One of the hardest things to do in comedy is let things go. When we have a bad set we let it eat us up. The comedy cliques that we aren’t associated with, eat us up. Watching comics that are far less talented that surpass us, again, eat us up.
Dealing with BS in the world of stand up comedy is like taking a muddy dump after White Castle. It’s gonna happen. All. The. Damn. Time.
As a comic we just want to kill every time we touch that mic. But that’s unrealistic. The reality is that we are going to bomb a bazillion times. What we should really be focusing on is getting as much stage time as possible and trying not to make an ass of ourselves while we’re up there. More importantly, we want to workout new bits and tags to add to our full set.
Recently I did a comedy contest. I’m not a fan of these because in many cases its all about the amount of guests you bring or how much the judges love you personally. Sometimes it depends on what the prize happens to be. If, for instance, they need a funny female comedian for whatever the prize is, no matter how funny a guy you are, you ain’t getting picked.
I suck at comedy contests and always lose, lol. But if you invite me to one tomorrow, I’ll be there. Why you ask? Because its a stage – usually with a crowd (brought by the comics). I use these shows simply as glorified open mics. A full house to test new material. It’s kind of the equivalent of Jerry Seinfeld crashing a packed bringer show and bumping all the comics that begged, pleaded and sold their souls to get their friends and family to come out.
Any-who, the room was packed and there were about 10-15 contestants. I hit the stage with confidence. In my head I was about to kill this bitch. Instead, I was lackluster. I had a strong start and kind of fizzled to minimum laughter. It wasn’t my night. So what. I started strong with a new bit and it hit – in my book, success.
The contest was fun. The room was damn near full and people came out to laugh – but only for the funniest of the funny. Comic after comic hit the mic with less than expected laughs including me. When the final comic hit the stage, he fired up the crowd and was the most engaging comic of the night. The crowd loved him the length of his set and, of course, he won the contest.
After the announcing the winner, I noticed the air in the room became darker. The true feelings of some of the comics showed. Some thought the comic that won shouldn’t have because he was a veteran. Others simply felt they were better. Some beat themselves up for not performing to peak performance. I myself, thoroughly enjoyed the night.
While some of the other comics vented their frustrations at yet another unfair comedy contest, I reveled in the fact that I got to perform in front of a full house and more importantly, in front of judges that had notable names in comedy.
I was no longer performing for the contest (like I said, I never win them anyway), I was performing for the judges. These were people responsible for the likes of Mike Epps, Martin Lawrence and even Kevin Hart. I would have liked to win the contest but, winning the admiration of the judges was far more important.
And I did. I placed forth or fifth in the contest. It didn’t matter though. I made one of the judges (the very judge I wanted to see me) laugh. As a matter of fact, he gave me his card and told me to call him. I completed my mission for the night. Simply put, every time we step on that stage we have our own personal agendas. Whether you want to be the funniest person in America or simply a working comic, you have a responsibility to yourself.
When you hit the stage, hit it for you. Every performance gets you one step closer to your ultimate goal. I enjoy every show right now. Comedy is still fun for me. I love the freedom, the power and joy that comes from entertaining the crowd. I feel complete. There’s nothing more thrilling then when your “on fire.” Or as I like to call it, my Neo moment – when Neo realized he was the one and whooped Agent Smith’s ass.
As comics, we do something incredible each and every time we hit the stage. We catch hold of our audience for a brief moment in time and take them on a journey. This is an art and a talent. Remember, we are part of an elite family that creates the purest form of entertainment – a person, a mic and a vivid imagination. That’s it.
Here are a few things to remember when you’re ready to hit AND crush the mic:
1. BE PREPARED. If it’s a five minute set prepare five mins. No time for guessing games. You can go a little short but you better not go over. Going over can lead to lost pay or lost gigs. BE PREPARED.
2. BE ON TIME. That’s it. Even better, be early. It shows your a professional and the club and booker’s time is as important as your own. This will get you booked over and over because your now trustworthy.
3. BE THICK-SKINNED. Being a comedian is the rawest and loneliest job one could have. If everything bothers you this may not be for you. I can promise you gigs will be cancelled, you may be bumped on shows, comics will talk shit about you, bookers may forget you, you could be booed or you could suck ass on back to back shows – if any of these (or a million other scenarios) have you crying, second guessing your career path or make you hate yourself, leave this alone because it never ends.
4. BE READY. Meaning your only as funny as your last show. Nothing is guaranteed when you hit that stage. Yesterday you were funniest comic on the planet, but, tonight your just were just “OK.” Now your THAT dude standing there while people pass by you to congratulate the other comics on how great they were.
I said all that to say this. Anything you love is gonna be work. Some days it’s gonna suck and sometimes the most incredible day of your life. The key is to have thick skin and remember a bad set isn’t the end of your comedy career. It’s a learning experience. You can always get better, you just have to put in the work.
So stop bitching when you have a bad set. Stop blaming the crowd when you suck. Take responsibility you bomb. Did you practice enough? Did you test new material at the open mics or do the same old shit? Stop getting in your own way and get this comedy thing popping!
Much success fellow comics, I’m out!