Killing with old vs. taking a chance on new

Fun comedy night last night. Performed at Revival show. Then went up to Caroline's to see Bill Burr do a set (was great). Then back downtown for Kabin 3-year anniversary show which was a packed out marathon party/show/goodtime.

While there, had an interesting pair of convos. Within 10 minutes of each other there was one discussion about how important it is to just go out and kill all the time. Even if it means doing older bits. Sure, comedians in the back might have heard 'em before but audience hasn't. That's how you start getting more attention, better bookings, etc. By destroying every time you hit the stage.

Yet a couple mins later had another talk with a comic who just got back from doing a bunch of road shows. He said he's gonna stop doing rote sets all the time in NYC and try more new stuff and follow tangents and see what happens. Better for developing new material and keeping things interesting. Plus, you keep getting better as a comic? So it's best to keep plowing ahead with new...right?

I nodded in agreement at both conversations even though they pretty much argue opposite views. I guess it's about striking the right balance between 'em? Hmm.


soce said...

When you are a well-beloved, supremely respected comedian, people will still be into you even if you try new material and it sometimes bombs. All I request is that you don't just get up on stage and not try at all, because you are so famous that people will simply say you are being "wonderfully subversive" instead of "extremely lazy".

Basically if you attempt too much new material and you're pitching bomb after bomb, then you may want to fall back on the old stand-bys just to show the audience that you deserve all the accolades.

When you're just starting out and still proving yourself, then it's much more important to kill constantly at the shows around town, so that hopefully people will see you doing a good job and become fans and decide to book you at their own shows. You still need time to work out new material, but you can do that at open mics or your own rooms.

myq said...

Destroying all the time sounds great.
Not ever doing anything new sounds the opposite of great.

Does it have to be one or the other?

Can't there be places that you perform new stuff, where you feel safe and comfortable and not worried about being judged for not destroying, because growth is important?
And then can't there be other places that you perform and aim to destroy all the time, so you can reap the benefits of said destruction?
(I think the answer to both questions is yes.)

Also, it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing thing, where you either do all new stuff or all old stuff. Sometimes you can trick people with a combination.

(And if you don't agree with everything in this blog comment, my apologies; I'm just working out some new ideas that I hope will destroy someday.)

Abbi Crutchfield said...

Sometimes you can trick people with a combination

This is the safest maneuver to preserve creative integrity while maintaining the outward appearance of a flawless professional. Integrate some new material into old, or, if I may use an analogy familiar to most of you, fold it like egg whites into a lobster soufflee.

myq said...

Or like tofu egg white substitutes into a soy lobster soufflee. (Soyfflee?)

I think that's more relatable.

ECN said...

Hell, if your new stuff's going to bomb, don't do it. Wait until the idea's polished enough, and you're enthusiastic enough about it, that it's going to kill.

If it never gets that polished, why are you doing it anyway? To feel like you're Making Progress? You don't make progress by throwing time and energy into bits without the potential to go anywhere.

Matt Ruby said...

@ECN: Sometimes the only way to know how a bit will do is to do it. I often need to tell a joke a few times in front of real people to see if it has legs and how it evolves. If only I could say it in front of the mirror and know for sure how "polished" it is, that'd be great. But alas...

ECN said...

Yeah, people say that. But I also feel like a lot of people -- including some good comics -- bring up a lot of stuff that obviously isn't going to work, and give it stage time.

This may be one of those things where the third-party observer has a better notion of what's going on than the comic does. I guess that's fine.

I mean, I guess the crucial thing is to be able to perform the new thing as though it's a trusted thing, which is a skill I suppose one has to develop. Harrumph.

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