The trench of my stomach felt twisted — I was nervous, standing there, trying not to show my anxiety. There is nothing in the world more stimulating than the matched feelings of anticipation and panic. I was about to go on the air for the first time to an average listenership of 125,000 people in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Ten seconds to air … I swallowed the lump in my throat one last time and converted my fear into fuel!
In the 1990’s, before I became a stand-up comedian, I worked in radio. My bipolar-gift drives my aspiration to take on tasks that most people fear, like public speaking, whether on stage or on the airwaves. I started as an intern in Dallas, at the station mentioned above and took some regular on-air gigs at smaller stations. Local radio was a powerful medium, especially before podcasts, internet and satellite radio. Back then, everybody listened to a local radio station and DJs were regional celebrities.
I was a real Texas Country & Western radio DJ! One particular job, was the night shift at a small town station, We played everything from Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams Sr. to Haggard & Jones, Waylon & Willie, Bocephus, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. When you walked into the DJ control room, you could smell the musk of old vinyl records. Wood panel walls held up a brown yellowish stained ceiling that absorbed years of smoke and sad-toned guitar and fiddle music. Even now I miss The Highwaymen who are dying all around us.
While on the air, I smoked cigarettes and took requests from the type of people who called AM radio stations at night — and before the internet, there were a lot of them! It was the best loneliest job I ever had.
Yep, I loved the authentic country sound that sang about getting drunk, shooting people, and going to prison.
Along with my regular hours, I was offered the Sunday morning gospel shift. It was a six hours consisting of four hours of straight on-air, then one hour of a pre-recorded tape from a preacher and ending the shift with a one hour live feed from a Baptist church in town. Oh yeah, this was rural Texas and If you weren’t Baptist, well then ….”f#@* you kindly and go to Hell!”
With the preacher’s tape and the church service, I had two hours to kill, so I would spank-off a lot in the other room while the church sermon was on the air. Obviously I was bored at work. Every time I turned on the mic, I sounded like I was still half asleep. At times bipolar makes me feel ambitious, other times I feel immobile. Plus, I didn’t think anyone would be listening that early, so I wasn’t doing my best job.
Then one Sunday morning everything changed. I got a call from a listener. Up until then I don’t think the phone ever rang during the gospel shift.
The frail voice of an elderly man on the other end, “I just wanted to tell you, I really enjoy listening to your show. I am ninety-four years old; I’m blind and live by myself. My radio is all I have and just wanted to say, I look forward to your show every week.”
I talked with charisma into the microphone like 2 million fans were listening. Even if the only person listening was that old man, I was going to dish out every ounce of soul I had.
I learned to put my stamp of pride on every task I accept. I never take for granted my bipolar-gift that allows me to perform my talents and chase my desires. If I strike out, then I go down swinging that bat as hard as I can!
Standup Comedian – Writer – Lover – Bastard
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Disclaimer: This blog is NOT a guide to help. I am NOT a doctor, nurse, therapist or a counselor. I am just a Stand-Up Comedian who has Bipolar2. There are people out there wanting to assist you. I wish you all the best in your journey. You are not alone; there are millions of us just like you that are making advancements in our lives with Bipolar. No more social stigma, this is OUR time! Take advantage of the moment! Never stop discovering who you really are. Thank you for reading my blog.
For more information call NDMDA Depression Hotline Support Group at (800) 826-3632, U.S. Suicide Hotline at (800) 784-2433, or contact your nearest county hospital’s mental health unit for further direction on how to improve your life.
** “Psycho Billy Cadillac” from the song One Piece at a Time written by Wayne Kemp recorded by Johnny Cash
“Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.” — Don Miguel Ruiz
(All photos public domain)
Danny Keaton is a national touring comedian who lives in Los Angeles. He is also a writer, lover and a bastard with Bipolar disorder. Danny is your average person with a mental illness seeking redemption and a non-religious spiritual salvation through love and self-acceptance. Many times he is not aware when highs and lows kick in; to him it is part of his distorted reality. Check out Danny’s website at www.DannyKeatonComedy.com or follow him on www.Twitter.com/DannyKeaton