You Know WHAT you want... But do you have the right TOOLS to achieve it? HumorMall is dedicated to helping YOU achieve your dream.
Every comic I know is somewhat insecure, although most of them manage to hide it well. The only individual difference is how this insecurity manifests itself. For easy reference, I've broken the Insecure Comic down into five easy categories:
The "How-Ya-Doing-Comic," always replies to the polite and often rhetorical question of how things are going by spewing off the updated version of his / her resume. This is often best shown through a dramatic reenactment or role play. Grab a partner and pick a part.
Comic 1: "How you doing?"
Comic 2: "Oh, great. I just did a college in Pennsylvania. I booked a festival in Canada. I shot a commercial and a promo for Comedy Central and I just pitched my screenplay to a production company. How are you doing?"
Comic 1: "I'm grrr..."
Comic 2: then walks away because he / she doesn't really care to hear your answer and someone more important than you, just walked in.
There's also the "What-About-Me-Comic." This performer often feels that everyone is getting a piece of the entertainment pie, but him / her. A conversation with this particular breed of insecure comedian might go something like this:
Comic 1: "What shows are you doing in the festival?"
Comic 2: "What festival?"
Comic 1: "You know, the Laughing Ladies Festival, sponsored by Tampax, Advil and Hagen-daas."
Comic 2: "I did it last year. I didn't know they cast it already. I wonder if my agent got them a tape. (panic escalates) Do you know who's in it?"
Comic 1: "Sally x, Barbara y, Molly..."
Comic 2: "SALLY X AND BARBARA Y! SALLY X AND BARBARA Y HAVEN'T BEEN FUNNY A DAY IN THEIR LIVES. I AM MUCH FUNNIER THAN THEY WILL EVER BE. THIS IS BULLSHIT. MAYBE THE PEOPLE AT TAMPAX HAVEN'T SEEN ANY OF MY NEW STUFF. YEAH, THAT'S IT. I KNOW THEY HAVEN'T SEEN ME SINCE THAT DEF JAM FESTIVAL SPONSORED BY KFC. THAT'S IT. I'LL SEND THEM A NEW TAPE."
The next two categories (the "Performer-Physical-Comic-without-an-Agent-Comic") and (The "Comic-Who-Hangs-Out-With-The-Cerebral-Comic-With-An-Agent-Comic") are self explanatory so I won't bore you by describing them.
My only hope is that after five years in the biz and yes, I've been at it about five years, (most comedians lie about the duration of their experience like Joan Rivers lies about her age) is that perhaps I've accumulated some small amount of sage advice that can be passed along to others in an effort to keep their spirits alive.
(Who am I kidding? Comedian Type #6 - "The Comic-Turned-Self-Empowerment-Advocate-Speaker and Lecturer."Please help yourself to my book, Crowd Work, What To Do When Comedy Gets Personal. Also, keep in mind, at five years, I'm still a rookie. It takes ten to fifteen years to master any craft. It's something you do for the rest of your life. Stop worrying about your age and just get some more stage time.)
I don't think I can inspire you. That has to come on your own. The most important thing that I have learned in five, short years is: Don't do comedy unless you love it. I do love it. I don't know if it's true what they say, "Love what you do and the money will follow". Though, I have found at the very least, if you love what you do someone will probably follow you home. The bottom line is, you look better when you're doing what you love.
Here are some key areas of the comedy business that if my younger brother wanted to do stand up (thankfully he doesn't) I would tell him about :
The Open Mic: Yes, you will see the best and worst here, but it is a necessary evil. If you're new, find these rooms. Other comics will know where they are. You will probably have to pay and wait around for hours to perform, but it is one of the best ways to try out new material.
I've sat through some terrible open mics. Yet, sometimes they will surprise you. At the very least, it's rare to actually see someone pull a yam out of their ass at a comedy club. You can see that at an open mic. Believe me. Here's something to keep in mind when you're sitting in a hot, sweaty, lower east side (downtown NYC) theater waiting to go on: if the joke works here, it will probably work anywhere. The open mic mantra: Ah, sweet neophytia, goddess of mediocrity, keep your fires burning.
The Bringer show Now you've done months of open mics and scraped up a pretty solid ten minutes of time. You want to perform for a real audience. An audience full of paying customers (even if you know most of them). Yes, it is time for the bringer show. Almost every comedy club in NYC has them.
The amount of audience you have to bring depends on the show. A "pre-show" (the show before the show) amount is usually about 2-3 people. A "new talent" show, any where from 10-20 people. Try to get on a bringer show that will also give you a videotape of your performance in exchange for the abuse of your friends' wallets and time. Enjoy this while it lasts because when you really get good, you won't have any friends left.
(Originally published on the girlcomic.net web site which unfortunately no longer exists.)
Ms. Donohue, obviously has been on stage and is experienced in the ways of the comedy world, but I must point out that to be successful, you must learn to be a "bringer" for every show forever.
And you become a perpetual "bringer" by being so entertaining, you "bring" people back for the sheer joy and desire to see you. Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Paula Poundstone, Margaret Cho all "bring' people now, but they didn't when they first got up on stage and they didn't the 2nd 3rd 4th or 5th time, (Trust me, I was there in the early days) but now they do.
So be a bringer - get so good - that people "bring" themselves - and secondly let people know how to how to find you. The Grateful Dead performed for years and packed venues without a hit record by keeping a mailing list of fans and letting them know their schedule.
You can do the same and much easier with email. To paraphrase my mentor, Patricia Fripp, "Your audience has no obligation to remember you, but rather you have a obligation to make sure they don't forget you."
(And note the key word in my second paragraph is 'entertaining', not 'funniest'. Another attribute that will help you succeed is being nice - which is why, when I was a comedy club producer I often used comics not as funny as others, but who did a good job and more important, DIDN'T GIVE ME GRIEF. Most comics have no idea how much leeway simple good manners can garner one in a business relationship.)