What you think after losing a comedy contest

Really? I didn't make it. I was funnier than that guy. And these other people who are telling me they thought I was gonna make it for sure...are they just being polite? Hmm.

It was that one joke that didn't hit as hard as it usually does. Or maybe I should have closed with that other joke. Maybe it's where I went in the night. Maybe I need to open with something more personal so I'm clearly defined in the audience's eyes right off the bat. Maybe I shouldn't have told that dirty joke. Maybe I need to just tell all my quickest-to-the-punch jokes in a row.

Judging art is silly anyway. Imagine if someone forced you to pick between the Beatles and the Stones.

Plus, comedy has a measurement. Laughs. If you get 'em, you did your job.

Well, there is more to it than that. You can get laughs with dick jokes or by being a kooky character. But I want to say something I care about onstage. One-liner guys do great at these contests. But I don't want to just be clever and that's it. Sure, I appreciate a well-crafted one-liner. But to me, I'd rather have some point of view or emotional content or genuine passion. But getting that across in five minutes is tough. A great comedian comedian is different than a great contest comedian.

But let's be honest. It wasn't all one-liner guys. The guy who won it all killed it. Applause breaks on literally every joke. Snowball down a hill momentum. It was a no-brainer that he should move on. And that's why he won it all.

I guess that's the lesson, if there is one. Just be even funnier. Write even more jokes. Good enough isn't good enough when you're competing against great comics.

Or maybe I just need to compete against myself. Is my contest set better than the last contest set I did? If so, that's success. Just keep getting better. As another comic said to me recently, "Comedy is like golf. It isn't about competing against others. It's about competing against the course." I liked that. Well, except for the fact that golf is, well, totally about competing against others. Hmm.


David Angelo said...

"Sure, I appreciate a well-crafted one-liner. But to me, I'd rather have some point of view or emotional econtent or genuine passion."

I never get tired of hearing that.

How's this:

"What do you call a New York comedian with no job, no jokes, and no social skills? Tonight's headliner."

Abbi Crutchfield said...

You forgot to hate the audience for being incompetent mouth-breathers.

The person who wins doesn't necessarily deserve it more than the people who lose, but they don't deserve it less either. So it's good to be supportive of the winner. Because you'll win some day and want people to be supportive of you. Or you'll die tomorrow.

Enter cupcakes.

Noah Odabashian said...

This sounds like that art competition on Bravo last summer.

Totally misses the point of the art in the first place, just another way to repackage and rebrand something that was doing fine in the first place.

Cody Hess said...


myq said...

Beatles, definitely.

Was that the question?

Here's an answer to a different question--being in a contest isn't necessarily all about winning the contest.

(Of course it's nice to win, but I've been on the winning and losing sides of things, losing more things than I've won, even. And the good that comes from the experience doesn't specifically depend on the winning.)

Ultimately we're not all competing against one another. The more good comedians there are, the more good comedy shows there can be, the more good audiences may show up, the more good opportunities there are for everyone.

I've known so many people who enter a contest, do a great job, don't win, and then have tons of success eventually.

Some contests do a great job at getting industry to see as many contestants as possible. Seattle makes sure the industry night sees everyone compete). I hear the Laughing Skull does similarly. I know Boston recently doubled the number of semi-finalists which gives more people the opportunity to be seen in the later rounds.

Certainly, being judged in an art fight isn't why we got into this. But the judged art fight exists and can be a useful tool. ("You're a useful tool." Word.) They're not necessary but most of the time the worst case scenario doesn't leave anyone worse off than they would have been otherwise.

And again, winning definitely isn't everything.

Look at past winners of the Boston fest, the Seattle competition, San Francisco, Last Comic Standing, whatever contest you like.

Then look at who came in second, and third, and so forth. (So, fourth? Look who came in SOOOO fourth.)

I'll help...

For funs, here are some people who have come in second in the San Fran competition:
Robin Williams
Kevin Pollak
Ellen Degeneres
Mark Curry
Nick NiPaolo
Marc Maron
Dane Cook

For more funs, here are some people who have come in FIFTH in that same competition:
Louis CK
Dana Gould
Patton Oswalt
Rob Schneider

(I don't know who Tree is, but I like the name.)


PS If you want to have your own similar funs:

Badinia said...

All things I thought after being eliminated in Seattle last week. I finally assuaged my battered ego by remarking to myself that it's like a marathon- the first one, you just try to finish without sh*tting yourself. Yay me! P.S. I was amused to pick up a weatherbeaten poster for a prior Seattle comp with one Myq Kaplan on it.

myq said...

@Badinia, thanks for your me-related amusement.

@the weather that beat my poster: I will get you.

PS The Comedy Studio's forum has a thread related to this topic that I linked to this blog, and now I am doing the opposite, so my apologies for the infinite internet loop I have created:


Moving on/Subscribe to my newsletter

I only post on rare occasions here now. Subscribe to my Rubesletter  (it's at  mattruby.substack.com ) to get jokes, videos, essays, etc...