Tuesday, March 29, 2005

How to Be a Successful Comic

How to Become a Successful Comic
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.


bradley5 said...

Hey I'm just a good old university student at the University of winnipeg and I have been thinking for a while about doing some open mic stuff, I actually had the will power to put some of my jokes on paper, I really don't know how I'll get them into a five minute open mic set.... heres my main problem though I have trouble finding my style I always feel like I'm copying somebody, I mean I try to take pieces from all my favorite comics, like good old jerry sein to mitch headberg to larry david to maddox(know he's not stand up, but he could be) and many others... is it possible to have your own style? or is everybodies style just a mix of the greats before them?

Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

I have way much admiration for you folks that can get up on stage with the mic sucking in every word. Those that laugh with you from the audience, THANK YOU!

Laura Swisher said...

Bradley, most likely you ARE copying the styles of those you admire. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do your thing. Just get as much stage time as you can and, eventually, you'll start to discover a style that works for you. Good luck!

c_neil said...

Got any good(bad) examples of hacky material?

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