Playing Like A Skip On A Record

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Everyone needs a mentor, somebody to look up to, trying to emulate their success.  How does that old saying go?  If you want to be a success at something, why not find somebody who is already there and learn from them.  Hang around the people that will elevate you and take you to the next level.

Further to that point, if you have nobody to mentor you, helping you get better, then how can you accurately track your progress?

Most local comics have improved, to a degree.  Their material is funny but in the end it’s simply material that’s built the same way and delivered the same way on the same topics.  So how is that progress?

If the setups to your material all sound the same, the audience won’t stay interested.  How can you keep their attention with different jokes having all the same setup?  Then the audience can jump the punchline because you’ve established a pattern of where the punchline will be.  So there is no surprise, no genuine reaction.

Comedy structures exist for a reason.  It keeps the audience attentive because they won’t know when the punchline is coming, so you, the comedian, can keep the element of surprise as the ace up your sleeve.  Also, using different structures in your act gives it a flow, a variety.

In October it will be nine years that I have been doing comedy.  My journey has been well documented as a result of this blog.  I’ve had anonymous comments from fake e-mail addresses, threats, and people bad mouthing my decision to get some outside help, a mentor, to hold me accountable and keep track of my progress.

Whenever you try something new you’ll get your share of hate.  Breaking new ground will tend to do that.  This hate comes from either jealousy, fear, or both.  Ever since I’ve had regular coaching from the comedy school in Los Angeles, nobody that I know of has taken coaching to get better.  Why not?  All the top athletes in the world have coaches, so why wouldn’t you seek out the help of somebody who is where we all want to be?  The comedy instructor that helps me makes a six figure income every year from comedy, and nothing else.  How cool would that be?  He also writes 120 new jokes a day, reads the newspaper, watches the news and keeps up on current events and writes daily.  If you write daily, the more you write, the better you’ll become…… if you know what you’re doing.

Plus, when you learn structure, that is, how to set up a joke, you can look at it from multiple angles (premises).  You could take the same topic and spread it out over five completely different jokes and come up with five different punchlines.  Or have the same punchline and arrive at it from five different angles.

It was interesting to see that for all the people who either didn’t care or spoke out against a comedy coach, they were sure interested to ask questions of him when I got him to appear on one of the online open mics I hosted a couple months back.

Comics think the only way you get better is by getting on stage.  I know this not to be true.  It isn’t the only way you can tell if you are improving.  You can also tell by your writing, by taking the time to write out an idea and edit it over and over again until it’s stage ready.  With the coaching I’ve received over the last several years, when I try a new bit on stage, it may not get a big laugh the first time around, but the structure is there, it’s tight, the timing is there and I’m usually not nervous to tell a new bit.  Why would I be when I have rehearsed it so much?

Also, with structure and rehearsing and identifying laugh triggers and knowing a bit about audience psychology, you can usually tell where the laughs will come from in the joke, and create timing to have those laughs.

I may not be setting the world on fire just yet, but I am proud of the work I’ve done with my comedy coach over the last several years.  How many local comics can say they have stayed constantly committed like that, especially when the coaching costs aren’t cheap?

I feel like my writing in the last few months is getting better.  No longer am I the guy that’s talking about my stumbles in life all the time.  I’m mixing it up now.  I guess that’s the other thing knowing structure affords you the opportunity to do.  It’s like it opens up your mind to new possibilities because you now know how to write about virtually anything.

Structure is like a formula.  Take any situation, anything you see, think of or hear, and you can input it into any structure and make it work.  I have been preaching this for years to no avail, but that’s okay.  Once I get to where I see myself heading, this coaching and learning the how and the why to being funny, that will be part of my journey.  Then we will see how many people get on the bandwagon and ask to be coached as well.

Don’t take comedy, the stage or the audience for granted.  I once heard a successful headliner tell me that if you find you can get laughs on stage, then it’s your responsibility to get better.  You have a responsibility to get better.  If you just get up there and do the same shit all the time or look like you are just screwing around, you disrespect the stage and most importantly you are disrespecting the audience.

The stuff I am working on now is different from anything any local comic does, because most of them stick to the same topics or deliver the material the same.  Comedy takes time and research to develop.  The stuff I’m working on now is original, no other comic I know of is talking about the things I’ve researched.  Some comics can witness something and laugh about it, but not use it for material.  I’m different.  Several situations have come up where I can see the setup in my head already when I witness something.

Life is short.  Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to any of us.  The blog, the radio show, Carnac……all these things have been going on for anywhere from one to several years.  Why wouldn’t you pull out all the stops and do what you can to get better and elevate yourself above the rest?  Maybe everyone enjoys being mediocre, or they take pride in being to figure things out on their own.  But how long would you wait to figure it out while others get farther ahead of you in terms of their development?

In my comedy coach, I have a friend and an ally on my side that I can call, e-mail, Tweet or text anytime for advice.  Who do you have like that in your corner?

Maybe it’s time to chart a new course and set sail for uncharted waters?

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