How many years in doesn't matter

"I've been doing it X years."

People lean on that too much. Like Patton Oswalt says, how well you've been doing it is a lot more important than how long you've been doing it.

I don't think there's one right way. It depends. Some comics spend hours writing when they'd get more out of being onstage for five minutes. Others can do great crowdwork and host really well but can't write a joke.

Some constantly get up but never learn to listen to the audience. Stagetime is worthless if you can't hear what the crowd's telling you. These guys might as well just be performing in front of a mirror.

Some spend their entire lives hanging around other comics instead of experiencing the real world and how normal people act and relate to each other. On or offstage, it's tough to converse with people when you're an alien to them. A night out with civilians can be a wiser move than an endless routine of getting up.

Some perform at the same mics in front of the same people all the time which means they don't have to deal with getting new people to know and trust them. (It's something I've noticed recently. I get so comfy at certain mics that I forget these people know me already and how that makes it tough to judge the true merit of a joke.)

Some build a tight 5-10 minute set and then stop grinding away on new material. They get by, but they stop growing.

That's why I don't care much how long someone's been doing it. There are plenty of people who have been doing it for years who suck. I care about whether or not someone is funny (and if they're getting better).

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6 Comment(s)

Blogger soce said...

The rate of improvement definitely matters. When I first began performing in 2003, I knew this guy who would hustle to do 3 comedy mics per night, but he was just terrible at all of them. Nice guy but a terrible performer.

Not really sure how you can improve in that case.

And I certainly know plenty of young comedians who have only been involved for a few years but are already very successful and popular.

2/1/10, 1:43 PM  
Blogger Abbi Crutchfield said...

The general rule of thumb is the lower you hold the microphone, the funnier you are. If you can manage to balance it upright by pinching the connecting wire, consider yourself a legend.

2/1/10, 2:13 PM  
Blogger Alex Grubard said...

I heard the first time Bill Cosby did stand-up was taping the special Himself.

2/1/10, 4:44 PM  
Anonymous themagicofthemind.ca said...

To be a legend improvement plays a very important role.This is a very nice blog.

2/3/10, 4:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. Kimmel proves the point nicely. He is not funny. Has not improved. Would be, maybe the fifth funniest guy on my dorm room floor in college. The only thing that changed on his show was his look and the look of the set. Good comedy is smart. Kimmel is not smart. I really find it incredible that he has a show on television. Incredible.

2/3/10, 8:06 PM  
Blogger Kate Hendricks said...

I really enjoy this blog, as I've told you many a time. I appreciated the "listen to the audience" comment. Something you dont think a lot about if you're always at open mics, but an excellent point.

2/5/10, 4:11 PM