I have hours of voice recordings of my act on my phone, and quite a few videos of various sets recorded on my computer. I've only listened/watched about 1/4 of them. When you think you bombed on a show, and then listen back to it, you usually realize that you bombed even worse than you thought you did. When you think you did well on any given night, and then listen back to your set, you don't even notice what worked. But you can't help but pick out and focus on every little word that wasn't perfect. It's ridiculously humbling.
That said, almost every time I've listened back to a set, I've found a way to improve on it. Sometimes it's a new tag or joke altogether. Maybe you notice that a joke might work better told slightly different. You may hear a couple words that are just dead weight, and can be trimmed out of a joke altogether, thus tightening up your act. It's one of those "no pain, no gain" situations. With a LOT of pain...
The inspiration for this blog wasn't to talk about listening back to my sets, though. I have (had) several video clips of my stand up on Youtube. After watching some of them back today, I decided to take them all down. Because frankly, I don't think they're very good anymore. I thought they were at the time, but I'm happy to say that as I've gotten on stage more and more, my standards have gotten higher and higher. And I don't feel they're up to that standard.
I read early on that you should be careful about what you put online. Some people put their first ever set on the internet, and then keep pumping videos out. It's easy to understand why, they're (rightfully) proud of their act, and want to share it with people. The ego stroke from friends and family supporting you is a nice perk, too. But the reason people said be careful about what you upload is because if a booker searches your name, and the first video they come across is of your 3rd ever set, they aren't going to contact you. You might have thought it was good at the time, but if you're working hard at getting better, you should be able to watch it a couple months later, and realize how much you were doing wrong.
I always keep a 5-7 minute clip uploaded and available to share, should someone ask for it. But every couple months, when I know I have a good show (in front of a good audience) coming up, I bring my camera along with the intention of updating my "demo" vid. It's worth it. If you're working hard, every new video should be better than the last. Not always by leaps and bounds, but one step at a time :)
So as an 18 month comic, if I could give any comedy advice, it would be to be careful about what you upload. You never know who's watching.
Thanks for reading. Go Rays!