I was talking to my lady and she was saying how my comedy has changed over the years. Now, when I first started doing comedy, I had a more rigid structure (set lists) and my jokes were a little more absurd in nature. When I got more comfortable, I would more or less walk on stage and “write” while I was up there.
When I say write on stage, what I mean is that I had a concept or premise and I would work it out while on stage. This led to a lot of jokes I told for a long time. This is the time frame she is talking about. A time when I seem more free on stage. I didn’t have a answer other than, “I changed because of competitions”
How Competitions Can Change Your Style
My first time doing a legit competition, it took me a couple of nights to figure out that people are not doing whatever came to them before they walked on stage. They had a polished, curated amount of time that was supposed to tilt the judges opinion in their favor. My dumb ass was just walking up there talking about giraffe necks. Yeah it might be funny, but the way this goes about is more of a group discovery. What I mean by that is I would go up there with the premise and just explore it out loud. That meant it might not work because the punchline came to me while on stage. That is a very dangerous way to tell jokes in a competition atmosphere where everyone is trying to do their best work.
So after the first night of doing this I started arranging a set of jokes that went together and I thought would work, and guess what? They did. I think after that I was just conditioned into working on jokes in that way, the way others were doing it, mainly out of fear of not succeeding, or losing to people that had an automatic amount of jokes to peel off for just such an occasion.
Success With A Style Can Turn It Permanent
Once I was done with the competition and I started getting more work and working for bigger acts, I started not even attempting that style out of fear that what I was doing was the reason I got the work in the first place. That style was replaced with a return to the writing on paper and theory crafting at open mics. Instead of using open mics as a laboratory to mix different ingredients to come up with a joke, I was using it as a lot of people were using them as which is a place to strike out or rewrite material.
That meant going weeks telling mainly the same material. This hadn’t been a part of me since I started. It has gotten to the point where I will just throw out a tried and true joke whenever that fear overcomes me. I will walk off stage feeling as though I am trapped because the thing I liked most about comedy, well, at least my comedy, was slowly devolving.
How To Reverse It
I noticed this about myself way before my girlfriend brought it to my attention, but I didn’t think anyone thought any which way about what I was doing. I mean, I just thought this was the way to go about it from now on because it seemed like people more successful than me were doing it this way.
I don’t know anyway to reverse this other than to go to open mics unprepared. Five or six years ago, I would go to open mics and not have any idea what I was going to talk about for my allotted time. I would sit down and then the floodgates would open and I would get ideas and I would write them down. It didn’t matter if they were just premises or full jokes, I just wrote them (typed them because I am part cyborg) down and when my name got called I would go up and work em out. That’s what an open mic is for in my mind. A place to experiment and if the experiment worked, think about putting it in my actual act.
Working On The Mind
That isn’t the only place I need to try to reverse what has been going on however. I think my mind has been scarred from seeing what works in successful comedians and not wanting to make the journey longer by adopting a method which is not common. My mind switched from having the audience come along with me on this journey of my thoughts and turned to me trying to give them a less trying means to laughter.
What got me hooked on comedy was not getting paid to do it, but watching people enjoy the silliness I concocted out of thin cloth. This means taking this mindset not only to open mics, but also to shows where I am getting paid. I think this could return me to that former comedian that seemed relaxed and free on stage…or it could blow up in my face. But that was half the fun of this endeavor anyway.