Grown men don’t cry. That’s the prevailing wisdom. Whatever great tragedy or deep sadness they deal with, men are supposed to keep their feelings bottled up inside and present a calm, stoic public demeanor. If a man cries publicly, you can be sure that he has been profoundly moved.
You can become someone who will move grown men to tears. The question is, will you be an inspiration? Or a source of pain? Two famous comedians, Bill Burr and Louis C.K., have spoken about individuals who had that level of impact in their lives, one positive and one negative.
Bill Burr is one of the most successful comedians in the world. He has sold out Madison Square Garden, has acted in shows like Breaking Bad and F Is for Family, and runs a successful weekly podcast, to name just a few accomplishments. He is known for his style of always pushing uncomfortable topics with glee, having stated that he’s having the most fun when 20% of the audience is alienated. All of the above made his story of his father all the more remarkable when Burr recounted a tale of Christmas from when he was six years old. His strict, borderline abusive dad chided him growing up for joking around (his comedic talent apparently started young), comparing him to a giggling little girl. One Christmas, Burr received a doll from his father to mock his budding love of comedy. When recounting the story, Burr, a seasoned veteran of performance, had great difficulty struggling through the story of that Christmas, choking up several times. Many decades later, the mere memory of a minor prank by his father could still bring a very successful man to tears.
On the other side of the equation we have Louis C.K., arguably one of the most successful comedians of all time. He is a veritable force of nature in the entertainment industry, writing, directing, producing, and acting in numerous shows (foremost among them being the critically-acclaimed semi-autobiographical Louie), in addition to being a legendary comic. While performing at a benefit in honor of the recently departed comedic powerhouse George Carlin, he spoke to how Carlin had changed his life, from initially inspiring him to take up comedy to providing a constant example of success in his field. C.K. recounted how, when he was in a 15-year slump and thinking about quitting, he looked at how he had been working for over a decade on an hour of mediocre material, whereas Carlin threw out all his old routine and started fresh every year. C.K. was blown away by this, and had been too terrified to do the same, but decided to draw courage from his idol to attempt to emulate his success. Years later, he recounted how he was taping a successful comedy special at the same time as Carlin, and tearfully stated how honored he was to be doing the same thing at the same time as his hero. C.K. maintained that “Anything that ever happens to me that’s good is due to this guy.”
We don’t always get to consciously choose our legacy once we’re gone. Countless individuals like Bill Burr’s father and George Carlin have left lasting, profound impacts on the people whose lives they touched without even knowing. What is up to us is the example we set. We can choose to be someone of achievement, courage, and inspiration, or a source of pain, fear, and regret. How will you choose to make a grown man cry?