In a about a month, it will be a year since my very first stand up performance. I thoroughly enjoy it and I don’t see myself quitting anytime soon.
I’ve been writing comedy for a few years prior, but “writing” and preforming stand up comedy is a completely different ball game.
It’s not easy, it’s not for everyone, and it certainly does not pay well (at least in the beginning). However, that euphoric feeling I get when I hear a room roar in laughter that I caused, THAT feeling is priceless. Before you read the rest of this post, note that my intent is not to complain, but rather to point out some things that I think should change about the industry. And like everything, its not perfect and there will always be upsides and downsides.
Today, I just thought I’d let you in on some of the downsides.
1) Bringer Shows
A bring show is a stand up show where the producer usually only gives comedians a spot if the comedians can bring an audience. Usually, the comedian is not paid for his time and his guests usually are required to pay (usually a cover charge and a 2 drink minimum).
I understand the need for bringer shows. Everyone wants a chance to preform their routine, but a routine is meaningless without an audience.
However., I think its unfair to cast people in a show based on the people they bring. I don’t like “forcing” any of my friends to come to see a show (and seriously, what kind of friend am I if I’m “forcing” anything upon them?) Plus, its unfair that the money goes only to the producers and not the comedians. A great stand up comic, Hasan Minhaj, has a track on his comedy album called “The Bringer Show” which exemplifies why so many comics loathe bringer shows. Check it out on iTunes or Spotify if you can.
2) Being Told “You Can Use That”
Non-comedian people that I meet sometimes think they have this really funny story or idea that they want to see preformed in stand up set. What they don’t understand is that:
a) its THEIR story and probably only funny to them because it’s personal
b) I’m not that desperate for material
I do have writing sessions with other comedians and performers where we listen to others’ sets and maybe suggest new angles and ideas. However, having random people trying to pitch you random things is frustrating. That’s like telling a chef,
“Oh you’re a chef? That’s cool, I can make a really good steak too. You can totally use my recipe in your new cookbook!”
Also, when I say something funny off-stage, its not “one of my bits”. Some people assume that if I say something really funny off stage, it must’ve been pre-written. I don’t like practicing my outside of a writer’s group or an open mic. If I say something funny, congratulations, you’ve just witnessed all-natural, organic, free-range humor.
3) Telling People I’m A Comedian
Because usually., the normal response is one of the following:
a) “Really? OK, tell me a joke!”
b) “Ha, yea right. So what’s your day job?”
c) “Me too! All my friends tell me I’m funny too”
I also feel like a bit of a fraud telling people I’m a “comedian”.
What are the qualifications for that? How many show’s I’ve done? How many Comedy Central specials I have? Its not like being a doctor or lawyer. There’s no test or license exam to pass. The first day I got paid for my comedy was the day I started telling people “I’m a comedian” but I still don’t think I’m successful or funny enough to meet the criteria.
My bottom line is that although these things kinda suck, they don’t deter me. The trade off of being about to make someone laugh is totally worth it.
Plus, people have a hard time staying mad at me cause I’ll find a way to make them smile.