Point and Counter-Point
Unsolicited advice for moving forward and also looking back
I’ve been doing comedy for about 5 years now… which is to say that I made my first attempt at standup 5 years ago and have continued since then. I’m a toddler in the scene. I produce a few shows and I have people that respect my ideas, but I still have to work a day job and I don’t expect to be getting an audition on Last Comic Standing anytime soon.
I’m not at the bottom of my scene, but I’m not an elder statesman either so I still get plenty of advice from those with more time in than me. My position is not a unique one, there is always going to be someone ahead of you and someone behind you. There are those that have started with me or a few years behind me who have “surpassed me” and there are those that I have “Surpassed.”
What I present here are just a few thoughts (ahem, actually more like grievances, I’ll admit) that I would like to share broadly to anyone ahead of me or behind me, or even neck and neck with me, in the quest for comedic glory.
Knock it off with the cynicism and the complaining about the perceived shitty gig/ open mic you’re currently on.
We get it, you just opened for Paul Provenza last night, and now you’re at a podunk open mic scrambling for laughs with the rest of us. At least you get to open for big names and do clubs and people ask you to do gigs. All the other comics would love to be where you are so quit acting like your life sucks, cause it doesn’t…. at least not as bad as you act like it does.
Also, if it’s a showcase where people had to submit and be selected, stop belittling it like it’s a “nothing opportunity.” It might not be a big deal to you, and it probably won’t amount to anything more than another set and a possible pay check for anyone, but some of us are still excited about it.
Stop being so excited all the time about everything. Nothing is your big break. It’s fine to be enthusiastic and optimistic, but one appearance is not going to break you out to the world. A gig might expose you to a different booker or some other new opportunity, but ultimately, It’s only through perseverance and persistence that you will succeed.
Stop acting like things don’t matter…
True, not many things really do matter. The contests and industry showcases that we all get excited about in the beginning never do lead to anything that they should for anyone, but someone has to win and there is a reason to do them (exposure and practice). Quit acting like you were never excited about that stuff either. Comedy is a marathon grind and we all just have to keep driving at it until someone notices and we get a little boost.
Stop Acting like everything matters…
Nothing matters, except when it does… Every show is important until you’re done, but then whether you crushed or bombed, it really doesn’t matter. Listen to your recording, take some notes, learn from the experience and then move on.
If you don’t feel like offering advice or talking about the craft just say so…
I did a show with Seaton Smith the day after he was announced as a co-star on John Mulaney’s TV show. Afterwards, I really wanted to get his take on moving to NYC and getting established in the business. I remember seeing him when I first started out and he was the hot young guy. I remember seeing him do his first show shortly after he decided to do comedy full time. He may not remember me (ever) but I remember seeing him before he went to NYC and it’s awesome for me to see his star rise… He knew I wanted to to pick his brain and I think he’d have been happy to talk with me, but he said “listen man, I’ll tell you about it later, but I’m really tired of talking about this stuff right now.” Later has yet to come, but I respect him for just being up front about his personal limitation at the moment. I got more from him just saying “I don’t’ want to talk about it right now.” Than I would have from him letting his exhaustion come through as he tried to explain the reality of NYC comedy to me.
Always ask for advice and tips from people you admire, but realize that some folks don’t feel comfortable giving advice or just might not be in the mood right then. Don’t take it personal.
Just accept the fact that you’re a role model and you do have something that we might find helpful. It’s all well and good to take the Charles Barkley route, but you’re still the guy headlining and we want to know what we can do to get there. At least come up with a generic answer about how you got to where you are.
Be careful who you look up to and how you approach them for advice. If someone has a reputation as being caustic or abrasive off stage or acts that way onstage, you might want to let them have their space until you can tactfully solicit some wisdom. True there are comics that are super friendly to other comics no matter the circumstances, but if he’s a pitbull on stage, he’ll more than likely be a pitbull off.
Quit acting like you don’t work hard on your craft. You’re not fooling anyone. You may have an “unconventional “ methodology for working stuff out but don’t act like you just fart out genius. Whether you’re sitting for 8 hours a day constructing the perfect economy of words and debating your use of “is” or hitting 6 and 7 mics a night so you can work it all out on stage. You are working your ass off and it shows. That’s how you got to where you are. Stop being coy about your work ethic. Even if your “work ethic” is rustling up a cocktail of drugs and alcohol and self-medicating yourself into frenzy, you’re still working your ass off to get that fucked up to be creative.
Work hard. If you think you work hard already, then work even harder. It might be tough to figure out what method works best for you at first and the same method may not always work, but experiment and try some out – I’d recommend that you not choose the one involving copious amounts of drugs and alcohol, cause that’s just hard to maintain and sucks away all the money you should use for food, lodging and auto-maintenance, and you’ll eventually die from it (and that aint funny) – But, just be sure to throw yourself into it and commit. If something isn’t working then try something else. Just keep on Keeping on.
*Bonus Tip For All:
Try not to write passive aggressive blog posts that may or may not be about people might be around sometimes, but if you do, be prepared to defend your thoughts via a heated conversation at the next open mic, and if all else fails always close them out by saying. “I love you and I respect you as a person and a comedian, even if I don’t agree with your attitude or behavior in certain circumstances.”
And with that I will close with a shout out to all the comics everywhere, whether they’re ahead of me and behind me.
I love you and I respect you as a person and a comedian, even if I don’t agree with your attitude or behavior in certain circumstances…