Thursday October 17th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
Any craft that requires skill requires repetition to maintain and improve said skill. There isn’t a single exception to this rule, even though a surprisingly high percentage of beginners mistakenly like to think the rule doesn’t apply to them. This is as wrong as feeding chili to a newborn baby.
It’s fine to read articles and have in depth discussions – even take classes, but until one actually goes out and DOES something it’s all meaningless. The learning comes by doing, and there’s no way around it. It’s great to be prepared, but preparation alone is never enough. Action is needed.
I’ve forever heard pro football people say that NFL quarterback is the most difficult position to play in sports. There are a lot of subtleties to it, and the only way to learn them is by actual game experience. It’s a painstaking process of trial and error but it’s the only way to become seasoned.
Standup comedy is the same way. I believe it’s the most difficult of all entertainment positions, and like quarterbacking there are many subtleties involved. It’s not just a matter of spitting jokes out night after night like a robot. There’s a lot more to it than that. It’s a very complex process.
Circumstances change constantly, and adjustments need to be made. As in football, sometimes a last second audible at the line of scrimmage is necessary. The only way to know what is needed requires experience, and there’s only one way to get it – making mistakes. It’s part of the game.
If there’s one subject I’m qualified to speak on, it’s making mistakes. I’ve made more than my share – more than a dozen people’s shares – but I’ve learned from them all. I’ll still screw up on occasion, but I am able to hide it and recover because I have finally figured out what I’m doing.
Having game experience opens up all kinds of new doors, and makes being on stage even more fun than it was before – and it was intoxicating before. The rush of being on stage is like nothing I have ever experienced, and I have pursued it for a lifetime. It’s the most exciting buzz there is.
I had no idea how to control it when I started, but I knew I loved it. I wanted to be on stage any and all chances I had to do it, even if only for a few minutes. That’s all anyone gets, but that’s all anyone can handle at first. Five minutes can be a LONG time – especially when it’s going badly.
Now, I can do a solid hour without thinking about it and still have plenty of material left over - and that’s a rock solid polished hour, not “Where ya from?” or “What do you do?” Crowd work doesn’t count, even though that’s a skill of its own. I’m talking about an act. It takes a lifetime.
A lot of nasty lumps were taken in that lifetime, and I can’t honestly say if I knew what it was going to entail and had to do it all again if I would. The experience I have came with a very high price, but I chose to pay it and now it’s mine. What can I do with it? Other than continuing to do shows, hopefully writing about my journey (and many mistakes) will help others on the way up.
My perspective now is very different than it was at the start. I still love being on that stage, but growth never ends. No creative artist or performer is ever a finished product. There’s always the next lesson to learn. Game experience gives me confidence, but also helps to keep me humble.
|Standup comedy is like being an NFL quarterback - it's the most difficult job in the business.|