On starting out in comedy
Okay, so I promised a few posts ago I was gonna write some thoughts on starting out in comedy inspired by Brody’s ball-growing musings on Get Your Free Cone, such as:
Just as I feared, it’s going to take a lot of time and lot of pain to get good. The stage is still alien to me. It’s frightening and I’m pretty sure it want’s to jump on my face and lay eggs in my throat. I’m scared. Please hold me. Sounds pretty much smack bang on the mark. It does take both pain and time to get good, the question is whether you actually want it badly enough to bother going through the whole ordeal! My first experience of stand-up land came a few months after finally mustering up the effort/guts/insert-descriptor-here to start performing at a weekly improv night. It certainly wasn’t the best show in the world, it certainly didn’t draw the best crowds in the world…BUT I got the thrill of finally being onstage again, two free bears and a T-bone steak each week, plus most importantly of all: the confidence that at least a couple of people out there found me at least mildly amusing.
It was armed with this nieve confidence that I rang up and registered for a stand-up comedy competition I’d seen advertised – all without a scrap of material written. But the point was, I knew that with a deadline, I would have to come up with something. I took to the guitar for the first time in years – anyone who’s seen me perform will attest to the fact that I am gloriously hopeless when it comes to guitar playing – figuring that at least with some musical tid-bits, even if people weren’t laughing they might at least listen. Plus it would be a good shield from tomatoes.
My first time on-stage was scary, for sure. What was probably scarier though, was doing regular gigs not too long after that in a tiny little bar whose regular customers comprised a posse of construction workers who were drinking from 3 in the afternoon thanks to the drawcard of topless waitresses. By the time we got onstage at 8, they were…well, you get the idea. But…as stressful and painful as those gigs were, in hindsight they were the best thing that ever happened. Because they built my comedy muscle. Because I knew after those nights that I can deal with hecklers and not be scared. And because, as the adage goes, you do learn the most from the worst gigs. Not that I like to have a bad gig given the choice, but you do seem to reassess your set and look at what went wrong and how you can get better for next time, rather than the half minute back-slapping that comes from a good one.
Is this even making sense?
I guess my point is, that yes, comedy is painful. But that’s good because there’s already so many people trying it that I guess the pain factor weeds out those who really want it and those who can’t be bothered going through the whole shebang. But once you’ve been bitten and there’s no turning back…I think the pain is actually good for you.
Unless you start smashing yourself over the head with Sumo wrestlers. That is bad and should be highly discouraged.
PS A very interesting article on the nature of humour if you’re keen.