As an entertainer, you will be given advice from damn near everyone. Other comedians, singers, DJs, your mom, your uncle, the local methhead, they all think they have the advice to get you going. The problem is, not all advice is good. It may seem good, until you think about it for more than a minute. Here is some of the advice I have received and why I think it is terrible.
Always have a street joke ready to tell (in case you lose the audience etc.)
No. I don’t (intentionally) tell street jokes. Why? Because any comedian can memorize a street joke. The audience is there for my take on familiar topics, not to hear a joke that their dad can tell during a barbecue. I think this sprung up from the early days of comedy when there was just a bucket of jokes out there, and comedians would just pull from that bucket and tell those jokes. Nowadays, no one wants that. Even if the crowd is about to decapitate me, I would rather get them back by telling jokes I wrote then by a worn out joke that most comedy fans have heard.
You should get on “Name of TV competition”.
That sounds like a great idea! How did I never think of that? I mean I was telling jokes in this bar with hopes that a drunk TV exec would see me and give me a million dollars and my own TV show. EVERY comedian has thought about getting on ‘Last Comic Standing’ or ‘America’s Got Talent’ to jump start their careers. That’s the problem though, EVERY comedian is trying to get on those shows, so it is not just a case of walking up to the set and getting a moneycheck. TV producers know this so they have lots of measures to make sure only the people that make good TV get seen. So, you either have to be unique in say background (first female lesbian brown bear) or have an agent that can arrange to get you on these shows. If you are just a white guy that tells funny jokes about the internet, it will be really hard to get on these types of shows because white guys are everywhere. If you are other than white, it is still difficult because you are now competing for a limited number of spots. I did a showcase this month for Just For Laughs. There are only so many spots for no names like me and they auditioned a couple thousand comedians. This isn’t even advice, it’s just a statement. It’s like saying, “you should fly like superman” or “You should buy a castle.”
Don’t tell the audience sad stuff
There is a limit to the amount of sad shit you want to hear from a comedian, but there is something to telling an audience something so personal about yourself and being able to make light of it. When I was in the military, I had to take all these test to see if I had some kind of cancer. It turned out to be lupus, but the result of that was about five minutes of material about the experience. I did it one night at a show and it received a lukewarm response. Later a veteran comedian came up to me and told me this piece of advice. It wasn’t that audiences didn’t want to hear my misfortune. The best jokes ever told on stage are about mishaps. I just wasn’t skilled enough to make it palatable for a bunch of strangers on a Sunday night. Audiences will more than likely ride with you on almost anything if the payoff is worth it. 60% of my last album was me talking about my heart attack and the struggles afterward. It can be done if you know how to approach it.
I think that is enough of me banging at this keyboard, I may do another one of these if this one gets the clicks. Hit me up on my website harryjriley.com or on all the social media stuff. I can be found under KingPeppersnake damn near everywhere.