My Truth, My Voice

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When I started comedy, for the first couple of years I was single.  Not for a lack of trying though.  I actually did have a date show up once to one of the very first shows when I started.  Other than that I tried very hard and put in a lot of effort to try and find someone.  But the first two years I came up empty just about all of the time.

Looking back, I’m not sure those first two years would have been the right time to have a relationship considering all of the well documented struggles that I have had.  As Veronica mentioned in post #200, my mood swings back then were beyond erratic.  Depending on the day I was either angry, depressed, arrogant, confident or else ready to pick a fight.  At times I thought about whether or not my previous relationship should have started around the time I did comedy.  This way she would have had a better idea of what I went through.  But that would have meant God lining it up back then too, and we all know that He works on His own time according to His own plan.  On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say the issues I dealt with in comedy before the relationship (regarding the hurt, struggle and intensity of) was a 27.  Once the relationship started it was maybe a 4.

Now, during those first couple of years I tried to write about dating even though I had jack shit of reference points to go from.  If I don’t have reference points, then how do I start writing a joke with the truth in mind?  I couldn’t do it.  Even once I first started working with my comedy coach I couldn’t for the life of me, figure out material about dating let alone make it funny.

I have learned that comedy must have an element of truth to it, so when you say the opening line of a joke it’s imperative that it’s not only true, but believable.  It can’t be one of those fear monger type of truths where it’s only evident to people who share your belief systems.  It has to be a truth that is universal, it’s relateable to others.  With a comedy audience it’s difficult to pinpoint what they will like and what they’ll reject.  So it’s a good idea to start with a simple truth, and build from there.

relationships are hard……

How the hell would I know that?  Before this previous relationship went its course I only had one other serious relationship before that, and dated maybe one other girl before that.  Now, I could make up something about how I find relationships hard.  Or I could talk about how I never get them right.  But for me, it’s not a great story if all I do is talk about the different ways I screw up the opportunity to have a relationship because that’s only one side of the story, albeit from the negative point of view.  It’s like I need a victory to balance it out, to be able to present a more balanced view of things with some continuity and flow to it.

Well, once the relationship started it took me only a couple of months before I started to write a fair amount of material about relationships based on what I saw from the other side.  The other side being a successful relationship that I entered into!

Now I’m looking at the screwups and I can accurately compare them in contrast to a relationship that I have and compare the two, comedically speaking.

Once the previous relationship went its course I then started to write material about not necessarily why it didn’t work, but I did write material from a new perspective.  It’s like I had a new appreciation for that “person” and tried to put that “person” in the best possible light that I could to really highlight the struggles that I had.

I have had a few comics approach me and say that my material is too heavy on self-deprecation.  It’s too much, they say.  People end up feeling sad for me instead of laugh.  That’s a fair statement, and here is my reply to that.

The difference between a bar crowd watching comedy and a comedy club audience watching comedy in a comedy club setting are about as different as comparing an adult safe hockey league to the Olympic Hockey.  Different situations, different expectations, different attitudes.

First let’s start with the bar crowd.  In my opinion, based on my time in comedy I think it’s safe to say that my material isn’t necessarily bar friendly.  It’s just not.  There has been the odd time with a bar show where I do fairly well, but that’s only because I bring some attitude, a bit of emotion and maybe the occasional curse word.  With a bar crowd the comedian has to be a bit forceful at times and assertive to get their attention because some of them talk or ignore the performers onstage.

A comedy club is what my material is more geared towards, because that’s where the majority of my good sets have come from.  My material is setup-punchline based.  It’s not long winded stories, as I try to make sure that I hit laugh points throughout the setup every 15 seconds or so.  If you have two or three performers at a club, the audience expects them to be professional, meaning the material isn’t ad-libbed, it’s solid, tight and funny.  With a bar crowd, if you get a potpourri of comedians with some who aren’t setup-punchline based, they will tell a story for a minute at least, maybe longer and then get to the punchline.

With that bar crowd, after a few of those long stories it can be tough to figure out where the laughs are coming from.  That isn’t to say that the audience will wreck your punchline, but at least an audience can be psychologically ready to receive that punchline because they are used to the setup-punchline paradigm.  That isn’t to say that all comics follow that formula though.  There are a certain few who are able to be story tellers and not have the laugh points anywhere in the setup until the punchline.

Also at the comedy club it’s like the audience is more tuned in to the comedians, heckling is almost non-existent, it’s more of a fun atmosphere.  The audience at a comedy club knows comedy is going on, and they generally aren’t wasted by the time the show starts, so they are in a good mood, actually rooting for the comic to succeed.  When they root for you to succeed, you need to make a human connection with them, and the best way to do that is connecting with the truth.  Connecting with the truth in structured jokes.

With my set at the Laugh Shop in Saskatoon (check the video on YouTube or the comedy page), right from the opening joke I got laughs.  Those laughs extended through my entire set that night.  I could have lead the audience anywhere I wanted to go and they would have followed.  It’s rare that I feel that kind of power but I did that night.  Don’t believe me?

When I established my solid opening line and got laughs from that, then later on in my set I talked about my relationship ending and it got laughs, even though I tried to share a serious moment.  Why was that? Were they (the audience) being inconsiderate assholes?  No.  It’s the way I structured the material because there are times when you write material to activate certain laugh triggers, the audience has no choice but to laugh.  It’s not that they are being mean, it’s just taking advantage of knowing audience psychology and what will make an audience laugh.

There will be a new relationship coming for me.  I cannot say when.  I cannot say with whom.  That’s up to His will and His timing.

But rest assured that when it does happen, the material about this lady will be funnier, better written and I will be confident, yet humbled and proud to be with an amazing woman.

That will come out in the material because remember one thing…..when it comes to my truth, it always includes both sides.  That’s something people tend to forget.





Trevor Dean is a stand-up comedian in Saskatoon. You can read his full bio on the home page of this blog. He performs mostly in Saskatoon and Regina. He can be found on: Twitter : @thestandupdiary Facebook: Website:

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