In comedy (and perhaps all of entertainment), it’s imperative that we push ourselves to cultivate our talent as much as possible.
Just like the dancer who spends countless hours training in a studio honing their technique, a comic has to put the same dedication into their craft. No comic ever got anywhere without dedicating themselves to hours of writing and countless attempts to work out a joke on stage and often having it go nowhere.
While dedication is extremely important, there are times when I experience people exhibiting this dedication in the wrong way. It ultimately comes off as “trying too hard” otherwise known as desperation.
Desperation is terrible for a comedian; if you aren’t careful, it will often play negatively into various areas of your overall comedy.
Here’s what I have seen that has really irked me on the comedy scene.
Being desperate in your actual comedy
In my opinion, desperation plays very differently into performance for comics. It doesn’t have much to do with a stage persona. In fact, some of the funniest people I have met have a skill of making others laugh at their experiences that involve desperation and frustration.
What I am referring to is desperation to have the audience believe in what you are saying or trying too hard to change minds or influence people. As a comic, you have one job on that stage: make people laugh. When you go up on stage to do anything other than make people laugh, the audience will sense your insincerity.
I remember speaking to a comic a year ago that was griping about not getting any laughs. As I asked him more about his comedy he said “I try to always be politically correct on stage.”
We ended up getting into a heated discussion because my comedy is nowhere near being politically correct and he thought I should follow suit. I also knew that in real life, he wasn’t politically correct which annoyed me even more.
I ended up asking him “so you would rather go upstage and waste time talking about things you only half believe in instead of taking a risk and saying how you truly feel?” He didn’t have a comeback , but I truly felt it was desperate to try and fit a mold rather than being sincere.
Regardless of how risque or controversial your jokes are, if you don’t perform with sincerity, the look of desperation will rear its ugly head.
You can still be likeable and have an unfavorable opinion or a corny joke. As long as you believe and don’t try too hard to get laughs, you’ll prevail.
Networking in a way that comes off pushy
This is where I have the most frustration when it comes to desperation and the comedy scene. Most comics just don’t understand networking.
Bad networking is like an unsightly mole on someone’s back. No one is impressed it’s around.
I recently had a comic approach me while I was behind the camera at one of our Gotham shows. I intimated with body language to the comic that I was busy and I couldn’t talk; he gave me his business card and left in the middle of the show without a single word spoken. A week later I get an email from the same comic saying I should come to his show since he came to mine.
Now, I don’t care if I sound mean or if he realizes this was him in my writing, but I don’t owe him anything.
I didn’t know he was coming and there wasn’t some pre-existing agreement that we’d swap for each other’s shows. Even with the Gotham show, I have no expectations for who will be coming unless it was discussed prior. Even if you receive an invite you aren’t obligated to come. It’s that simple.
After realising I had received prior inquiries from this comic to be on shows in the past and our relationship was at best peripheral, I summed it up to bad networking.
Here’s the thing with networking...there’s no guarantee for it to work in your favor. You can make yourself known with it, but if you utilize networking with a pushy and expectant approach, it won’t be very appetizing to those you hope to influence regardless of if it’s getting on someone’s show or getting them to come to yours.
Trying too hard to be cool
The comedy scene can feel a lot like high school where it’s riddled with cliques. Sometimes they overlap whereas others steer clear of each other and displays of interaction always have desperation attached to it.
The funny thing about comedy is the majority of us were not the cool kids in school. At best we might have acted as the Greek chorus that everyone looked to for comedic relief, but very rarely we were part of the “in-crowd.”
Too often I see comics on the scene that believe they’re above everyone or act arrogantly because they are well known on the open mic scene when they have no real industry connections or credits to justify the attitude. They’re just like everyone else and no one cares.
The funny thing I’ve seen is the people who actually have real connections to the industry are some of the easiest people I’ve worked with and had the talent. The ones who have undeserved arrogance were usually hanger-ons of people with actual credibility, wannabes, or would never be “cool” in real life.
Moral to this article, just be real. People can sense desperation from a mile away. Always be mindful of what you do and you’ll negate from any unwanted impressions.
If you feel like you’re trying too much you probably are and that energy needs to be refocused for more productive growth.
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