I'm not sure this is the kind of show that benefits from such mainstream exposure from the NYT...This year's show was tighter, to be sure, but also probably not the best experience for the kind of unsuspecting Times reader who doesn't normally go to a stand-up comedy show. After all, you're witnessing mostly unknown or unheralded comedians attempting brand-new jokes. That's it. That's the show. For the comedy community, it's a great chance, and perfect timing after the holidays, to reconnect and reboot for a new year. For an audience, well, I'm not sold on what they're doing there. At least on this particular show. Am I wrong on this one?
I think it's a decent point. But I think there's a lesson here to learn for people who produce comedy shows: The shows that get the biggest audiences aren't always the best shows. Sometimes they're ones that have a good hook. And 50 First Jokes has a good hook.
Here are a few other shows that get a ton of buzz: The Rejection Show, Stripped Stories, Mortified, The Naked Show, etc. Packed houses, book deals, press coverage. What do they have in common? They're remarkable. They all have a concept that someone can tell a friend about that's unique and memorable. And that brings in audience, including people who wouldn't normally go to a comedy show.
Me-too shows get lost in the shuffle. If it sounds the same as every other show, why should people give it any special attention? If you want to see a downtown show that features six comics each doing eight minute spots, you have dozens of options. If you want to see people read their childhood diaries, you have only one option. That's the kind of thing that makes a show stand out.
This idea is what Seth Godin, a marketing guy, talks about when he writes about purple cows.
While driving through France a few years ago, my family and I were enchanted by the hundreds of storybook cows grazing in lovely pastures right next to the road. For dozens of kilometers, we all gazed out the window, marveling at the beauty. Then, within a few minutes, we started ignoring the cows. The new cows were just like the old cows, and what was once amazing was now common. Worse than common: It was boring.
Cows, after you've seen them for a while, are boring. They may be well-bred cows, Six Sigma cows, cows lit by a beautiful light, but they are still boring. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow -- the reason it would shine among a crowd of perfectly competent, even undeniably excellent cows -- is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to. Boring stuff quickly becomes invisible.
If you're starting a show, think about what's going to make it different than every other show out there. I don't think you have to get over-the-top gimmicky. But if you don't do anything to stand out, don't be surprised when gen pop doesn't care much about what you're doing.