There has been a lot on my mind recently when it comes to writing, performance, production, etc.
The most common subject I’m thinking about is time.
Now, I don’t mean time in the sense of some grandiose philosophy; what I mean is time in that I do not have a lot of it anymore. I work a day job in addition to co-managing Comedians on the Loose (surprise, surprise... “funemployment” didn’t stick) so my time is very limited.
One thing I notice in this industry is that people want to do EVERYTHING. That’s very ambitious to want to do everything, but even for the comic that has more time to do things, doing everything can lead to burnout and even a resentment for this business. What I have learned is that it’s no longer about doing everything to be visible and eventually get noticed. It’s about doing what has impact. Let me explain.
Being impact-focused carves a path for quality
For comics, it’s really easy to get into a flow of trying to do everything on the scene. Especially when it comes to getting stage time and performing, it’s initially exciting to get cast a lineup. I recently went to a show in support of two friends on the lineup. The show was held at a hostel and at best could be labeled as a “shit show.” Hate to be blunt, but it is what it is. After sitting through this poorly run show for almost two hours, it felt like a waste of not only my time, but the the performers’ time as well. I later found out that this show is generally seen as a disaster and isn’t taken seriously on the scene at all (not surprising). It’s interesting that so many comics take part in this show and leave feeling mentally assaulted. The show in itself has no impact on anyone’s career so why even bother? If you’re going to try and work out bits, go to an open mic instead where you can actually gain something. At least that’s how I see it.
Maintaining an impact-focused strategy to anything in comedy, whether it’s personal stand-up or even production is imperative for a person to realize. If you go with the approach of trying to do everything, you may get an undesired result. One other painful comedy scene example in my opinion is the bringer show. Sure, your first few bringer shows may be fun and all, but over time it starts to wear on your mindset. So much stress for having people show up and for what? A five to seven minute tape? We have technology to film ourselves now so even getting a tape out of a bringer show isn’t always worth it. When you focus on doing the more impactful and quality shows or projects, then people will take notice. Never expect anything small to get a lot of attention.
No business ever survived by doing small things
As performers, we are essentially our own business and sometimes things do connect. If you do a small project that didn’t have much initial impact, but it lead to something greater then that’s awesome; however, that doesn’t happen a lot in this industry and things that are a waste of time usually lead to other things that are a waste of time, or nothing at all. The funny thing about show business is that nothing lasts forever so you have to do impactful things, milk whatever you can out of something and continue growing. Especially for comics, doing things that are impactful will be the keys that open other doors.
It’s okay to say “no”
Not everything is going to be a real opportunity and it’s okay to decline something, especially if it really isn’t for you. I spoke with a comic a few months ago who had done roasting. I asked if she was going to do it again and she vehemently said “no.” At the time I was thinking she’s crazy because she’d be such a good roaster if she put more effort, but she then explained: “it’s a lot of time and effort to do roasting, and those jokes die there. You can’t use them anywhere else and I’d rather work on my personal stand-up instead.”
She made much more sense after that explanation and if her time and energy can be better utilized to impact her goals, then I absolutely respect her decision to not do roasts. Even with something like production, you can decline things that come your way. As producers for COTL, we sometimes get hit up for collaboration inquiries from other productions, venues, etc.
However, we don’t have a lot of time, so each inquiry is assessed with different variables such as the overall impact, time and effort it will take, and what we gain out of the endeavor. Doing this negates the headache of jumping at inquiries masked as opportunities when in reality it’s just a project that won’t benefit you.
The same can be applied to you as a performer. Saying “no” is perfectly fine if you feel something won’t be helpful in furthering yourself. Exposure is important as a comic, but it’s important to focus on quality exposure as opposed to just being everywhere. If you have to start small, that’s fine, but be sure you strategize to move on to bigger things.
Apply this to your performance, production, writing, and even your networking and you’ll see a difference.
Got questions or something to add? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!