Musings on Being in a Comedy Band for Five Years by Sarah Shockey

After five years in the game, my favorite comedy band in Chicago, Shock T's will be dissolving in October. Sarah Shockey from Shock T's put together these thoughts about the band's time together.

First, I should say that I expected Shock T’s to last forever. There’s not much room inside me for pessimism, so when we agreed to keep doing indefinite shows after our second one, I dove in about as hard and flailing as I dive in real life.

Not even a year in Chicago, and I had found my People. Tim, Tyler and I were so similar then. New Second City graduates, hungry for stage time, willing to do as many midnight shows as it took. We felt like we were making something different than a lot of our friends. We knew of one other comedy band at the time, Margolis and Reisman, and would watch their shows in awe – glad to be trying the same thing.

We felt we had something special when we did our first show in Charleston, SC. Tim thought there was a natural disaster happening during the closing song because people were clapping and stomping their feet so hard it sounded like thunder. The show ended and I’d never felt so euphoric about anything I’d helped create in my life. It set up a pattern for me – every great show and every victory made me work harder and pull closer to the guys. Shock T’s became my identity, and I was happy about that.

It wasn’t just a comedy group. It was a deep, sudden friendship. Tyler lived in this haunted apartment full of someone’s dead grandma’s stuff. We’d lay around on the old couches eating pizza and pitching ideas. At first, it seemed like we’d never be able to keep writing funny songs. Maybe we lucked out on the first five, but early on I was still afraid we would hit the point where we didn’t have any left in us.

We always did, though. Our songs came in bundles at progressing levels. First, they were silly. Then they were silly with a tiny hint of meaning. When we realized we could actually say something with our songs, we’d beat our listeners over the head with preachy bridges. Then we learned to just make the bridge of the song funny – but in a different way than the rest of the song. It’s amazing how much we discovered together. We all got better. Tyler’s music became really impressive without vocals. Tim got so sharp that I felt like I had to run to keep up with his jokes. And my tentative early harmonies changed into confident songs. Shock T’s became my sole point of pride.

We set goals to tour. We did every festival we could get into. We found that we traveled well together. Whenever we had downtime, we’d seek out a movie theater, preferably the kind where you could order full meals. Or we’d hang out at an arcade. After a while, we would combine all of our tickets to get souvenirs for people after our shows: fortune telling fish, slap bracelets, etc.  We applied to perform at colleges and began to assume our careers would be touring for a while, until we settled in New York or LA and made it. At one point, we even agreed to stop buying each other jokey, stupid crap for Christmas and get each other real presents. I got some of my favorite gifts of all time from the guys – a camping tent from Tyler and Pride & Prejudice: The Board Game from Tim.

It wasn’t always easy, but with every decision we made, every project we completed, I felt like we were closer than ever to a career. We put out a live album. We worked harder than ever on a TV pilot. We wrote new material and began a stop motion music video. I had become this insufferably confident person. When people talked to me about feeling lost and not knowing where to take their art or their career, I would reply that I was so lucky I knew what mine was: Shock T’s. I’m having these flashbacks of people saying how lucky I was and how they wished they had that. I’m wishing I had been more empathetic.

The truth is, my greatest fear this whole time would be that Tim or Tyler would die, and that I would have to get on with my life without Shock T’s. It never occurred to me that perhaps no one would die, but that the passion wouldn’t live on for all of us.

About a week ago, Tyler came back from a two-week vacation and announced he would like a hiatus from Shock T’s. Tim and I immediately asked if that meant Shock T’s was over. After a couple of very difficult back and forth days, Tyler said that he couldn’t see himself continuing with Shock T’s, that he would never want to live in New York or LA, but he appreciated the time he spent doing it. The decision wasn’t born from fighting or a lack of friendship or love. It came because his personal and creative needs shifted. It was time for a change. So that was the end. I was forced to face my greatest fear, only – thankfully - without the death part.

And here I am, still facing it. We are wrapping up our shows through October and finishing our final music video. Every show moves the clock forward. I simultaneously want to live in those moments onstage with the guys forever, but also have them be over for good. There’s so much work to be done to end things the way I want them to – but then, there’s the part of me that doesn’t want things to end at all.

It feels a bit like a death and a bit like a divorce, but at the same time, there’s this brimming feeling in my chest of hope and excitement. I’m looking forward to finding out what I have to say on my own. I’m excited to work with more people on new projects – the kind of things I said no to for years because Shock T’s was my main focus.

I’m also lost and not knowing where to take my art or career. I can truly be empathetic now, and probably will be for the rest of my life. No one really knows, I think. It was easy to feel confident when I had my best friends to lean on after every show and before every big decision, because our paths were one and the same. But no one’s path is truly the same, because we are all individuals with our own voice and our own hopes.

I don’t regret the work I put into Shock T’s. Not one bit. If anything, it taught me about discipline and about putting every part of me into something I love, and it gave me two of the greatest friends I’ve ever had. In a way, it was the best training for my future career I could have had. I will always love Shock T’s and I’m grateful to the people who loved it with us. Thank you to everyone who came to shows, booked us, had us on their podcast, pulled lights for us, and directed videos with us. Thanks to everyone who came up after shows and talked to us. But mostly, thanks to Tim and Tyler for being an incredible part of my life and two of my best friends.

-Sarah Shockey