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I just finished watching the great documentary on stand up comedy from several years back.  It’s called The Art Of Stand-Up that was produced by the BBC.  Watch it on YouTube.  For anyone who thinks it’s easy to get on stage and tell jokes, you will see there is a lot to it that the average person does not think about.

I used to be one of those average people.  Then watching the documentary I realized something that left me with a dilemma to try and reconcile within myself.

Some comedians are able to watch a comic and figure out where the laughs come from, or in other words why their act is funny.  Before I met my comedy coach, I had that same burning desire to want to figure out comedy.  But I had to learn it first before I figured it out, if that makes sense.

I was always looking inward for the answer as to why I wasn’t funny instead of trying to look outside of the box and watch what other comics were doing and see why they were having the success that I struggled to attain.  But once I took the comedy coaching it then became super easy to figure out why certain comedians were successful because I knew what to look for.

If somebody back then told me to watch other comedians and try to see what makes them successful in terms of their material, it would have driven me mad.  I never would have got it because I didn’t know where or how to begin to look for the answers.  I needed somebody else to tell me the answers, then it became easy to see the answers in others performances, and much easier to find those answers within my own performances.

It’s like the story of the guy who is going up a winding road to get to the top of the mountain.  He encounters a huge stone along his journey.  He cannot get around it.  The only way for him to progress forward is to remove that boulder, but there was nobody there to help him, no storm, no lightning strike to split the stone in two.  So, every day he wanted God to help him, but at the same time every day he tried on his own to push the stone out of the way.  It never budged.  Then, one day, after many days of trying, he was able to remove the stone and continue on his way.

After his success, he got mad at God and asked Him why he God waited to long to help remove the stone.  God basically told him that every day the stone didn’t move, he was using and building up muscles he didn’t have or use before.  Then when the stone moved it was only because of the strength he built up from trying to move that stone every day.

I guess some days you figure things out on your own, while other people need to be shown the key that opens the door.  It doesn’t make one person better, smarter or more determined than the other.  It certainly doesn’t make a person dumber or lazy either.  We are all wired differently and process information differently.

Watching this documentary again gave me a bit of inspiration and helped me to reaffirm what I learned before, but forgot when I watched it the last time.  Although, the one thing you learn is that every successful comic does not have uniformity in their ideas and beliefs about stand-up in order to be successful.  You take a bit from each person you watch and try to integrate it into your own performance.  Some comics enjoy the hecklers and others don’t.

For me, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been beaked at on stage.  I recognize that the heckler wants to say something because they want to be part of the show.  That’s fine and dandy, but the audience is already being a part of the show by showing up and being in the audience already.  They should show the performer on stage the respect they deserve and be quiet.  They can laugh, clap, or be silent.  Those are their choices, and it’s assumed the audience is aware of their responsibility when they sit in their seats.

Hecklers annoy me.  It frustrates me especially at a comedy club I am paid to be at, because I’m already shit scared and trying to get through my material.  Then when somebody beaks at me it flusters me because I have to stop my train of thought and deal with them in the moment.  Then it’s hard to get that momentum back to continue on with the rest of your set.  It makes me mad, though I am not the type to tear people down and throw them under the bus.

There are people I want to interact with me during the show, if I choose.  These are the people I engage with first, when I am setting up a joke.  For example, if it’s a joke about relationships I could ask who in the audience is on a first date.  That helps to develop the bond with the audience, help them to understand you better and then you can use that initial interaction down the road as a callback to get laughs.

Audiences around these parts are generally pretty respectful.  If the comic talks to a specific audience member, it helps break the ice and usually that person in the audience is willing to engage with the comic, although I never talk to an audience member to throw them under the bus or make them feel bad.  It’s a skill I haven’t done enough, though I find it’s easier to work on in a larger room, less awkward that way.

Comedy takes what others think but don’t say in public, what they will tell their close friends or spouse, but maybe not post online, and put it out there.  As comedians we are bold and stand-up is the ability to say whatever you want.  Chances are, if it’s written intelligently you will get laughs based on the jokes recognition alone, because the audience will be laughing that you said it, not having to admit themselves that it’s also how they feel.

The audience wants to know who you are, what your insecurities are, how you see the world and what your struggles are.  Sure, you could be an observational comic, but a comedian will need a point of view and personalize it.  I have learned over this last little while that you can be an observational comic while still be self-deprecating, because then you aren’t making the focus totally on you because you have diverted the audiences attention towards the subject of the joke.  You are simply tying yourself into the observation.

If I truly believe I am the most relatable comedian in the city (which I do), then I guess I’ve got lots of writing to do.

Some comics want to just be funny, and you can tell because they are dirty, vulgar, sexist or racist and don’t seem to mind.  Being relatable means trying to take your point of views and personalize them against the backdrop of the world today.  Surely, with billions of people inhabiting the planet now, you know at least one other person out there will “get” your way of thinking.

You just hope those people are in the audience that night.

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