Starting out in comedy can be difficult process for anyone. You are often unsure of yourself and it can take what feels like a lifetime to just find your voice. No matter the sentiment, one thing is certain: you must write (every day if possible).
Writing is the key to figuring out what you want to convey. Natural humor on stage just isn’t enough for stand-up comedy and can only take you so far. It might help you riff a bit or do brief crowd work, but very rarely can one survive on crowd work or riffing alone and even those become skills over time.
Yes, stage time is important, but if you don’t do the work beforehand then it doesn’t mean anything. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen comics get up on stage and perform in a way that is obvious that they don’t write enough.
While writing is essential, there is one thing I notice comics make a mistake in doing which I failing to take risks in their writing.
Here’s what I have learned.
If you don’t take risks, you don’t grow.
Your first year of comedy is always the biggest challenge.
I recently found my first comedy notebook and after sifting through it was both horrified (I cringe thinking about it) and amazed at the difference of my writing style. I was just way too careful with what I was writing. No wonder I had a hard time with those jokes.
From what I could see, I was holding back and not saying how I truly felt or saying what I thought others would think was funny instead of really believing in what I wanted to write. I didn’t take risks and was trying to be a comedian as opposed to actually being a comedian.
That first whole year was a bit of a dud because I didn’t allow myself to grow and didn’t have the confidence to speak my truth. When you speak your truth it allows you to openly explore other ideas. Once I really began owning what I wanted to say and taking those risks, I was able to grow and essentially become a different writer. I’m no longer “careful” and just say what I want because at the end of the day, it’s my set and my time on that stage.
Risks mean something different for each comic.
One thing to note is that every comic is different so what’s a risk for one comic may be completely different to others.
It’s often dependent on your style. For example, one comic may take a risk in talking about a sensitive topic like catcalling and put her own twist on it whereas another may elaborate on their slutty social media habits and paint a rather risqué image. If that falls in line with the comic’s identity then those risks are necessary.
The interesting thing about risks is they do have to make sense. If I started going political one day as my “risk” it just wouldn’t make sense because I’ve never talked about politics nor do I have an interest in going that direction. It doesn’t mean never try something, but if you’re certain a particular risk isn’t in line with your brand and isn’t part of your truth then it’s fine not to do it.
One thing is certain, risks will pay off over time. Comedians that push what they can do and are fearless will set themselves apart from the rest.
What are your thoughts on taking risks? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!