I Need You To Be Better At Comedy

That being said, you need me to be better too. I need all the comedy shows to be better, but so do we all. I’m not asking anything of you that I don’t ask of myself. Don’t think I’m trying to be divisive; I’m actually trying to bring us all together. Here is why.

The biggest limit we place on ourselves as artists is fear. We are afraid that there is not enough work, we are afraid that we will never get the opportunity we think we deserve and we are afraid that the success of others is taking the chances that we feel entitled to. I have been guilty of all of these feelings and I have let them affect me to my own detriment. I’m trying to get over it, and the best way to get over these feelings is to let them go.

Comedy often feels like an individual activity. It may seem like a competition. We all want the same hosting/featuring/headliner spots. We all want to open for our favorite comic or get on “that” showcase. We tend to think that comedy and the entertainment industry is not the meritocracy we believe it should be, but we might all be wrong. Let me focus on the negative first.

  1. If you suck the audience will not enjoy the show. If you are bad enough, the audience will not want to see another comedy show. They may leave before I even get a chance to perform. They may never come to another comedy show ever.
  2. The same is true if I bomb and you kill it.
  3. If there is no audience it doesn’t matter how good either of us is.

A year ago, when I was much more intent on going it alone, I subscribed to a different philosophy. I used to believe that following someone who was terrible gave me the opportunity to look better by contrast. I’m still going to take that approach when it happens, but now a days I would much rather follow someone who does well. I’d far rather be a great comic on a great show, and you should too.

This may feel like a lot of back patting fluff right? Aren’t there still limited opportunities for those who rise to the top? Maybe right now, but that is a very short-sighted way to look at things, and comedy is not a game to be won in a single night or year for that matter.

Here is the positive effect of us all being better:

  1. Everyone does well > The show goes well > The audience feels like they get their monies worth > Some of them will come out to more shows.
  2. The more people coming to shows makes it possible for there to be more shows.
  3. More audience at shows produces more demand, and we are the supply. Now there is more work for all of us.

It is a sad fact that comedy attracts a lot of egos and some people will never be on board with this team philosophy. I wasn’t, and I may not be in the future, but I am now. We as entertainers are all on the same team. No one needs comedy. The world will keep spinning and society will keep functioning without weekly comedy shows. It is on all of us to continually justify our industry, the very industry that fuels our passions and livelihoods. There is room for all of us. If not tonight, there will be in the future, as long as we all keep getting better and moving forward.

That is all.

You’ll Never Find Your Comedic Voice…if you’re always looking.

You Will Never Find Your Comedic Voice…if you’re always looking for it. It will happen with time. If it doesn’t happen, you’re/I/we’re not going to make it anyway so it doesn’t matter. Finding our comedic voice is our goal.

What is this comedic voice?

A lot of people confuse comedic voice with the character that comedians create for the stage. Mitch Hedberg’s speech pattern, cadence and timing comprised his stage character. You can try to emulate that. I have. When I started comedy I was heavily influenced by Mitch and all my jokes were trying to sound like his. However, it didn’t work. I didn’t have the comedic voice to back it up. It wasn’t my voice.

The voice is the tone and consistency that connects all the material to the comic’s personality and viewpoint. That sounds like a lot of fluff words. It’s hard for me to give a specific definition so I’m going to describe the context of what I understand it to be.

You find your voice when you’re so comfortable with your material and the experience of being on stage that there is an honesty that makes your words synch with your attitude. When this happens you probably won’t be the first person to notice it.  I notice the voice developing in many comics before they are even aware that they are getting there. When you write a joke and the people who know you say “that joke sounds like a joke you’d write” that means that you’re really connecting between the attitude and emotion of your feelings and the words you are using to describe them.

How long does it take to find your voice?

About one year into comedy I had the privilege of hosting for a pretty established veteran comic of 20 years. I was really intimidated hosting for him because it was my first weekend working a real club on a weekend. He could tell, and he gave me some great advice. He said, “Just get out there and tell your jokes. Learn to tell your jokes. Learn to get a laugh. Your voice will come when it’s ready, but you’ll never even get the opportunity to develop your voice if you don’t spend time on stage being funny.” I still have a lot of hacky one-liners and such in my set, but I think more often I’ll find I’ve written jokes that naturally sound like they fit me and I find more and more my friends are able to sort of see the style of jokes that I tend to seem more authentic to my personality, which is funny because I don’t even notice that about my own writing most of the time.

Bottom line: there is no time frame.
Second bottom line: Your comedic voice is not a final destination. Only a marker on your way to further growth.

Final bottom line: We all want to find our comedic voice but the process has to happen organically, so until you find your Chris Rock or your Jim Gaffigan be true to yourself, develop in the way you want to develop, and most importantly remember that no one can fault you for having the voice of someone who is funny and having fun.

That is all.

Picking-up Women & Comedy: Two Topics I Shouldn’t Give Advice On

“Performing stand-up for an audience is like being on a first date. Jokes are just an excuse to have a conversation.”

I’m about to give some advice on two things I have no business giving advice on. Stand-up comedy and dating. Well, maybe not actual dating, but picking up women. Well, maybe not picking up women, but what I would do if I was more like the character from the sitcom in my head. Let’s start with the comedy part; because that’s the part I suck at less.

My friends are funny. When we hang out, the brilliant premises fly. So why is it so hard to take those premises, write brilliant jokes and then make them work on stage? I think the problem lies in the fact that we “wrote jokes.” I’ll explain.

If you’ve been performing more than a day, you probably know that the key to succeeding on stage is likeability. New comedians are often delivering their jokes like they’re reading a script. A lot of the jokes might even be great, but I think there is a false belief that the writing will carry them. I don’t think it will, “for most comics.”

Writing vs. Performing. If you think writing makes you a comedian, then you’re already losing the fight. There is already a place well written jokes. The internet, joke books, radio, twitter, billboards, everywhere. Why would people pay to see you live if you’re just going to regurgitate jokes? If they do, they’ll only do it once.

I don’t believe writing is not important. It is, but jokes are just an excuse to talk to the audience. A written joke from paper to the stage is like a pick-up line at a bar. Most pick-up lines are in fact jokes. And do pick-up lines work? Sometimes. It sort of depends on what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Now this is where there is a decision to make. What type of comedian do you want to be? Do you want to work clubs and one nighters or do you want to put on your own shows and connect to audiences in a larger way? Neither one is more correct, but comics are constantly making that choice before they even realize what they’re doing.

If you meet a girl at a bar and you make her feel hot, she may sleep with you tonight. If you let her know she’s beautiful, she may sleep with you forever. This is the same with comedy club audiences. Making an audience feel hot is delivering lines. It’s being flashy, impressive, reciting clever jokes you have written and performing your act. You make the audience feel beautiful when you make yourself vulnerable. You have to exist and be present on stage. Every audience is different, and they want to feel different and special. A beautiful audience will connect with you after the show has passed: friend you on facebook, visit your website, buy your merchandise. A hot audience will laugh at you tonight, shake your hand on the way out, and perhaps remember to tell their co-workers, “Hey I saw this comic last night, they were really funny, I don’t know who it was, but they were funny.” An audience that that was made to feel beautiful will want to remember your name and come see you again.

You can write your way to being a good comedian. I don’t care what anyone else says. I’ve seen it. Some people find a moderate to good level of success based solely on their ability to write clever and original material. I strongly believe that you will only ever become a great comedian if you are a funny person, and I don’t mean on stage. Be a funny person.

So how can you accomplish this? Here are the ways I try to develop this side of myself. Note, they are personal suggestions that I find helpful and I offer them as nothing more.

1. INTERACT WITH MORE PEOPLE: I am a shy person by nature, but I’ve been making an attempt to join more social groups, hobby groups and general groups of people. And I’m meeting people from different fields than comedy. You learn so much about what makes people laugh when you make people laugh. We can’t control who comes in to a comedy show, but we can prepare ourselves for who might come in to a comedy show.

2. BE FUNNY MORE OFTEN: I don’t think the only time I can test material is when I’m on stage. I realize a lot of comedians take this overboard and talk completely in bits. I’m guilty of bouncing premises off of unsuspecting civilians, but it’s really a much better opportunity to work on my crowd work, improv, and interacting with “audiences.”

3. GET PEOPLE TO LIKE YOU AS A NON-COMEDIAN: I think we all have this delusional desire to make people like us as comedians hoping that will translate into liking us as people. It’s far easier to get people to like you as a person and then have them come to a show and they’re already on your side before you tell your first joke. Be interesting, be charming, and don’t always feel like you have to be the funny guy, although, it’s almost always okay to be the funny guy.

By the way, I don’t really do any of this, but I hope to someday.

(Unofficial 4th: don’t go back on everything you just spent the previous 900 words trying to explain in the last sentence. That won’t impress anyone)

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.

Don’t Worry About Being Too Smart For Your Audience. You’re Probably Not.

Don’t worry about being too smart for your audience, because you’re probably not.

I had a stupid little joke I old the first time I was ever on stage. “Dyslexia…(beat) that’s the punchline to my next joke.” In retrospect, most of my jokes from that first night of stand up were pretty stupid, but some people enjoy them and so I kept doing them. A take a real writer’s approach to comedy, and I put in a lot of time writing things that I believe to be very clever. I try to get my laughs from writing things that are often obscure thoughts and weird observations and I try to fully utilize all the tools
available to a comic.  Often times these premises are not immediately clear in their first iteration and it is usually only after a series of revisions do they become funny to general audiences. I will point out, they are typically factual and technically accurate, but not
always funny.

Something that I found interesting form early on was a phenomenon that taught me to reframe my view on “intelligent humor, and intelligent audiences.” Sometimes I would have one of those shows were people didn’t exactly “crack up.” They would laugh or chuckle. They would smile and I could tell from looking at them they were engaged, but there would never be momentous
laughter like a professional comedian wants. Occasionally, people would come up to me after the show and apologize for everyone else in the audience, and say things like “I liked you’re comedy. You’re smart, and don’t worry about the audience. They’re just not smart enough to get your jokes.” This used to make me feel better. Now it doesn’t.

It actually makes me feel worse now that I am a little more experienced. Instead of taking it as a justification of why the audience sucked (which I don’t consider to ever be an acceptable excuse) I feel like it means “Hey Jamie, instead of making your joke accessible to the most people you could, you made it resonate with the fewest possible.” And to a comic who is trying to make the
most people laugh more of the time doesn’t that sound kind of like a stupid plan?

If you think your material is too smart for certain audiences, then you are obviously waiting for those perfect audiences to set
the stage for success. If that is the case then you’re already beginning to fail. If I thought that I would eventually become a successful comedian by waiting to find the right audience who would “appreciate” my “intelligent” humor than I would have been sorely mistaken.

The average comedian is not going to be lucky enough to perform solely in comedy clubs and with perfect audiences. I’m from Atlanta, which is a great comedy city, and even I have to perform in all manner of clubs, rooms, and venues. I get progressive alt-comedy fans from what the city that Advocate magazine rated as “The Gayest City in the USA” as well as playing more rural rooms where I’m the only Chinese person that most of the audience members have ever seen…and I’m not even Chinese.

I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to take a workshop during the 2009 NC Comedy Arts Festival. The workshop was with a very accomplished comedian who is the stand-up comedy talent coordinator for The Late Show with David Lettermen. This workshop gave each of the 12 participants an opportunity to present our material and get honest feedback about what we
needed to do to be successful in the biz. People have different feelings about the usefulness of workshops and comedy classes, but this was being taught by the guy that books for Lettermen. I’m not trying to make this out like I had an audition, I’m simply emphasizing the fact, this guy sees MANY comedians on a daily basis, he knows who the players are and how they are doing, so I
considered his feedback valuable.

Well, he liked my material. He said he was surprised I had been at it as short a time as I had been but thought I was on the right track. The biggest piece of advice he gave me, something I remember and think about to this day, that my jokes might need to be as he called it, unpacked so they were more palatable to most audiences. THE IMPORTANT PART OF THIS: No one used
the expression “dumb down your jokes.” He didn’t tell me I needed to cater do “dumber” audiences. I’ve never felt I was “too smart” for crowds. It does happen that you might use a reference that geographically or generationally is missed, but the
bottom line is, funny is funny. Economy of words is extremely important to a comedian, but this is the one case I believe that sometimes it might be necessary to throw in an extra word or phrase to explain something in order for people to get your joke. They’ll forgive you if you make the joke worth it.

It takes a whole different level of intelligence to make your material resonate with all audiences. One of my favorite comedians, and I think a great example is Steve Martin. If you watch or listen to some of his stand up, he has some really intelligent joke construction, and uses some ridiculous jokes and sight gags to balance out his show.

“…Some people have a way with words, and some people, not have way.” – Steve Martin

*Notice how there is no mention of penises or strippers in this joke.

Being able to write to the top of the room’s intelligence level, and then make your jokes accessible to everyone else is not just smart, it’s brilliant. You have to be smarter than everyone in the room and then self-aware enough to present it in a way people will accept. One of the biggest flaws I see with really intelligent comedians is that they are so smart, and they want
the audience to know how smart they are. Nobody goes to a comedy club because they want to think. If you’re going to “Hicks” the audience then you probably need to ease them in and or trick them by making them laugh.

Something I can’t stand that a lot of comedians say is “I hate Larry The Cable Guy, he’s the stupidest comedian ever.” I don’t for a
moment believe that everybody needs to like Larry DCG, nor do I suggest you have to respect him, but you should. Dan Whitney found a character that resonates with millions, millions, yes read that, MILLIONS of people. That means he’s doing something right. The fact that he created this character and it’s not him makes it all the more impressive. Who among us wouldn’t like to
create a character that has multiple tv specials and sells out shows across the country?

I’d do it, if I could, but I’m not smart enough to be dumb enough right now. If I tried to do that, I’d probably oversell my ideocracy, so I’ll work on building myself up for a little bit more time before I unleash my personal, Rary The Cable Consultant.

That is all.

Jamie.

Everyone in Atlanta is failing at comedy.

Here in the local comedy scene, we are all failing at comedy. Let’s face the facts, unless you’re a household name, you suck just as much as the rest of us. Sure you may get a hosting gig that pays 20 or feature occasionally. Sometimes some of us even “headline” local shows. I myself have won a buck or two at some contests out-of-state, but seriously, are we doing this for a living? And even if we are, is it as good a living as we could be making working 40 hours with benefits at Target? Seriously, we are all failing at comedy, just some of us fail less than others. Even with all the success I have had as a comic in Atlanta, every night is not my night. Each time anyone of us takes the stage we have the potential for absolute brilliance and disaster. We have all faced both of those fates as well as the gamut of tolerance and indifference.

Some nights does it feel like you’re making real strides in your comedy career? Probably. But if you’re anything like most of us, you only feel as worthy of living as your last decent set. You can fall off the highest high only to feel the lowest of lows only in the same night. That is why I say, until you have beaten the game, we are all really losing. I’m lucky enough to lose less than average more than average. But my name alone is not enough to get me on shows in NYC or LA. I might be a player in ATL, but I’m a coward who hasn’t even performed at UPTOWN yet.  I have a lot of small  and personal comedy goals to accomplish before I have “made it.” You do too.

Perhaps the most important thing we need to do  in order to stop failing at comedy is redefine succeeding. “I killed it last night” is typically not an accurate portrayal of a prior comedy engagement nor is it usually consistent with the consensus of the more unbiased audience that had to suffer through your mildly comic tirade. If you were raised by parents, a teacher or even a good mentor, then you have probably heard that you need to be accountable for yourself and not try to complain about others words and actions.

“We teach people how to treat us.” I’m paraphrasing a quote I got from, I have no recollection, but I think it is so true in comedy. Once we take personal accountability for our performances we are no longer at the mercy of the audience to decide how we did or didn’t do.

1. Did you perform like you intended to perform? You told all the new jokes you had planned on? Did all the act outs you meant to? Weren’t thrown off by the audience interaction from the drunk heckler two minutes in? Then I guess you succeeded.

2.  Did you learn something from the experience? I know no one laughed tonight, but do you know why? This will help you make adjustments and get those well deserved laughs in the future.

3.  Most importantly, did you do comedy you wanted to do or what you thought the audience wanted to hear? This is probably my biggest problem. Sure, I appear to do well at a lot of shows, but I’m often making a lot of concessions based on what I think the audience will laugh at. A lot of times I am wrong. The mark of a true professional comedian is they get laughs where they want, when they want, in the way that they want. You can’t control the audience, but you shouldn’t let them control you.

I really wish I could say I was a better comic than I am. However, I recently went out of town to compete in a comedy contest, and I changed my set-list based on what I thought the audience would “accept.” It was not my best material, but it was enough to win 100 bucks. But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t get to do the set that I think people should hear. Why? There were a couple of words that I could have been disqualified for. This is why I hate comedy contests and as soon as I finish the last ones that I am currently enrolled in, I will not be enrolling in any more. (I say that, I reserve the right to keep doing them forever) .

Seriously though, I won that night, but I wasn’t happy. 100 bucks. What will that get me? Really ? Paid my entry fee, covered gas and food, and now I can pay half my phone bill. Did I progress as a comic? I had a fun time, but I’m not sure I really learned anything. Is there a possibility I might get work out of it? If so, it would be work that was just as compromising as having the set I did at the contest.

I have a lot I want to say about “defining success” in comedy, but for now I need to get back to writing my own failing at comedy/life jokes.

That is all.

Jamie.

Practice won’t make you better at comedy.

Perfect practice will make you better at stand-up comedy. A lot of young comics I talk too (including my conversations I have with myself in the mirror) say that any stage time is good stage time. Here again, like women sucking at comedy, is another illusionary correlation we draw. More stage time does not make you a better comedian. More minutes of material don’t make you a better comedian. More experience performing doesn’t MAKE you a better comedian. “So then Jamie, if you know so well what doesn’t make a good comedian, than do you know what does make someone good at comedy?”

Nope! I don’t. But I have a better guess. Some conclusions I have come up with based on my own trial & error from my first year of comedy. I’ll share them with you now.

Practice, stage time and experience are all helpful and necessary. I’m not so foolish as to discount the usefulness of all of them. But getting as much stage time will only make you better if you make the most of each experience. To get the most out of each performance, I have a few suggestions.

1. Know what it is you are working on each time. Have you written new material? Are you going to work on performing older material a new way? Have you re-arranged a set. Just going up to a microphone and throwing out a list of jokes (and some people read them off a sheet?!?!) will not net you the biggest gain. You need to understand the context of the audiences reaction. Sandwich new material in-between solid material. If the established material gets it’s normal reaction, it will help you gauge whether or not the new stuff works. If you’re working on your performance side, or perhaps trying out a character, realize different venues provide different levels of feedback of whether this material will work at a comedy club. Understand for my purposes, knowing whether material will eventually work at a comedy club is always my ultimate goal.

2. Understand that all venues are not created equal. Sometimes it’s better to work on different parts of your set at different types of venues. If the audience is not buying your old tried and true stuff a few jokes in, think about throwing everything out and just doing the some new stuff. It’s not guaranteed to work, but at this point, what have you got to lose. (I’m not saying make up stuff. If you’re ever at a loss for what to do, don’t hesitate to leave the stage.) If you are at a venue where the patrons are not expecting comedy, this is an opportunity to practice engaging the audience and maybe not so much the place for your comic’s-comic jokes. Realize if you’re having a hard time performing somewhere, it might not be anything you’re “doing” but your approach to the room.

3. Set a comedy goal. Like I discussed at the beginning, you should know what you want to learn or achieve at every show. Are you trying to make personal fans who would be willing to come see you again at a locally booked show? Probably not the best time to be trying out all new material or a character. Are you interested in polishing up a set right before a competition or a big booked show? You’d probably be benefited by performing in a venue as similar to the one you are practicing for. This means, if you’re practicing for a show at a comedy club, then an open mic intended for musicians at a rowdy sports bar at 12 on a Wednesday might not be as beneficial as performing at a regular comedy open mic at a normal comedy club. I realize that this is not always an option, and I would recommend take stage time over not taking it, but all things being equal, choose your venue. If you don’t have a comedy goal, you can waste your 3-10 minutes on stage, not to mention the travel time to and from the show.

 So I guess what I’m trying to tell you is don’t simply rely on performing to make you better. You have to perform better to get better. It sounds weird, but it’s true. If you watch comedians that are succeeding and the ones that never go anywhere you’ll notice the ones succeeding use every set they get. You don’t have to get lots of laughs every set, but you have to be deliberate. If you get silence, mean to get it. If you incite a heckler, have done that on purpose. Purpose is the key to perfect practice in comedy. You can’t ever bomb if you don’t mean to. You can bomb unintentionally, but that is when you open yourself up to unintentional mistakes by not paying attention.

So don’t expect to get better just because you play the game . It’s never been a quantity over quality game.

That being said, I’m a hypocrite and won’t follow any of this advice.

That is all.

Jamie.

Why women suck at comedy Part II

If you did not read part 1 of this post it is probably important for you to do so, so that you don’t hate me unnecessarily. I don’t mind you hating me, just be sure it’s for the right reasons. In fact there are so many good reasons to hate me, it would be a shame for you to be wrong.

I received a lot of awesome feedback from people about the previous entry and it brought up a few ideas that I had thought about. What are some of the reasons that people think women comics are terrible?

I have found a number of reasons people try to justify their dislike of female comedy. Chief among the caveats is, I did not relate to their humor. They only talk about their periods, hating men, and their cats. Fair enough. However, I have yet to hear a man tell a joke about a period, their girlfriend’s/wife’s/random woman’s period, or “what if guys had periods.” Every time I hear a guy tell a joke about a period of some sort, it typically triggers the hack-alarm in my brain causing me to turn off my ears regardless of how original the bit might be.

Once again, I want to refer to the concept of illusionary correlation from (WWCS Part I) to explain the statistical trend of terrible women comics. Now I’d like to say that applies to the subject matter as well.  I pretty much hate all the comics I find un-relatable. That is part of your job as a comic, take something that I unique to you and let people sympathize with its generality. You can also take the opposite approach. You can take something that is very general, and carve out your own idiosyncratic niche.

It might help to address the specific reasons I didn’t think I liked women comics:

1. They talk about their period/hating men/cats and I can’t relate to any of that material.

 Okay, so here is the problem. I can’t relate to the material. But that is true with any comic. I don’t have to have ever been a nuclear scientist, but if you tell jokes about it, make me care. Let me see how your gay relationship experiences the same moments as my straight relationships. Men and women are different, so are cats and dogs and blacks and whites. You know what else is different? Good comics and bad comics.

 Good comics are all like “what you’ve never experienced my life? Let me break it down for you in ways that you can relate to.”

Bad comics are all like “this happens to me, and you’ll never understand.”

 

2. Women comics are just hostile towards men.

HAHA, I don’t want to even start in to a debate over gender equality in comedy. I don’t care. Let me just ask, are the well written jokes? Are they clever? Women should be able to make a career making fun of men, because I know I’ve spent the last 20+ years tricking people into thinking I was funny by making fun of women…and Blacks…and Jews…Asians, Christians, Atheists, Amish People, Midgets, etc. etc.

 

3. Women comics can just get up and say really disgusting things and the audience laughs because of the weird contrast of having someone who is cute spew such vile filth.

 That’s actually just my personal taste in comedy. I’m not a big fan of guys who are way to graphic in their descriptions and act outs of lewdness and debauchery. I used to think maybe some women comics just got away with “that kind of material” because it audiences will buy it from women. I have come to realize, long-term, that is not the case. We are selling ourselves on stage and our material/act is just the medium through which we relate to the audience. There is no automatic combination of writing, acting and persona that will guarantee success in comedy. We all “work” it out. So this point of contention in my case is just a preference.

 

If you are not familiar, Google Maria Bamford. She has to be one of my favorite current comedians. She is so unique and creative she puts a lot of male comics to shame.  However those target commercials freaked me out.

Anyway, check her out. I probably could have shortened this rant if I had just brought her up at the beginning. Seriously, she’s good. Check her out.

That is all.

Jamie.

Why Women Suck At Comedy

To be fair, men suck at comedy too. Almost everyone sucks at comedy. That’s why everyone can’t be a super famous comedian. The reason comedy is one of the most awesome things in the whole world, is basically because it is such an honest medium. You can either do it or you can’t. There is no men’s league, now women’s scale. Each one of us goes out in front of the audience and tries to make them laugh. Most of us fail.

You often here the phrase “I don’t like women comics.” I have to admit I was guilty of making such statements when I first started. However, as I have progressed as a comedian and grown to have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t it has changed my perspective on comedy.

First off, there simply aren’t as many women in comedy as there are men. That’s a shame. Dudes like working with ladies. We certainly aren’t trying to run them off. There just is a smaller pool of candidates. Now consider the fact that 99.9 % of the all the people we see at comedy shows (disregarding gender) are not funny. So now if you assume that only 33% of all the comics are women and only .01 percent are funny, that is why it seems like so few women are funny. I’m being extreme with my statistics to illustrate a point. The fact is, since I think it might actually be harder for women to thrive long term in the comedy scene here in ATL, that the ones that stay are actually better, meaning that statistically in Atlanta, if you are a female comic you are more likely to be good at comedy than if you are a random male.

Bottom line: if you are funny, you are funny.

Okay, time for me to get honest.

Sometimes I’m jealous of women comics because I have this misguided notion that people that run shows just want to sleep with the women and give them preferential treatment when booking them. I wish I was a bigger person than to feel this but I know that I have shared this sentiment on occasion with other comics. That being said, I know that as much as that may or may not be true, that is the sexual dynamic of our society, and if it is true and helps them get a foot in the door, there are plenty of factors holding them back long term. Mainly, the stereotype of women not being funny, that I described earlier. How much does that hold them back from being booked later in their careers when they are actually good.

So what can we do to make sure that women are treated fairly in comedy.

1. Don’t care. Ultimately the audience will determine what they want to see. As players in the game we can influence stage time and shows, but we as comics are the supply and audiences create the demand.

2. Be honest with the women comics. If you like their stuff tell them. If you don’t, give them advice. Honestly, they’re not going to **** or ****  or **** your **** for **** just because you suck up to them after every show. We should all be more honest with everyone else. We all want to be better and we won’t get better if everyone around us acts like everything we say is gold.

3. Quit saying I hate women comedians and start saying I hate bad comedians.

That is all.
Jamie.

You’re not all that funny.

Okay, maybe you are, but I’m trying to steer traffic here with inciting titles.

When I started comedy, I was shocked at how superficially polite of a community it was. We all get off stage, shake everybody’s hand and tell each how we “killed it.” I’m not sure this is helping anyone. But we may need to cultivate a little more of this survival of the fittist mentality if any of us want to get better.

HONESTLY, and I’ll be the one to say it: There is not room for all of us at the top. If we all sit around patting each other on the back, someone else is going to come along and take it. I’d rather beat my friends and like wise I’d rather lose to my friends.

Now I am not about to suggest we all need to start acting like assholes. There is a place for civility in this world, and like I always say, I 100% respect anyone who is working on their craft regardless of where they are at the moment. Hell, I’m not all that good, I’ve just been lucky enough to get by with what I’ve got. However, lately I have had a few people that I respect who have pushed me to be better. Here is why:

1. Remember to have fun on stage, but remember this is your work. I’ve been having too much fun for the past few years. I have done my set, then spent time hanging out with my friends. That is all well and good, but understand, once you start getting booked for actual shows, it’s not like the showcases and open mics. There are only a few comics, you may not even know anyone else on the show. I’ve learned to use this as on opportunity to learn from people better than you, and with more experience than you. This leads to point two.

2. Surround yourself with people better than yourself. It feels good to be the big fish in a little pond. But play that role to long, and you start to look like the old guy who still hangs out with high schoolers. I like to always be the worst comic on a show (meaning the least experienced) and I always aim to be the best. In reality, I know I wont be, but if I don’t try, I might as well quit before I even go on stage.

3. Get out of your comfort zone. As soon as you feel like everything is going right, it’s probably time to push yourself further. I’m a very cautious person by nature, and I’m very slow to take risks comedically. It was after several converstions with another senior comic that I decided to apply for the Laugh Your Asheville Off comedy festival and what do you know? I got in. This is something I would not have done of my own accord, but I’m grateful to have tried. If you’re doing well, on a consistent basis, its time to find that next challenge. Try new material, try a new venue, or do what I am doing, go for more out of town work. It is a great feeling to have your comedy validated by an audience from a different state. (note it can also be a long ride home.) But that is the game. You must constantly raise the stakes in order to progress.

Let me know if there is any good advice you have gotten from someone about the business too.

Or we should all just quit comedy.

That is all.

Jamie.