Are You Being Authentic?
I have written several blog posts that touch on branding and its importance to helping comics navigate their way through comedy.
Whether you like it or not, YOU ARE A BRAND and you have to figure out a way to build yourself into something that is marketable and ultimately sellable to audiences, clubs, networks, etc. After all, this is a business.
The fundamental principle for branding in any industry is authenticity. Is what you’re building honest? Consistent? True to how you feel?
One of the most irritating things I see from comedians is a lack of authenticity in both performance and writing. Comics have goals in mind that they want to achieve, but they end up being a comic that is so far left from their true persona.
Here are my thoughts.
You have to believe in your own writing.
We’ve all seen THAT comedian. The one who rambles on about nonsense where you’re asking yourself: do they really think this is funny?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a comic bombing because they’re trying to make the concept or Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings funny when you can tell even they don’t believe it. I’ve recently heard a bar patron exclaim “what was that, bitch?!” when a comic failed to execute such a topic.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in stand-up was from Jermaine Fowler
: the concept of honesty. Comedic honesty goes beyond true stories. It means you believe in whatever you’re saying so much that you can make others believe in what you are saying. This is why I believe any subject can be made funny.
In my opinion, honesty is where many comics lack and I find that it’s often a result of their goals. One of those goals is the coveted late night spot. It’s well known that to achieve a late night appearance, your set has to be clean because, with network television, there are many more restrictions in comparison to a comedy club environment (where anything goes). What I have seen is comics take this to an extreme where they try to write all their material to be late night appropriate even though that isn’t genuine to their personality. Additionally, they will write about things they feel others will think are funny or non-offensive...not necessarily what they truly feel is funny. Kind of counterproductive right?
The thing with the late night is it’s a rare occurrence and only a small representation of your entire act (5-6 minutes at best). If you lead with an approach that isn’t natural to you for the bigger picture, it’ll only stagnate you into a creative rut.
Performing in a way that isn’t natural to you.
Performance is just as much a part of stand-up as is writing and how you perform the material makes all the difference.
I get so confused when I meet a comedian who is such a far cry from who they are in real life.
In many ways, we build a character or onstage persona and I personally enjoy meeting people who are a grander personality on stage than in real life. Comedy is often used as an escape and if the execution is done well then it’s more interesting.
However, there’s the flipside where a person who is so lively in person reduces their own personality on stage. I’ve even been a culprit of this; it wasn’t until three years in comedy where I embraced my genuine personality and brought it to the stage. That made a world of difference. A lot of this is growing pains and for many this changes over time (you’re not going to be performing the same way as you were when you first started...hopefully). It takes practice and getting comfortable with your comedic voice because our voice leads everything else.
Moral of this article? Be true to yourself. Don’t take a lead that isn’t natural because you’re only going to do yourself a disservice. Now, take a look at your own comedy and ask yourself honestly: are you being authentic? Got questions or something to add? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!