Stand-Up Comedy: 5 Misconceptions & Realities
Myths of the comedy scene get debunked
Comedy is an industry that seems to have many identities. Some think it’s glamorous whereas others view it as dark and lonely. This can bring about many misconceptions that plague the industry today.
Here are our top misconceptions and the realities I’ve realized as a comic in the New York comedy scene.
Misconception #1: You have to do tons of bringer shows to get anywhere.
Reality: When it comes down to it, bringer shows are likely going to be part of the industry for a long time. It’s a concept that some clubs thrive on because in cities like New York or Los Angeles, there’s an oversaturation of comedians looking for stage time. You’ll even hear promises of “meeting the booker” or they’ll even go as far as calling it an “industry showcase” where agents and managers will be present. This is rarely ever the case and you likely will have to do the work yourself to get in contact with anyone beyond the show producer.
There are some times a bringer would be beneficial. Maybe you need a taped set? Or you need to be part of an actual live show to see how it goes?
These are good reasons, but you can also go about it different ways. If you’re looking for stage time or networking, go to an open mic. It’s less of a hassle then forcing friends to come see you and you never know who you’ll meet and who has a project that they may consider you to participate. You may also find yourself being presented with opportunities to do “no bringer” shows from going to mics which can result in an opportunity to have a set filmed at some shows, networking opportunities, etc.
You can even start your own production that over time, may benefit you in creating opportunities for yourself.
Misconception #2: All comics are depressed.
Reality: Sure, there are some comics who are legit depressed. But that happens in just about every profession. Ever think about that MTA worker or even the highly stressed lawyer; they have even more reason to get depressed. Those jobs usually don’t manifest themselves into bits that the person can talk about later in a hilarious rant on stage.
The truth is a lot of us battle depression from time to time. Hey, even I have sunk low enough to feel miserable because an ex and I wanted different things; it just so happens that it plays out in a public forum.
Other times, some of us actually just think we are funny! That can be depressing for others, but it just fuels our need for stage time. Overall, we typically go up on stage to be heard and hopefully make people laugh. Sometimes it’s at the expense of our own pain, but everyone is free game.
Misconception #3: You’ll get better every time you do an open mic.
Reality: Doing tons of open mics doesn’t mean you’ll get any better at stand up. I remember when taking Jim Mendrinos’ class at Gotham Comedy Club in 2014, he said one thing about open mics that stood out to me: “don’t waste your time on stage unless you have a goal.”
This made a lot of sense because there are various elements I knew I needed to work on (getting comfortable moving around, slowing down, writing more, speaking up, etc.). It made a big difference when I had a focus on stage as opposed to just going up there and hoping a joke lands.
One of our comedy friends who exemplifies goals to a tee is Krista Komondor. She started “90 mics in 90 days” and has benefited from it immensely. She even committed to one month of crowd work. Krista Komondor can be seen as an inspiration for new comics to focus their efforts with open mics as opposed to just aimlessly getting up on stage.
Misconception #4: You just have to get good at stand-up to succeed.
Reality: You always should strive to be the best comedian you can be, but that means more than just performing. You also have to be a business person which means networking the crap out of yourself and then doing more.
Comedians are the one entertainment profession where the title of “comic” is what we always will be first, but we have to learn how to wear many hats. For example, a stand up special is usually one of the goals for a comic, but specials don’t just happen. It’s a process that the comic themselves have to be part of to get their vision understood by a team of people. They essentially have to be a producer.
Some comics take the mogul route, such as Kevin Hart. He has a hand in some up and coming comics’ specials. Yes, this is definitely beneficial to the comic on stage, but prolongs Hart’s success.
Misconception #5: The best place to be is New York or Los Angeles.
New York and Los Angeles are great places for comedy, and at some point you need to experience both to see if your material can translate to different crowds, but you should really be where you are most marketable and where you can accumulate the most opportunities.
Cities like Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco also prove to be viable options for some stand ups, whether it’s to start your career or make it your mainstay.
The general rule of thumb is to go where you feel you’ll get the most quality as a comic. Sometimes we outgrow a city or realize our comedy does better in other places. It’s all about what works for you.
Have questions or something to say? Comment below and let us know your thoughts!