March 29, 2005
Because I get this question emailed to me a lot, I've decided to try and answer it as a post, instead of sending out individual responses, which I'm often bad at following up on.
A lot of people who consider a "career" in comedy have been told by friends that they should do stand-up because they're hilarious. They'll hear, "Dude, you should tell that story on stage, man."
Wait, before I go any further, I should point out that it would be a good idea to ask a successful comic how to become a successful comic. I was about to make a crack that you should probably ask someone like Dave Attell, who might not actually answer you, but then I went to his website and discovered that he actually answers that very question on his home page. Here's what he says:
I've been getting a lot of e-mail from aspiring comedians who want to break into the exciting world of stand-up comedy and want my advice.
Well, if you want to spend your life going from airport to club to strip club to ATM back to strip club and then masturbating in a hotel room, then this is the career for you. The only advice I have is this: Go to your local comedy club and go up on an open mic night, and keep doing it over and over. There are no shortcuts or words of wisdom; it's different for everybody. And always remember, what the fuck do I know?
Good luck, God bless, Dave Attell.
Guess what? That's pretty much the advice I give, minus the airport/strip club/ATM part. The only thing I add is that it's a good idea to plan on sucking for some time. I'd even go so far as to say that should almost be a goal. Not a goal in the sense that you should try and suck, but that you won't allow yourself to quit until you've had, say, 50-60 sucky attempts in a row. The logic behind this is that there's a learning curve, and that it takes a while to figure out how to talk on stage, because it's a lot different than how you might write. And there's timing, and finding your own voice, and moving away from obvious, hacky material, and a whole mess of other stuff you'll learn as you attempt this yourself.
How can you tell if you're getting good or not? The audience will tell you. And what the audience won't tell you, other comics will. So go forth and be funny if that's your leaning.
And if you figure out how to become a successful comic, let me know.