In twelve years of stand-up comedy, I have seen comedians on every level just peter out and get complacent. It is actually really sad to see someone who may have the potential to grow into something more, just stall out. This will not be for those of you who consider comedy a hobby. If comedy is something you do because you want to work out some issues or because you thought it would be fun and then you did it a couple of times there is nothing wrong with that. This is strictly for those that aim for bigger things, but just stopped growing along the way. Ok. Here we go.
Why some people get stuck in one spot in their career and never seem to go anywhere else? Many reasons. The biggest I have seen is they don’t write! I don’t know how many comedians I see while performing that are still doing jokes that you know they wrote about 20 years ago. Bill Clinton impression? Monica Lewinsky? Really? They get work still in bars and lower level rooms because those people just want comedy, not anything to move the needle. They don’t get work at bigger rooms because they haven’t changed their act since the Clinton administration. I don’t feel bad for these people at all! You have one job, make people laugh! If you can’t update your material to make the most amount of people in the room laugh then you can’t be helped.
Some people get comfortable because they can’t physically get any further because they get in their own way. The comic that drinks or abuses drugs and can’t get much work because they are a liability. This is sad as hell. I have seen some great comedians get destroyed by alcohol and drugs. They write, and can perform great…when they are not wasted. I can’t speak much on this because I do not drink or use any drugs. I have just observed comedians that were on top of their game be reduced to hosting bar shows forever because it gets them enough money to buy a burger and a free tab.
If you don’t fall into those above categories then there may still be hope! One of the best ways to combat just falling into a rut is to write and perform. Writing isn’t enough because that is only one step in the process of stand-up comedy. I see comedians that I have worked with for years that have sworn off open mics for whatever reason, and yet they are still doing the same material from years ago. We should always strive to write the best material we can, and there is no end to that! You may think that the material you have now is perfect, but I guarantee you that if you keep writing you will come up with even better material. I try to never stop writing because I feel that I have not broken the code on the joke that will never not work. I am always looking for that joke, and then once I find it, I want to see if I can get enough of them to have a perfect performance. So, that means getting up and perfecting the jokes that come out of my mouth. Only getting up can do that for me, hence why I am at open mics.
You should not think of your act as a painting. You should think of it like a less murdery Frankenstein monster. You should always look to add and do more to create the biggest baddest abomination you can.