sings as Billie Holiday and I want to just throw up my hands and go home. We should all just give up because no one will ever be as funny as that.
He has won funny, so funny is done now.
I don't have this reaction to things I do badly. I can appreciate great art without envy or despair because I can't draw very well. Music? I can sing, but I can't read sheet music. His Awesomeness can play several instruments by ear and it annoys me as much as it impresses me. But I still sing.
Maybe it's that I want to be funny for a living, but don't aspire to a singing career. I care about it more.
I know I can't be alone in this. What's so good that it depresses the hell out of you?
*It's a good one, that they're rerun several times, so give it a listen if you have the chance. The above clip is even better in context.