1) What would you consider the best way to get feedback on your performance/material when you don't really know the other comics that you perform with regularly? I've been doing stand-up for almost two years, maybe three nights a week, at best. I know most comics by recognition because we perform regularly together but I don't have the family-like rapport the other comics have with each other. Aside from my girlfriend and a few random suggestions from strangers, I don't feel like I have the steady feedback that most other open mic comics get from each other. Thoughts?
Um, three nights a week for two years and you don't have rapport with any other comics? That's a problem. Start making friends. Comedy is pretty tough if you take a lone shark attitude. Find at least a couple of people who you respect and get to know 'em. You need allies in this game. In fact, I think the first few years is basically you trying to impress other comics and just using the crowd as a means to do that.
2) Recently, you posted something from Brian Kiley on trying to find your comedic character. I'm still trying to figure out what my gimmick is as a performer. Right now, I think I'm a grad student in a relationship who likes to gives random musings on what I find to be ridiculous. I don't know if the audience buys into it though. How do you know when your character has arrived? Does the audience tell you? Other comics?
I think the audience tells you with laughs. Also, other comics might be able to point out "this sounds like you." Like Mark will sometimes tell me a joke sounds "very Ruby" which can be a good pointer that it's something "in character" or however you wanna say it.
And fwiw: "I'm a grad student in a relationship who likes to gives random musings on what I find to be ridiculous"...This seems way too generic to be your comedic character. Try harder to figure out what's really unique about you or what you say on stage.
3) Lastly, what is the general rule on injecting esoteric references into your material? One of my favorite comics is Patton Oswalt and I would say that random cultural and literary allusions is 75% of his act. My mind operates the same way too but I always either a) get scared because of the audience demographic or b) psyche myself out on whether its funny or not. I just wanted to get your takes on this.
No general rule that I know of. Try it. If people laugh, great. If not, maybe it's a bad idea. Or maybe you need to find a different audience. One thing to keep in mind: If you rely too much on pop culture or specific niche references, you can limit the scope of people who get you. That's not a grand idea for someone just starting out.
And btw, I disagree that those kind of references are 75% of Patton's act. People like him and Dennis Miller certainly get esoteric, but there's a lot of stuff along the way that ANYONE can understand too.
Do you also want to get advice about standup from someone who is almost totally unqualified to give answers? Then send your questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.