I've been staying busy away from the blog. Next week, I have my first opportunity to do an hour on stage. I'm getting pretty comfortable with 45 minutes, and I'm excited to push myself out of my comfort zone. It's funny, I still remember when 10 minutes seemed like an hour...
One of the things I really enjoy about standup is being able to see how you're improving as a comedian. Like working out and taking progress pics, I can watch tape from 6 months ago and see a ton of stuff that I wouldn't do now. I'm sure that'll be the case for years and years to come, and that's probably the thing that motivates me the most to keep working. I never want to like one of my videos that's more than a few months old.
On that note, I've really rediscovered my love for writing and creating new material lately. With this hour coming up, my focus has shifted toward churning out and going through the process of "polishing" some new stuff. Taking a joke from a new idea to something I'm comfortable saying in exchange for people's money is a long road. And, as I'm sure all creative people do, I get into slumps all the time. A stretch of days/weeks/months where I can't seem to come up with anything new. Once that starts, it can take forever for me to get out of it, and I just stop writing altogether. Taking on the new challenge of doing more time than I ever have has really kicked me in the ass and got me putting a pen to paper, though. I have three or four new bits that I really feel are turning into something good, and sometimes all you need is one idea to semi-work, and it can start a chain reaction. Nothing feels better than getting a laugh off of a new joke, and it not only gets me writing more, it gets me more excited to hit the mics at night, because I have something new to work on. It's exciting!
Which brings me to the reason I decided to write this blog today in the first place. I've been really trying hard to get away from just writing relationship material. I like that type of comedy a lot, but I feel like I've become to reliant on it. I made a conscious decision to try and write jokes about things that have nothing to do with me and my girlfriend, both to challenge myself and to try and grow as a comic. I'm proud to say that the new stuff I'm working on not only has nothing to do with my girlfriend, but I really do feel like it's some of the best stuff I've written in the last three years. I'm sure in another couple years I'll hate it, but it motivates me to keep going, knowing that (in my mind, anyways), I'm improving as a writer and a comedian.
It's also all pretty clean stuff. I realized about a year ago that my future in comedy would probably be as a corporate comic. And while I don't intentionally try to write clean jokes, my sense of humour just steers me in that direction. It doesn't bother me, but I do find myself admiring comics (both on the world famous level, and right here in Edmonton), that can get on stage and talk about controversial, "offensive" subject matter. Particularly in a society that shifts more and more toward making sure nobody gets offended every day.
I'm envious of comedians that are good at walking the line, because I'm not. I think it's a special talent, to be able to talk a topic nobody wants to talk about and not only talk about it, but make it funny. Comedians are artists, and as such, we have a right (and some may say, an obligation), to create the content our talents and inner voices want to create. We then share those creations with the world, and open ourselves up to judgement every time we do. Some comics, like myself, play it safe. We stick to inoffensive, happy-go-lucky jokes that are almost guaranteed to not turn any heads or ruffle any feathers. Other decide to push back at society, and go after the topics people don't want to laugh at. They often say what many of us think, but don't want to say ourselves. I think there's something admirable about that.
People have every right to be offended, be it by a joke, an event, a holiday, whatever. But people also have every right to make a joke, host an event, or celebrate a holiday. If you don't appreciate what someone is saying, turn them off. Walk away. Frankly, that will probably hurt them more than just telling them you don't like what they're about. But if you're one of the comedians out there telling jokes that make people mad, keep doing you. Comedy, and the world, needs you right now.
I have a great deal of respect for anyone that's willing to get on stage. It takes some balls to get in front of a room full of strangers and try to make them laugh. But when you work clean, the biggest risk you run is bombing and having people think you're not funny. When you push the envelope with your jokes, you not only chance that an audience won't like you, they'll find you offensive. That's the modern day equivalent of being labeled a witch...
Keep on keeping on, comics. We need you.
Thanks for reading.