Doug Stanhope: "You learn everything from experience"

Doug Stanhope explains why he hates people who teach stand-up comedy classes. It's riveting.

I'll tell you exactly what [industry guys] are looking for - people who are getting the most attention from other industry. They wander like blind coyotes in packs and jump on whatever seems to be creating the most noise. They have no insight and scramble around whatever apple is the shiniest like cartoon drunks in a scrum around Mardi Gras titties...

I was once in my early years of comedy and semi-popular in the ranks of the open mics in Phoenix when a comic higher-up in the ranks - Joey Scazzola - caught me giving advice to a new guy.

He said "Never give anyone advice because you're only telling them how to be more like you." Every time I've erred and given someone advice, I remembered that.

If you want advice, you most likely just want someone to reassure you of what you already know. If they tell you otherwise, you'll either discount it or you'll take their advice and no longer be following the instincts that got you in this to begin with. So either way, you didn't need the advice...

Should you take my advice? Fuck no. I would have told Dan Whitney to dump that silly "Larry the Cable Guy," that he'd never make a dime with that goofiness. I would have told Daniel Tosh that his show would never work, that he was just interrupting good Youtube footage like a latter-day Bob Saget. I would have been wrong on many occasions.

My best advice doesn't even work for me. I thought going on stage on mushrooms for New years Eve would make for exceptional comic insight. I've convinced myself that 2900 dollars in the bank is "fuck-you" money. I was sure that making fun of a tragic burn victim in a room nearly empty would be hilarious - especially to the burn victim. Oops.

You learn everything from experience. You could get a doctorate in listening to someone else's road and not get shit from it.

I like the inherent contradiction of someone giving advice that you should never listen to advice. Provides a nice lil' feedback loop.

My .02: I don't think ALL advice is bad. I mean, I post advice from others and give my own preferences here. Personally, I think it's nice to have input from others. Can help save you time/mistakes.

The key is being willing to ignore that advice and trust your instincts instead. What's right for someone else could be a terrible idea for you. The bits of conventional wisdom you reject are what make you unique. I just see it as more of a balancing act than the all-or-nothing scenario Stanhope paints.

But that's not nearly as interesting as Stanhope's rage so I'll give him that. With so much faux dangerous "edgy" comedy out there, it's fun to see someone really put himself out there consistently in an "I don't give a fuck" way like Stanhope does.


myq said...

Stanhope is one of the best thinkers there is.
This is great.

Punchline Magazine linked to it also, and there are some comments over there that are worth reading, particularly one defending the Kyle Cease workshop:

"It is not a class on writing jokes, nor was it ever pitched to me as a class on writing jokes. Nor was it a class that teaches shortcuts to comedy success... There is no scam here." (Plus lots of other words.)


Sorry to cross-pollinate blogs like that. Somebody advise me on whether I shouldn't have done it.

Abbi Crutchfield said...

Myq you included a quote and a link, so I deem this cross-pollination acceptable.

Dan Cartwright said...

Ironically, Standhope gave advice by saying not to listen to or give anyone advice. Its still a recommendation on how to get better at comedy.

Alex Grubard said...

Giving specific advice on your act and broadly telling people how it is are two different things.

soce said...

I was going to say that same thing Alex said. Sometimes stand-up beginners will ask me to critique their sets (even though I'm mostly a beginner myself), and I'll basically tell them the general advice that was told to me about making jokes tighter, etc.

I wouldn't want to tell them which specific jokes are better than others... they should be able to figure that out themselves, based on a combination of audience feedback and their own feelings about the material.

Gonzalo said...

I've found that the best advice I've gotten from people happened when I wasn't asking for it or even looking for it. It happened in conversation or after a particularly good or bad set. The reason it was good advice was because it came from people who'd seen me do well and seen me bomb day in/day out for months and months. I can't imagine any class in the world can replicate that. I was so happy reading this rant from Stanhope because Cease's class in particular seemed like it was taking advantage of people.

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