So was talking with another comic last night about the other stuff you "should" have ready to go, other than standup skills, once you get some buzz. This comic's view: You only get the heat of Gotham/Montreal for a limited time and you should be ready to strike while the iron is hot. Scripts, treatments, show ideas, book ideas, etc.
Is this something that comics should think about? What if you just want to do standup? Should you still work on other things in order to diversify? Is it tough to get management if all you want to do is standup? Do managers want you to work on this stuff? Do they make suggestions on what route is best to take? Is it unwise to shoot for, say, Montreal if you don't have any of this stuff ready to go?
I will answer this question, and maybe I am already doing it (depending if you want to include this as part of the answer). However, I will add a disclaimer or two:
1) I do not know if I am the ideal person to BE answering this question. That is to say, I only have my experience. I am not a manager or an industry whoever, so I certainly don't know what they all think.
2) Even though I have my own experience, I only have it up until this point, and I don't know what will happen in the rest of my life and career, as far as learning whether I've made horrible mistakes or used the information I had all wrong.
3) This is all coming from a person who mainly wants to do standup. Standup is what I know and love doing. Sure, if I was offered a job writing monologue jokes for a late night show, I certainly would be happy to do so, and I have in fact created packets to submit for such jobs, but it's not my main focus. I spend most of my creative energies writing and performing standup, because that's what I enjoy most and know how to do.
Disclaimers out of the way. Still reading? All right.
I will continue by saying that there are very few "shoulds" about this business. I mean, you SHOULD do the amount of time you're booked to do, you SHOULD not do other people's material, and you MAYBE should come up with a third example for situations like this because 3's are funny (also K's, and 3 K's equals the KKK, which is super funny). See?
That said, I think the real answer depends on what your goals are, and how much you enjoy doing things that are not your goals. Certainly, writing spec scripts or monologue jokes or screenplay treatments can be beneficial if you want to be a writer. And taking improv or acting workshops or audition classes and building up that kind of resume can be beneficial if you want to be an actor. And shooting videos or making internet clips or some third relevant thing (see, should have had something here) can be beneficial as well.
ALSO, all of those things can be beneficial to your standup career as well, if you're doing them in addition to doing the work of a standup. If you become a better actor, your standup can improve. If you get more experience writing different kinds of jokes or sketches or scenes or bits, your standup can improve. So certainly, there's no real downside to such endeavors.
Unless you don't enjoy them. Or if they take up too much time or creative energy such that it detracts from your standup (if your standup is something you don't want detracted from). I know people who have written for late night shows who have felt the need to put their standup on the back burner. But that's after they GOT the job, so maybe I'm getting off topic. Or maybe it is still on topic, in that if you can get burnt out doing that kind of work for a paycheck, imagine doing that much work on spec, before you've even GOTTEN the job. If imagining that doesn't bother you, then do it. Or even if it does bother you, maybe do it anyway. Sometimes things will be hard and take work.
So, is a standup who has these other things in their back pocket more desirable to a manager or the industry than one who doesn't, all other things being equal? Seems like that would be the case. But if you're talented and passionate about what you do, and all you do is standup, but you're amazing at it, there are certainly people out there who can and will want to respond to that. Will some managers want you to work on certain things? Sure. Is that good or bad? Sure. If a manager is telling you to do things you aren't interested in doing, that's no good. If they're encouraging you to work on things that you think will help you, that's yes good.
I really believe that an individual's route to success depends heavily on what that individual personally considers success to be. If it's just a boatload of money from whatever? Then sure, diversify as much as possible. Work on everything you can that can lead to that boat. Join the Navy. Whatever. If your goal is to create a certain kind of art, create that art.
Sincerely (and I don't know how helpful or profound this may be), you should do what you want to do, or what you think you might want to do later. Certainly, if you want to write books, then start writing. If you want to be a TV writer, start writing the kinds of things you will want to be writing later. If you just want to be a standup, focus on becoming the best standup that you can be. And if you have extra time, it certainly couldn't hurt to do any of the other stuff we're talking about here. Or other things, like a blog about comedy.
PS I honestly don't think it can be "too late" to capitalize on having created something. Sure, if you have something ready to go when your heat or buzz hits, that's all to your advantage. But, there are plenty of people who continue to create, develop, pitch, and work on projects after that first wave of success hits. Maybe you don't hear about everyone and everything they're doing, but I don't believe that it's an all-or-nothing issue of timing. If you are working hard on whatever you're doing, whenever you're doing it, I think that's key. Do what you like, do what you want to do, and try to get what you're doing out in front of people that you want to get it in front of.
Continued in Part 2.
Permalink | 7/08/2010