I’ve read about people in prominent positions (such as the CEO of an enormous corporation, or the star of a hugely successful TV program) who have said, at the height of their success, something along the lines of “I know any moment, everyone is going to realize what a fraud I am.”
Extrapolate, if you will (and if you don’t know what extrapolation is……….you can’t contract a disease from it, but you should look it up, anyway), this “fraud-exposure-anxiety” to how you’d feel as a performing comedian. It’s frightening, because the audience’s laugh response very much relates to your level of confidence. If they smell fear, they will not laugh. Don’t let ‘em smell it. Stay confident. And use deodorant.
I imagine that, at some point, if a person achieves huge success, this neurotic sense of impending exposure might disappear due to an excessive number of sycophantic people telling them they’re truly great. They could actually begin to believe this on an unconscious (or even conscious) level. That’s when, I think, some kind of switch gets flipped, and these people officially become assholes. I’ve often wondered about that very transition when I hear someone tell the tale of a person they knew who used to be nice but then got successful and full of themselves and turned into a douchebag.
Bottom line: don’t ever believe all your good press while ignoring the bad. Just believe in both. It’s all part of being able to live with shades of gray. Once folks realize this universe ain’t just a black and white place, they’ll feel a lot more like they’ve got it made in the shade.