If Your Goal Is To Become A Better Comic, You Probably Never Will.

A lot of comics feel like they have to take the “mature” path and constantly be saying that their goal is to be a better comic, to be more in control of their act, to be a better writer. If these are the goals that you set for yourself, you’re already failing at achieving them. You may feel like you’re being shallow by saying, my goal is to get a Comedy Central Presents Special, or to get on Conan. I firmly believe that a comic that sets a goal of recording a DVD is already more likely to accomplish this goal, than a comic who just “wants to get to that professional level where you’re selling out shows and recording albums.”

People in general don’t know how to set goals. Aside from having no self-awareness or just being stupid, average people are always setting unattainable goals. Why 99% of goals set unattainable? Because they aren’t really specific goals. They are more generically-general wishes for personal or circumstantial improvement. “I’d like to be a better person.” “I’d like to be funnier.” “I’d like to set better goals.” These are all terrible goals because there is really no way to measure your success.

At the risk of sounding controversial (not that I care) I’m going to introduce some generally accepted
criteria for goal setting. There is an acronym that is often used in business as a way to determine whether your goal is a good goal or not. The acronym is SMART. If you need better definitions you can look them up.

S: Specific – Say exactly what your goal is.

M: Measurable – How do you know you’re making progress?

A: Attainable – Can it even be done.

R: Reasonable – Can YOU do it? Can you DO it?

T: Timely – When will it be accomplished?

I feel it is very important to always have a comedy goal in mind. I have short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. If I don’t have a goal before I go up on stage, I feel like I’m wasting
my time. These are not necessarily my goals, but they are examples of how I
think about it.

Short-term: one show or the shows in this week. (Try a new joke; add to my mailing list, etc.)

Medium-term: What is the next goal in my career path? (Better video, new set, start my own show)

Long-term: What I want to do before I quit or die. (Record a comedy album, Cable Comedy Special, Headline clubs and theater shows.)

Now these aren’t hard and fast rules, but they are a great guide for determining whether what you are saying is a real mission statement or just wishful thinking. My goals are constantly changing, but I have them down somewhere which helps me know if I am on track or getting distracted. My long-term goals may change as I start to knock off some of my medium term goals and redefine my ability and what is feasible.

Where this gets complicated, but I also believe important is when you’re trying to create comedy related goals. Because comedy is both an art and a science it is often very hard to talk about a subjective medium in empirical terms. Don’t sweat it. None of this is important. It is just one of the factors that is helping me find success.

Sometimes I have a goal that I can’t necessarily verbalize to others. It can still be a goal even if you can’t
exactly tell people what you mean. With that being said, I am always trying to convert my abstract goal concepts in to written mission statements. The reason I find this conversion important is, the ability to coherently verbalize your abstract thought is an indication that you really understand what your thought is. You’ve probably experienced the feeling of wanting to describe something to someone but lacking the words? (Think of love and other feeling type things) That doesn’t mean those thoughts are invalid, but people really connect with Shakespeare because his words hit sentiments felt by others. Random musings by confused illiterates such as myself are often lost on even the most basic level.    “You LOST me at hello.”

So what should you take away from this?

  1. Goals are a great motivator. Successful people typically share some basic habits and one of the biggest ones is having their goals physically written down somewhere. Statistically you are far more likely to accomplish your goals.
  2. Set comedy goals and comedy business goals. Don’t feel like you’re a sell out for saying your goal is to get on Comedy Central. A lot of us are thinking that and afraid to say it for fear of not being perceived as an authentic artist.
  3. Set goals and don’t be afraid to change them as you mature. I set goals based on what I am able to accomplish. As I improve my skills what I am able to accomplish changes and results in my goals changing.

For more advice on comedy business and goals check out a great website: http://connectedcomedy.com/

Connected comedy also has a great facebook fan page that features discussions, tips and advice. Connected Comedy is an on-line comedy community that is run by Josh Spector, who is a marketing
guru from LA, but trust me, he’s so much more. I’ve learned a lot about how to define my own success in comedy and how to take charge of my own comedy career both with and without the club scene.

That is all.

Jamie.

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About Jamie Ward
I am a comedian. At this point in my life I live comedy. I'm not all that funny, but it's all I think about every waking moment.

3 Responses to If Your Goal Is To Become A Better Comic, You Probably Never Will.

  1. Phil Johnson says:

    That’s a good point Jamie. Having a defined “accomplish this specific thing” gives you a much better target to shoot for. And I think if you’re doing the work to accomplish those goals you’ll achieve the “getting better” part naturally.

  2. Pingback: 20 Things Comedians Should See This Week

  3. I think that feeling of not being authentic comes from people that are perceived as trying to shirk the comedic (artistic) process. By that I mean, that guy who goes to one open mic and talks about HBO specials. Nobody wants to be thought of as “that guy,” even though we all secretly pine for that HBO/whatever special.

    While having goals for yourself is great, you definitely need to make sure you don’t sound like a jackass who doesn’t take the process seriously (or worse, an egomaniac that thinks he’s better than the process). It’s always important to consider how your peers (and potential job contacts, references, bosses) may judge you by what you say or do. So it’s best if you choose to offer up seemingly far-fetched goals that you add a bit of humility. Of course, Jamie, you pointed this out with the “A” and “R” in the “SMART” acronym. Are your goals Attainable? Are your goals Reasonable? As long as those parts aren’t ignored, we’ll all be alright.

    As always, great post. Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

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