Parents have seen this before. Your first child was walking at 9 months, talking at 16 months and went off the college at the age of 13. Your second child…Not so advanced. Instead of throwing that dumb kid in the trash, you should probably understand that not everyone follows the same path. That was a round about way of getting into the blog this week, but I think it is a pretty good (if not exaggerated) example. This week we are going to talk about why you shouldn’t base your comedy career on the success of your peers.
I have been doing comedy for a decade now. I play the occasional club, but I am mostly in the lower tier when it comes to comedians in the country. Now, there are some comics that have been doing it for 10 years that have vastly more successful careers than I do at this point. It was hard at first to understand why they were successful and I wasn’t. I questioned my abilities constantly. All that did was drive me down a path I feel from time to time from other comics. That bitterness that I am not a success, but they are. What I had to do was look at the situation from a non emotional angle, and it has helped me focus more on me and my career than on others.
I believe the issue at hand, is that we tend to look toward the outside world for indications that what we are doing is correct. For entertainers, it is very easy, we just look at our peers and try to gauge where we should land if given the same amount of time. The problem with that, is these things are not constant. Comedy isn’t the law of gravity in that there is a prescribed way to see it work. That means that you can not look at someone that has been performing comedy for the same amount of time as you and assume that you should be in that position.
I see it all the time. Comic A has been performing comedy for 2 years. Comic B has been performing for 9 months. Comic A hasn’t featured at the local clubs, but Comic B has featured, and has had success in other areas (like a write up in the paper or a theater show). Comic A gets angry because they have been doing it longer, but hasn’t had those opportunities. They start to believe that Comic B is somehow doing something nefarious to get those opportunities. It is even worse if Comic B just so happens to be a female, because then it is assume that Comic B is doing sexually nefarious stuff to get those shows. You see where this becomes a problem.
The thing is, If Comic A were honest with themselves, then maybe they could point to exactly why they haven’t had the same success as Comic B. First, just because you have been doing it for longer, doesn’t mean you took advantage of that time. Did Comic A go out as much as possible during those 2 years or just every couple of months? Is Comic A writing and working out material at the same pace as Comic B? Those two things right there can explain a lot! Some comics believe that as soon as you touch that stage the timer starts on when they can expect certain things. Just like in life, it doesn’t work that way. You get out what you put in a lot of the time. 85% of all situations like this can be explained away by looking at the work each comic is putting in. If you are sitting on your ass mopping around while the other comics are out there working on their material and getting on stage, you can’t expect to show up and do as well as them.
Those aren’t the only reasons why Comic A and Comic B are progressing differently. Maybe Comic B is a better writer. Some comics can just write material and are able to produce it on stage better than others. Maybe Comic A isn’t too sure of their newly written material, so they don’t ever try it out on stage, they just do the same 5 minutes that they have had since day one and no one with any ability to put them on a show has seen progress. Maybe Comic B is a better salesman. People who can go and get their name out there, have a tendency to advance quicker than the person that doesn’t even promote their shows so their own family can see it. Maybe Comic A isn’t as confident that they are funny. That shows. Maybe Comic B goes to shows in the area and so they get seen by other comics that are also putting on shows and so they build a network. Or, and this is the one that may cause Comic A to kick over a bucket of milk: Maybe Comic B is a likable person. Maybe they have attributes that are lovely to be around. They show up for shows they are put on, they don’t run out on their tab, they don’t get drunk and try to fondle people. Their are many reasons that can cause two comics to veer off onto different paths. Including just plain old luck. Some people will just rise above the rest for no reason. Can you explain why some comics blast off and make millions a year while others don’t? Sometimes, just luck.
I feel into that trap about five years in. Then I took a long hard look in the mirror. I was in college at the time and so I wasn’t on the road. I am not that outgoing of a person, so I wouldn’t talk to other comedians that I was around. Those things immediately came to me as reasons why wasn’t as successful as my peers at the time. The comics that I came up with left Spokane and went to bigger cities so they could get more opportunities. Some knew people that could get them jump started. Most worked their asses off and a one got lucky on a scratch off lottery ticket. I stopped focusing on that and I just took every chance that came my way and I am happy with how my career is progressing. I get to do shows, and I get paid money, and I am not living in a hut made out of discarded aluminum foil. I focus on my career and when someone I know is doing well, it fills me with happiness now instead of sadness. In life, the guy that was the douche in high school ends up getting a sweet ass job and owning a jet ski. Don’t let that consume you. Or you will end up one of those bitter people that blame all of their problems on the world.