I think most people are familiar with the saying “garbage in, garbage out”. But what does that really mean and can that in some way be applied to success as a comedian?
So that we can proceed on the same wavelength moving forward, I am going to expand upon the meaning of that saying this way:
Garbage in, garbage out: The application of inaccurate or incomplete information used to generate a desired result or outcome. But because the information used in the beginning of a process is faulty, the result or outcome produced is undesired.
This could also be expressed in a simple and easy to understand formula:
Faulty Info + Applied Faulty Info = Undesired Outcome
No rocket science there. An example of this would be if you were looking for a particular location in Los Angeles but you were using a map of San Diego to find that location, you’re not going to find it.
This simple formula can also be reversed like this to illustrate the opposite effect:
Valid Info + Applied Valid Info = Desired Outcome
It should be very easy to correlate what I have presented as it applies to developing and delivering stand-up comedy material to get the audience laughs required. Again, rocket science or a degree in math is not required.
So it seems to me that a most important aspect of the “garbage in, garbage out” saying involves this initial question:
What constitutes faulty (garbage) information as it applies to stand-up comedy?
Now before I continue, I need to make this clear:
Only you can determine what information is valid or faulty when it comes to the information you decide to use to create, develop and deliver stand-up comedy material.
But what I can do is provide some ideas that may help you in your quest in determining what constitutes valid information to start with. That information can be explained with a brief discussion about the difference between truth and reality.
Truth vs. Reality
Before I continue, what follows is NOT a philosophical exercise – it is intended as a discussion regarding accurate context and meaning as it relates to specific words and how you may be able to use the information provided to your advantage.
For many people, there is no difference between truth and reality. For the purposes of this discussion so that there is no misunderstanding, let me use some generic dictionary definitions to begin with:
Truth: That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.
Reality: The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.
These both appear to be pretty much the same thing until you identify the one aspect revealed in the definition of truth that is hidden right there in plain sight and is the basis for the difference:
Truth: That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.
Question: Can information deemed a “fact” be incomplete or inaccurate? Have you ever talked with anyone who laid out the “facts” only to discover later on that the “facts” provided weren’t that factual or even false? Interestingly enough, the word “politics” popped into my mind as I was writing that. 🙂
The most accurate thing I have ever heard regarding truth and reality goes like this:
“Truth is what you believe and what I believe. Reality usually lies somewhere in between.” I believe that the following exercise will illustrate this…
A Exercise To Illustrate The Difference
Let me present a scenario that illustrates the potential difference between truth and reality.
You enter a classroom with 30 other students and you take a seat. On a table in the classroom sits a 2 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft box. Now the exercise begins and this is what I reveal:
The box contains a round ball that is used in a game. You can’t see the ball – only the outside of the box. The ball inside the box may be any size — big, medium or small — within the confines of the box. The game for which the ball is used is not restricted to one genre of use — for example it could be:
Board game: Chinese checkers
Gambling game: Roulette
Recreational: Lawn bowling
Hint: None of the balls listed above are in the box — they are used for illustrative purposes.
Now, I want you and the other students in the classroom to produce an image in your head of the round ball used in a game that may be in the box and write it down..For this exercise there is no right or wrong answer — it’s the process and the examination of that process that I want you to pay attention to.
What type of ball did you imagine and write down as your choice? Do you think that all the other students selected the same ball as you did?
Given the possible number and variety of round balls used in any particular game that one could imagine, I’m going to say no.
Now I open the box, reach in and I pull out a small glass marble. Is that the round ball used in a game that you pictured in your mind and wrote down?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say the probability is quite slim given the information provided. But this also provides the means for understanding the difference between truth and reality. So let’s look at both as they apply to this exercise:
Reality –The round ball used in a game inside the box was a glass marble. It was a glass marble before it was revealed as such. Identification of the glass marble after it was seen did not alter the reality that a glass marble was in the box before it was actually seen.
Truth — In order to understand the difference between truth and reality, let’s review the definition of truth again: that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. Without knowing what type round ball used in a game was actually in the box beforehand, the “truth” cannot be determined in accordance with reality by definition.
In this case in order to determine “truth”, an evaluation using known facts is required to attempt to identify what type of ball is in the box. The facts provided to do that were:
- A round ball used in a game is in a box and is not visible
- The game the ball is used in could any type of game
- The ball could be any size within the confines of the box
- Four balls were used as examples and eliminated for consideration
Two important conditions can now be identified based on the facts provided:
Incomplete facts: There simply were not enough facts provided to even come close to helping determine “truth” (a glass marble was in the box) before it was revealed. Mere guessing was required and the probability of an accurate guess was somewhere between low and extremely low.
However, the determination of the type of round ball in the box could have been much more easily and accurately determined with additional facts, such as:
- The ball for this game is (or was) typically used by child.
- The ball was used on the ground or floor with other similar balls.
- The ball is typically less than an inch in size.
- The ball is usually made from glass or steel.
- The ball is used with other similar balls in order to play the game
By having more and accurate facts, other potential possibilities of what the “round ball used in a game” are effectively ruled out or eliminated.
Inaccurate or misleading facts: There were no intentionally misleading facts provided — just an absence of facts needed to make a more accurate determination of the type of ball that was in the box.
However, had I used only sports ball examples (tennis ball, ping pong ball, soccer ball, basketball) to describe the round ball that was in the box, there is a very high likelihood that the ball used in a game that you would have selected would have been sports related, to the exclusion of the possible other round balls used in a variety of different games.
In other words…
Truth can be subject to a determination based on “facts” that are not complete, are partially inaccurate or even completely inaccurate. The “facts” used to determine “truth” can also be altered and interpreted in relation to individual experiences and perceptions in such a way that are no longer aligned with reality.
Reality is what it actually is, independent of the injection of perception or any other subjective alteration.
The most important point of all is this:
What someone defines as “truth” can be very close to or very far from reality, depending on the quality and quantity of the facts used to determine the truth about something.
There’s no need to meditate about this on a mountain top, sitting in the lotus position for hours to understand this.
Important: There is no intent in what I have presented to lessen the value of or the need for “truth” in any way. “Truth” is essential because many times “reality” — due to its absolute nature — can be simply unknown, rendering it unavailable for direct application or implementation.
What I am suggesting is that unlike the absolute and concrete nature of reality, “truth” can have varying degrees of accuracy and value, particularly when it comes to applying information which is deemed “truth” for the purposes of producing a desired outcome.
Let’s apply what I have presented to stand-up comedy. All you have to do is go to any stand-up comedy open mic and ask 5 comedians what process they use to create and develop their stand-up comedy material.
I submit to you that you will get 5 variations of “truth” – truth that does not necessarily reflect reality. Then observe the laughter (or the lack of laughter) they get as a result of the “truth” they used to develop and deliver their comedy material.
The reason I am presenting this information is try to help you better evaluate the information that you are using to ultimately get the laughs you want on stage – again, not to provide any sort of foundation of what is “right” or “wrong”. Ultimately, only you can make that determination.
A Bit Of Reality As It Relates To Stand-up Comedy
So let’s take a look some of the most basic “realities” that have a direct impact on the creation, development and delivery of stand-up comedy material:
Reality #1: You either have comedy talent that can be capitalized upon the stand-up comedy stage or you don’t. Most people do, some people don’t.
Reality #2: The comedy talent and sense of humor you have that is the foundation for that talent was developed from talking and expression in a live interaction environment involving one or multiple people over many years and with countless verbal communication exchanges. It was not developed from an exchange of written communication.
Reality #3: Writing and talking are forms of communication that both employ the use of words.
Reality #4: Writing and talking are two very different and distinct forms of communication even though they both involve the use of words (Note: You can use any search engine to examine this more closely).
Related Article: Writing Down Vs. Writing Comedy Material And Why It Matters
Reality #5: Until telepathic communication becomes commonplace, stand-up comedy is a performing art that is dependent upon verbal communication that incorporates multiple aspects in order to produce laughs — words, voice sound and visible expression.
This is not intended to be an all inclusive list. There are plenty of other “realities” when it comes to becoming a comedian and the process involved to accomplish that. And the most important reality of all is that whatever process you use gets you the laughter results you want.
And as I mentioned before, many “realities” will simply fall into the “unknown” category. So if a reality cannot be identified, the most accurate “truth” possible is the best in order to reduce the “garbage in” part of any process in order have the best possible desired outcome.
So as you are moving forward with your journey to become a comedian who rocks a room with laughter, you may want to evaluate the process and information you are using to get the results you want, asking this specific question:
Is the process I am using to create, develop and deliver my stand-up comedy material based in reality or is it based on some aspect of “truth” that is not actually in alignment with reality?
And for the record, I would expect the exact same “reality check” when it comes to evaluating my own educational materials for comedians.
I started this article with a discussion about the saying “garbage in, garbage out”. Hopefully that saying will make more sense and you can apply it to get the laughter results you want and work so hard to get.
Here’s another saying that I personally like:
It is only when that which is blatantly obvious becomes effectively altered, dismissed, discounted or otherwise explained away that the condition known as ignorance can be fully experienced or understood. ~ Anon.
So which do you prefer – truth or reality? A combination of both (my personal choice with an emphasis on the most accurate truth possible)?
Whatever you choose, the round ball used in a game that involves putting it through a hoop is 100% in your court.