You Know? You Think You Know?

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Do you know what hard work looks like?  Think about your current job/career.  Are there quantifiable, measurable terms that you can use to gauge how hard you work?  Think about that for a moment.

Now, with that picture firmly in your mind, do you think you have a good idea of what hard work looks like in the entertainment industry?  Whether you are a singer, actor, comedian, etc.  Do you really know?

I think some of you don’t.  So I am here to tell you what hard work looks like from a comedic point of view, at least from my point of view.

I have no family support at all.  Zero.  None.  My parents don’t give a shit that I do comedy, and since the three of them see each other more than I do (my brother works with my dad), you’d think that my brother knew that I did comedy, but my parents never told him.  It’s like I am embarrassing them but they’ve never asked me any questions about comedy, let alone ever seen anything I’ve done.  If it’s something they can’t see themselves enjoying in their own life, they automatically bash it and talk down about it, at least as far as my life goes, because I am the only one in the family who tries to stretch themselves out to grow.

So, I have no support from family.  You think I’d get it from friends.  Well, I do up to a certain point.  People can plan for weeks and a few months down the road for the big music concert that comes to the city, yet they are on the fence about a comedy show.  Imagine how good that makes me feel!

At the start of my comedy journey my friends came out like gang busters.  For the first several months I was in comedy, my friends pretty much made up the comedy scene, as they were the ones who came out most often not just to watch me, but the others as well.

So I’d struggle through my material and have my friends tell everyone else how good they did, then when it came to me, they simply thanked me for inviting them, then they scurried out the door.  Just about every night for the first 1 1/2 years I had that foreboding sense of rejection, sadness, disappointment, anger and hurt every time I walked back to my car.  I’m sure that people watched me leave and talked behind my back about how I wasn’t very good and what I was doing on stage in the first place.  I recorded a few of my sets on my phone, and eventually I got used to the fact I didn’t get many laughs, and the ones I did get didn’t last.  It was difficult to sit there and listen to my set trying to pick out the positives, especially when I wasn’t entirely confident or sure of what I was doing.  I also didn’t know where to go for help because it seemed like some were more interested in tearing me down rather than building me up.

Then I was asked to take a break from the Saskatoon comedy scene for a while to reevaluate my comedy journey up to that point.  It was then that I found the one person who not only wanted to help me, but could help me and one who gave me practical tools to use to get better.

I started having Skype sessions with my comedy coach from Los Angeles.  It’s been almost two years and I’ve spent over $1500 in coaching.  The sessions are supposed to be for the hour, but with me they go a bit longer, sometimes 90 minutes, sometimes two hours.  He once told me that he believes in my ability to succeed and the fire that burns within me to prove people wrong burns within him as well to help me get a television spot in the USA.  That’s right, late night t.v.  Letterman, The Tonight Show or one of the other late night talk shows.  I didn’t think I was good enough until he told me that my style of comedy is exactly like what’s on Letterman. Once I watched clips of comics on Dave’s show then I started to believe that I could succeed.

If it wasn’t for my coach telling me that I could absolutely MC the professional comedy club in Saskatoon, I would never have gotten the nerve to call the booking agency to ask how to get stage time.

Comedy isn’t a joke.  It’s work.  It’s repetitive.  For a creative type whether it be writing, acting, singing or comedy, the creative process can be very draining and demoralizing.  The creative type usually can’t shut their brain off, always thinking of ways to improve things, or ways to gain new exposure to a broader market.  A creative type will go over the same idea a few hundred times because they believe they can make it better, because they see something greater beyond what is on the page.  They see polish.  They see sparkle.  They see the finished product before it reaches that stage.  The trick is to find the right tools whether they be words, a musical note or an action that will help them improve on what they already have.

The mind of a comic should always be “on”, as this is what I have experienced and learned from my coach in Los Angeles.  A comic should always try to be on the lookout for new material from a new idea, something they hear, something they read or witness.  When the creative wheels are turning during the day, it’s tough to focus on the task at hand.

I’ve have been told that I should do a set for people at work, or for customers.  That isn’t happening.  I have put enough work in for the past 3 1/2 years that I am starting to make a bit of money doing comedy.  While the free shows like the open mics are important, I’m not just doing material because somebody asks.

The creative process for some comedians, probably a good chunk of them anyways, is to be alone.  While the jokes are getting easier to come up with initially, you still have to put in your hours to hone and refine the material.  Case in point, when my coach and I came up with my first comedy set we spent seven hours to get seven minutes of material.

SEVEN HOURS = SEVEN MINUTES

That total didn’t include the rehearsal time either.  That was just seven hours to write and get the material to the final working stage.

Remember, Eddie Murphy said that he needs to work the comedy clubs for a year to have enough material ready to go out on tour with.  ONE YEAR

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to an evening of rehearsing.  No distractions.  No whining.  No complaining.

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