The short answer to the question posed in the title of this article is YES. But the better question to ask is this:
“Why are new comedians predisposed to struggle needlessly?”
I’m going to answer that question from this perspective:
Most people who make the decision to take the leap into stand-up comedy have more than enough comedy talent to do well as a comedian.
But if you go to any open mic, you would not believe that last statement to be true. So, where’s the disconnect?
The Big Disconnect
The disconnect lies in what a new comedian believes or assumes when it comes to developing a stand-up comedy act in the first place.
Now before I jump into why I think that way, please note that stand-up comedy is a challenging endeavor – certainly much more so than meets the eye for the casual observer.
However, I also believe that there are a number of significant obstacles that are actually self-generated (unbeknownst to the new comedian in most cases).
Let me give you an example of what I am referring to. Let’s assume that two guys are in a competition to see who can play a 12 string guitar the best.
One guy has a guitar with 12 strings. The other guy has a guitar with 1 string. Who would you predict to win?
While that may seem like a ridiculously easy choice to make, it actually represents (figuratively) what most new comedians do, which is reach for the guitar that has just one string. Why?
It’s actually because of what appears to be rock solid logic – gathered from books, online research, watching TV and from other comedians.
Most people who make the decision to take a stab at stand-up comedy watch or read interviews online of professional comedians.
Those comedians talk about jokes and bits they “wrote”. Stand-up comedy books can provide some painfully boring and sometimes incomprehensible means for “writing” jokes and other comedy material.
Everyone knows what “writing” is – it’s something that they learned how to do in school from a a very young age and continue to do throughout life. It’s a process of putting pen to paper or using a computer to use words and sentences to create paragraphs of opinions, ideas, information, etc.
Since most people are familiar with the process of writing, logically it should only take a few specific “writing techniques” in order for someone to be able to “write” funny jokes.
That is if they even need that sort of thing at all, since their friends and family regular comment on how funny they are.
So armed with some jokes that they “wrote” and having had their friends read them to make sure those jokes were funny, they hit the stand-up comedy stage and start telling the jokes they wrote. And most of the time…
The audience simply sits there without laughing, much like the folks who are waiting at the DMV to get their driver’s license.
For some, it only takes one experience like that to keep a person from getting up on stage again. For others, it may take a half a dozen times of little or no audience laughter before they throw in towel.
Still others are hell bent on continuing on no matter what and will resort to relying almost exclusively on blind trial error to try to eke out a joke here and there that works.
Now you might be saying to yourself that what I have described happens only to people who don’t really have comedy talent.
And again I would say based on years of experience that MOST people have all the comedy talent they need to do well as a comedian.
Some could say that the people I am describing simply weren’t smart enough for stand-up comedy. With a few very rare exceptions, most of the people that I met during my stand-up comedy career were very smart.
So what gives? What gives is the predisposition of the new comedian to figuratively grab the guitar with only one string.
In other words, they make what appears to be a solid and logical decision to try to “write” their way to being funny on stage, usually resulting in a less than optimal outcome (translation: they suck).
Some Interesting Questions
Here are some questions and comments that may help explain why the typical “joke writing” logic doesn’t produce the laughter results new comedians want:
Is there a difference between writing and talking? Considering that we don’t take a single class in school to learn how to talk (I’m not talking about speech class) but we take years to learn how to “write”, I would say yes there is a significant difference between the two.
Yet this doesn’t usually warrant any consideration in the process of “writing” stand-up comedy material.
Do comedians read their act to audiences? Do audiences read a comedians act? Seems kind of odd that neither of these scenarios happens since the focus seems to lie squarely on “writing” (which is to produce material that is designed by years of training to be read as opposed to being spoken).
Exception: Speeches can be read by the presenter and generate laughs. However rarely if ever does a speaker who is reading speeches ever attain the intensity and frequency of laughter professional comedians have proven they can generate.
When someone makes friends, family members or coworkers laugh, is it just the words alone that cause that to occur?
Let me ask this in a different way…
The last time you made someone laugh, did you stop during the conversation to “write” a humorous response then hand it to them to read? Is that what caused them to laugh?
Actually, all the comedy talent you have at your disposal right now wasn’t the result of any sort of “writing” process at all. It was the result of talking and interacting with others in a “live” environment.
But despite these observable occurrences (or absence of such) that are contradictory to the process of “writing” comedy material as it is perceived by most new comedians…
The vast majority of new comedians will still grab the guitar with just one string (figuratively speaking) because they are conditioned like one of Pavlov’s dogs to do so.
The Big Secret
The big “secret” to doing well as a new comedian is to use ALL of your comedy talent, just like you do when you are involved in offstage in conversations with others.
In other words, what makes you a funny person offstage is exactly what will make you a funny person onstage.
And what gets you laughs when you talk to others in casual conversations is much more than just words alone.
When you realize that, then you are able to understand that developing stand-up comedy material that will work for you is really all about material topic selection and tightly “packaging” the comedy talent that you already use effectively for an audience of people who don’t know you.
But that’s not the “way” it’s supposed to be “done”.
I know because I was one of those new comedians who was doing it the “way” it was supposed to be “done” and let me tell you – sucking on stage and getting little or no laughs is not fun at all.
I was predisposed to fail and nothing I did seemed to help the situation.
How anyone approaches their stand-up comedy adventure is strictly up to them.
But if you want some additional details about the information that I have provided in this article, you might want to check out the 5 free stand-up comedy lessons available now (no email address required for access).