I have always thought, as a human and comedian, that one of the most important gifts we can have is that of self awareness. The ability to measure ourselves properly without having ego or self doubt messing with that equation. As people, and comedians, we all have things we wish we could work on. I am going to talk about ways we can all do that.
Almost every comic I talk to has something they want to work on. Either it’s their writing or their stage presence or their ability to get more work, we all have something that if tackled, will make us better comedians. Lets talk about writing, a lot of people have trouble with it. I think what you have to do first is see wether it is your inability to write that is the problem, or your inability to change. We are creatures of habit. We tend to keep doing what is comfortable (even if it hurts us), or successful. If you have a solid 20-25 minutes, and you haven’t been writing then you may just be comfortable with it. What you would want to do then is take either older jokes and rewrite them to fit what you are doing now (if your style is changed much), and throw it into your set instead of doing the same jokes in the same order. You can also look at the material you have now and see if there are ways you can get more out of that material. We all have that material that we could get a couple of jokes more out of, but we leave it as is.
If you are not set in your ways with your material and you just haven’t been writing then check your surroundings. A lot of comedians don’t live in a beach house or a house over looking the mountains. Most are in some apartment with roommates and that can really take away from your writing. Do you have small children? You ain’t getting nothing done with an ankle biter running around with scissors. So change that! Go to a coffee shop for an hour or two or if you need more structure, get some other comedians together and have a writing session. I am not a fan of these because I like to write my jokes without much input, but it may work for you.
Now let’s talk about stage presence. That is the difference from looking like you know how to do comedy and looking like a first timer. There is only one sure fire way to get better at this: getting up on stage. There is nothing that will make you more comfortable on stage then actually being up there. What that does is it let’s you see that the stage won’t bite. If that doesn’t seem to be doing it for you then you can always just work on your material in a mirror. I know it sounds stupid, but what that does is it puts your material in your head so you will not be using up “head space” trying to get the little details of a joke out. That way, you are not just sitting there worrying about what people are thinking. Start going to more open mics. All this does is get you in front of different types of crowds.
If you are a comedian and looking for work I know it seems like a weakness when you can’t seem to get more than one show a month and everyone you used to do open mics with are doing comedy all over the country. Look, the first thing you have to do is stop looking at everyone else as a measuring stick. Not everyone can get the same opportunities. Not everyone is going to get the same amount of work at the same time. Now, after you are done worrying, what you should do is be honest with yourself. Do you have the best promotional package you can gather together? Do you have contacts that can help you get into clubs? Are you being persistent? That is my biggest problem. I am not always consistent in how I get in contact with people. One month I will be sending out emails like crazy and the next month I am not doing any of that wondering why I am not getting that much work. It can get you down and you will end up doing less and less until you are a really funny hobo. Don’t let that happen! Get your head shot and write up a resume and get a great demo of your act and then go out there and start grinding. People are going to say no and not yet, but that is the nature of the beast. What you have to do is keep at it, and once the work comes in you have to understand that that isn’t the last of it. You have to keep going. Kind of like exercise, but you won’t be out of breath.