Good stand up comedy is hard. What other profession can you get up on stage each night or multiple times per night and totally bomb and yet have the tenacity to stay at it? What other craft offers this self-loathing from failing over and over again? What other art form allows you to suck for years while getting boo’d and yanked from the stage again and again and yet still allows you to come back if you’re willing? Where else will you find such whackos willing to do this for the sake of getting good? When the potential rewards may not be for years, if at all? Doesn’t seem like too good a deal. And yet people do it. All the time. What could be harder? What could be a worse deal that so many people willingly take on?
It takes courage to stand up and do comedy. It can be a frightening thing to take on an audience early before you have your chops honed. It takes years of experience before you feel like you’re in control of the crowd and can take them to where you want to go. The only way to get there is through getting stage time. Get up and get as much stage time as you can as early as you can. Keep moving. Keep writing. Keep getting up and working. The best comics work as much as possible, honing and whittling away at their craft. To have a great work ethic is a plus in the business. The hard workers succeed and get great gigs.
The immediate feedback is one of the cool things about stand-up. You know exactly where you are with your material and your creativity. There is no in between and there really is no debating. Sure, there’s delusion, but there is self-evident truth to your performance. You either did something or you didn’t. The audience either reacted one way or they did not. The immediate feedback should not be taken for granted. Feedback is typically elusive in much of what we do, especially in what we create. With standing up and doing comedy, you know immediately how you’re doing. It is a blessing and a curse. With the feedback, you can take it and learn from it. The feedback hones and informs the material. Some stuff didn’t work. This stuff over here did. Let’s do more of this stuff and write some new stuff for next time. You’re constantly working on your material. It never ends, like going to the gym. If you’re serious about it, it never ends. There’s always a new act.
And there is always a new act. Seasoned comics can take their one hour they have and keep re-working it until they have a whole new hour of material to work with. Their act is always in rotation. Plus, they can take bits here and tweak them and place them in other areas of the act. Further, they can adjust their act depending upon the crowd that night. They can make real time adjustments based upon the feedback they’re getting (or not). They can take it to extremes, pushing the boundaries of where most people are comfortable. They can take it the other way entirely, spanning the spectrum.
There is no end to the material. There is always new material if you think there is. Like Chris Rock says, You have to get out and live life. Take two years and get out there and live. Observe. Interact. See what’s bugging you today and tomorrow. There are countless bits of material floating about in the ether. You just have to capture them and get them down and work them out. Find what’s funny about them. Observe. Re-write. Act it out. What’s bothering you right now? Get it out. The thing that makes us most angry in the moment is often the thing that is the funniest. Having a mad take or angle on something is a wonderful thing to observe, especially when it is unexpected. Get it down. Work it out.
It takes courage and sticktoitiveness to do all this. It takes courage to stand up and do comedy. It takes courage to stick to bits that aren’t working. It takes balls to be up there and tell people what’s funny and sell it. It takes fierce attitude to deliver it properly. It takes cunning and calibration to deal with hecklers. It takes discipline and determination and fortitude to keep getting up night after night after night.
The discipline of writing each day sets us up for automatic improvement. Working on material daily is itself a discipline. You’re honing your writing chops, just like a weightlifter works out each day, training his muscles. It is a practice. You have good writing days and not so good writing days. But the point is, you sat down (or stood up) and wrote. You did it. You were on top of it. You did it despite the numerous obstacles to doing it. (There are plenty.) At the beginning and end of each day, it is a choice to do it. It is a choice to practice it. It’s simply all a part of the discipline. Just like health is either #1 or it isn’t at all, writing is either a top priority or it isn’t at all. It’s just something else to be done later. If it is vitally important, you do it first thing in the morning. Nailing the hard things first thing in the morning is a great way to start your day. This prevents you from procrastinating. You must face them, and face them early. Practice early. Work-out early.