I don’t often drink at Target, but when I do, I go viral.
It actually sounds kind of gross, to say “I’ve gone viral.” It makes it sound like I’ve gotten an infection, but my kids tell me it’s a good thing. It’s happened twice now, which is somewhat unusual. Lots of people have gone viral once: “Charlie bit my finger” was the first, then various wedding dance numbers, some proposals and, of course, Chewbacca Mom. “Chardonnay Go” was my first viral video last year. It was viewed 23 million times on my Facebook page and probably another 25 million across a few different sites. My “Back to School Rant” has 24 million views on my page and another 70 million on Bored Teachers, which means over 90 million people saw it! That’s incredible!
I don’t mention this to toot my own horn, as tempting as that sounds. I mention it because it’s taken me 15 years to do it. For most of our new followers, I came out of nowhere. For the few friends who have been watching for a while (my mom, dad, sisters, friends and kids) it’s been 15 years. That’s a long time, and I wonder how many people know it. (Not many, I’m guessing.)
In the world of social media, a kid can become famous in 10 minutes for shoving too many marshmallows into his mouth and the world goes nuts! In the comedy world, it takes years. I did it the “old-fashioned way.” I went to open mics, worked in radio, TV, comedy clubs and worked as a warm-up comic for four years. But, oddly enough, it was ranting about something I’m really passionate about that ultimately connected with people on a large scale.
I’m a mom and I’m always trying to find teachable moments for my kids. While drinking in Target doesn’t seem like a great teachable moment, it’s what happened for the 15 years prior that I think is teachable. My family has watched me run all over the country, working weekends, making videos (watched most by my mom and her quilt group), but this time they watched me become successful doing what I love—making people laugh.
My son is a senior in high school and I have no idea how he’s supposed to know what he wants to be for the rest of his life. I didn’t know until I was 30, when I took my first comedy class. Luckily, I’ve always followed my gut and I’m doing what I love.
The best part of my recent success: It happened being myself. Some of my most successful videos are when I’m sharing my thoughts and family problems with the world. I’m not a “Real Housewife of New Jersey.” I’m not a supermodel with drivers and an au pair. I’m just a mom from Jersey trying to provide for my kids while drinking some vodka at Target.
I was catching up with a friend the other day, a hardworking talented young woman trying to make her way in the entertainment industry. She seemed a bit deflated, not her usual bubbly self. I complimented her on her hard work and told her what a great job she was doing. She said, “Yeah, well, it’s not like anyone is noticing.” I said, “You know what … I’ve been doing comedy for 15 years and no one has really noticed until about three days ago. That’s a long time to follow a dream and feel like you’re not moving forward.”
Sometimes, we need to hear that we are moving forward because change—real change; the kind that changes the course of your life—almost never happens in a day, a week or a year. It takes years of hard work and, for those people who are willing to stay in the game, it pays off in spades.
If you see someone following a crazy dream, let them know you support them and how far they’ve come. Let them know that you’ve seen their progress because when you’re in the process of growing, it’s not so obvious. It’s hard to stay motivated. I’ve pursued many crazy ideas: an Off-Broadway show celebrating motherhood, a board game for wine lovers, moms and other shameless people, and a weekly internet show from my living room called Tipsy Tuesday … and 15 years later, I’m living my dream (a weird dream, I’ll admit).
Going viral wasn’t about seeing how many people would watch my video. It was about seeing how connected we are as people. It’s about knowing that no matter how big the world is we all are facing the same problems. It’s amazing to me that my message about school supplies was so universal and that it needed to be said!
Let’s continue encouraging our teachers to keep doing their amazing work. Let’s encourage our artists and dreamers to keep on creating and performing, even when they can’t see their progress, and let’s encourage our worn-out moms to keep up the good fight of raising decent people while drinking at Target.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 7 (October, 2017).
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