Don’t Abandon Your Bits

Last week, after a mic, I was reflecting on sets and material with a group of comics I’d just become acquainted with, and one of them painfully declares:
 

“I’ve gotta drop that bit about fat people, I like saying it but it’s just not going over.”

My Response:

“Or go all in on it….”

 
Now, I’ll not muddy this up by critiquing whether or not a “non-fat” person should be making fun of “Fat People” – This is not an editorial on content, that’s another post for another day.
 
Rather, I’d like to speak to my stance on

“DROPPING A BIT”

…I don’t believe in it*.
There are very few bits that I have ever truly given up on**. Every funny thought that I have written down remains in my pool of possible bits in perpetuity, because I thought it was funny for a very good reason and that’s why I wrote it down.
 
I encourage you to do the same.
 

So, what if the bit doesn’t get laughs?…

Well that just means you haven’t written it correctly yet.
You haven’t properly distilled the right kind of funny from it to relate to an audience.
And that’s why I say:
 
If you like the bit (or premise), then keep working on it and get deeper with it, go beyond the surface level find more angles
GO ALL IN and COMMIT…. until it IS funny.
  • Do some word association to discover all the parallel ideas to the premise
    (i.e. if the premise is “Camera Phones are weird” then think about everything that relates to Cameras and Phones…

    • then write down what those things lead to and then what those things lead to and so on…
  • Free write on the premise and see where you mind goes.
  • Think about what parts of the joke or premise get any reaction at all and then expound more in that direction.
  • Think about alternate angles that might stay true to what you like about the premise but go in a direction that might go over with the crowd better.

You might not be able to perfect it right away and you might have to give it a break, but hey, you’re a comedian – Right? – So don’t give up on your brilliant ideas.

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If you’ve got a bit you love, but no one else seems to, then lets get in touch. I offer one-on-one coaching and wrtiting assistance for individual bits or full set critiques. Contact me today or check out my Coaching Page.  I’ve got established packages, or we put together something more custom for your needs.
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Footnotes:
*Some premises you just might not be a good enough writer for yet when you think of them, so you can put those into storage for a while, until you gain the skill, experience or perspective to craft them better (for me it was a whole chunk about shopping at Goodwill that just didn’t work until years later when I was ponder the concept of Ghosts… trust me, in my act, it’s Brilliant… and I still have tons more material about Goodwill that I haven’t figured out how to fit in)
 
**There are three instances where I will essentially “Trash” or abandon a premise.
  1.  I’ve heard another comics take on it that blew me out of the water and I fully believe that it’s not worth my time to try to offer my take on it anymore

    ….. I once had some hot takes on FB posts, but after hearing another comic riff on the topic at a show I booked, I figured why bother anymore… (that comic was Jamel Johnson BTW.. if you haven’t heard of him yet, you probably will soon… and actually, now you have… go look him up.)

  2.  If the joke was topical and the time has passed or if it was about a local or regional thing that not everyone will get…

    ….. Topical material is great, but it’s got a short shelf life. I had a brilliant bit once about Ryan Lochte the Olympic Swimmer, but who cares about that guy anymore…. likewise, when I lived in Baltimore, I had a great bit about the “Giant” Grocery Chain, but no one is going to get that joke if they don’t shop at Giant, so I’ve put it to rest until such a time that I’m in the range of another Giant… and actually if Ryan Lochte makes headlines again I’ll drag about that bit again (notice how non-commital I actually am to abandoning jokes)

  3. If I have no idea what I thought was funny about it.
….this happens most commonly when trying to write down ideas while intoxicated or in some other altered state. The best use usually ends up to just read them in the context of “things I wrote down when I was drunk” and that mechanism will only go so far… some gems of mine are:
  • “how come beer..?”
  • “Horses… Goats… Applesauce”
  • “the Magna Carta”