My comedy anniversary is coming up later this month. I'm not a big "New Year's Resolution" guy, but when my comedy-versary (I'm not sure why that's got the red line under it, it's totally a word?) comes around, I like to try and set some goals for my upcoming "stand up season".
When comics meet for the first time, "How long have you been doing stand up?" is a pretty common ice breaker. It doesn't really matter, but it's something to get the conversational ball rolling. I think some people put too much stock into how long a comedian has been comedian-ing (again, real word). Some people inflate the numbers by including those first 2 years where they only got on stage 5 times. Sometimes a comic will tell you they've been at it for a long time, and you look at where they are and you can't help but feel bad for them. Once and a while, someone tells you they've only been at it for _____, and you're both impressed and jealous of how good they already are. But at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter how long they've been a comic for. It only matters if they're funny, if they're fun to be around, and if they sell tickets (the order of those qualities varies greatly, depending on who you ask.)
I'll be entering my 4th "stand up season" in a couple weeks, and I'm 100% positive that just as many people have felt bad for me as have been impressed (I don't think anyone has been jealous). When I look back, I'm really proud of some aspects of the last year, and really disappointed in others. If you're a creative person, and you can't see ways you could constantly be improving your creation, you need to give your head a shake. I know that at various times this year I've been guilty of "taking my foot of the gas", and it rattles me, because I know I could be a much better comic than I am if I could just keep my eye on the ball. (Cue the lazy eye jokes).
I have, however, worked really, really hard on giving it everything I have when I'm on stage over the last year. Maybe not always at open mics, but when someone is paying me to tell jokes, I'm going to give them everything I have. A big part of that was quitting my day job in May and deciding to try take on comedy full-time. This has become my livelihood now, and I look at comedy as a business, instead of a hobby. I feel like I can honestly say that if you hire me to perform on your show, I will do everything in my power to give you the best show I can. I don't "take shifts off" anymore, and I really take a lot of pride in that.
I try to be self aware, and I know where I need to improve. I'm dedicated to trying my best to focus those areas. As I start to take the (overwhelming) step into doing 45-60 minute sets and headlining shows, I'm putting more pressure on myself than ever to experiment and grow as a comic. I love watching really good headliners just crush on stage, not so much because they make me laugh, but because they inspire me. I won't be satisfied until I can do what they do.
Part of getting there is experimentation and forcing myself to step out of my comfort zone. I'm trying to shift the direction of my joke writing away from relationships and my many, many physical shortcomings, and lean into more observational, every day things. I find it a lot harder to write jokes about, but I also get a far greatest sense of accomplishment out of it. I know in the long term it'll make me a better comedian.
My Comedy-versary Resolution is to stay focused. Stop being hard on myself, stop comparing my comedy or career to others, and to just try and get a little better every set. Just keep taking one step at a time. As long as people keep hiring me, I'm doing something right. And if they stop hiring me, I'll go back to just writing jokes about my lazy eye and Shaley.
Thanks for reading this, supporting me, hiring me, heckling me - just paying attention to me. I appreciate it.