I had an interesting conversation with one of my Killer Stand-up Members not too long ago who was taking a stand-up comedy class.
He wasn’t in the class for the so-called “writing” part. He was there for the in-class performances and the end of class graduation performance hosted at a local comedy club.
One of the aspects of the class he revealed to me was that out of 20 people who had started the class, only 12 made it to perform at the comedy club graduation performance.
Even though many people get the idea they want to take a shot at stand-up comedy, once they get into a stand-up comedy class, any number of things are revealed that can contribute to a high dropout rate, such as:
1. They suddenly realize they will actually have to get in front of a live audience and perform. Fear of public speaking usually ranks higher on the list of the most fearful things including death.
This aspect can easily wipe out any dreams or illusions once the realization sinks in that an audience will be watching and responding (or not responding) to their attempts at generating audience laughter.
Unfortunately, this “fear factor” can be exacerbated by the stand-up comedy class itself when the student realizes they really aren’t getting the instruction they need to be confident in developing or delivering stand-up comedy material that will actually work to get real and measurable laughs.
2. They come to the conclusion that producing comedy material for the stage is far more difficult than they thought it would be. Unfortunately, in most instances this is a result of the instruction provided which tends to focus on “writing” as opposed to “talking” and structuring that “talking” for a stage presentation.
This immediately leads to “writers block”. In an ironic twist, there appears to be no such thing as “talkers block”.
If you have consumed any information on this blog regarding this, then you know writing and talking are two very different forms of communication.
But once the whole “writing jokes” aspect begins, that’s usually when the nightmare of developing anything that even seems funny begins.
It doesn’t take long staring at a blank piece of paper trying to “figure out” what may or may be funny to an audience to come to the realization that this process is more than just difficult.
3. As the class continues, the prospect of not doing well on stage becomes self evident. Many comedy class students don’t realize that the audience dynamics among other stand-up comedy students is far different that that of a “real audience”, even if that audience is comprised of people that they know and have invited to a show.
So what’s the end result? Funny people in real life come to the conclusion that they simply “don’t have what it takes” to take a shot at stand-up comedy when the reality is that…
They simply weren’t given the instruction they needed to quickly capitalize on the sense of humor or “brand of funny” that they have already developed.
Instead, they step into a false construct where “writing” is the priority, and “talking” is a secondary priority that is somehow supposed to make the “writing” aspect magically work.
And this vicious cycle continues, year after year, essentially eliminating funny people from ever really knowing that stand-up comedy doesn’t have to be anything like what they think it is or what it ends up becoming because of less-than-adequate instruction.
I got stuck in this exact same trap and almost quit as a result. Had it not been for some unexpected interactions and experiences, I would have simply been another “casualty” of the “standard” becoming a comedian process.
If I had any words of wisdom to provide, I’m certain it would be this:
Do not doubt your sense of humor — you developed it and proved it by talking, not passing along written notes to people and watching them fall down to the floor laughing.
“Writing” should be redefined as “writing down” — a means for editing, tightening and restructuring “talking”, instead of it being the main focus for attempting to produce stand-up comedy material in the first place.
While there is a great deal to know about all aspects of stand-up comedy, I am going to suggest as strongly as I possibly can that for at least the developing and delivering high level comedy material part of the process…
It just simply is not that hard PROVIDED the instruction or education you get focuses on TALKING, which is what tends to lead someone to consider becoming a comedian in the first place.
But that is not my call to make.