While pursuing your comedy career there are things you will learn. Sometimes you will have a great mentor that will show you and teach you things. Most of the time however, you will run headfirst into a lesson and it will be hard and it will sting, but in the end, you will be better because of it. Here are some of the hardest lessons I have had to learn as a comedian (and just life in general).
Kill your babies: This was something I learned in a creative writing class, and it translates perfectly to comedy. What kill your babies mean, is that you should not be so attached to your material that you keep it in spite of the fact that it is not really good. Everyone has written a joke that just doesn’t fire like they thought it would. Sometimes a rewrite will do the trick or the situation will improve the jokes punch, but a large percentage of the time it is simply the joke doesn’t work. I will throw a joke out quick if I realize they aren’t doing what I want them. I feel a lot of the reasons comedians don’t do this is because of pride and laziness. You think everything that you put out there will work and that isn’t the case. And I say laziness because a lot of comics ride the cusp as far as material. If they say they have 15, they have about 10 and that time comprises of jokes that they keep doing in spite of the fact that it isn’t really good just so they can get to a certain time limit.
Learn when to leave the stage: Mike Wally Walter told me this one night as I was hosting a show he was headlining and the feature was up there dying. Sometimes we feel as though we should do our time because that is what we are contractually obligated to do. That is not the case if you are not doing well. Whatever the reason, if you are not doing good work, pull the cord. It is like a pitcher in baseball. The starter is expected to go a certain amount of time, but if he is getting rocked (giving up hits, walking guys), then he gets taken out. We as comedians usually don’t have anyone there to do that for us, so we have to be aware of these things. Oh, and to promoters and bookers: If you hire someone and they stunk up the place you should still pay them. You don’t have to hire them afterward if you think they are terrible, but you should still have to pay them dammit.
Impressions are important: When I first started, I just went up on stage with whatever I was wearing that day. As I got more and more shows, I noticed that people reacted to me depending on how I looked when I walked on that stage. Look, I understand that jokes should be the determining factor in whether you get laughs or not, but we are talking about people, and most people are not logical in their thinking. They carry baggage with them to the show. If you are dressed like a hobo then they will treat you like a hobo. If you are dressed like you appreciate the 12 bucks they spent to get in then they will treat you accordingly. I am not saying you have to wear a suit, but damn…iron your batman shirt at least.
You don’t deserve anything until you get it: We talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but it is important to say again. You can’t just expect things to happen. You have to make them happen. I got into the San Francisco and the Seattle comedy competitions because I did what they asked and got selected. You can’t get in if you never fill out the form. You can’t get work if you are not sending out emails and connecting with people. If you think you deserve it then don’t sit there, GO GET IT!
I think that is a good place to stop for today. This was not the end of the list so we may do another one down the road. I may also write articles on these topics later, I just don’t know yet. As always I appreciate you taking the time to read my dribble and I hope you have a great week!