Comedian Question: What is Your "Struggle?"
Comedy is one of the most difficult art forms to make successful.
It’s difficult to gain success, it’s difficult to make look easy, etc. To the general consumer, comedy is often an escape to get away from your own problems. For performers, it’s a totally different story. We have to dive into our issues on that stage in order to be authentic and connect with the audience.
One thing that has always been on my mind is just that: the inherent struggle associated with stand-up comedy. We all have something, but are we really capitalizing on what that struggle is or represents?
Here are my thoughts.
What is a “struggle?”
A struggle can be many different things, but at it’s basis it is something personal to you that you find troubling, interesting, and so forth.
Not only do you feel some sort of way towards this topic, but you have a deeper level of connection to it and quite possibly have experienced it.
This “struggle” allows you to develop jokes with a level of honesty that taps into the emotional side of a bit so you sell your joke to the audience.
“Shared struggles” allow for a deeper connection.
No comic leads a completely original life. We experience struggles that others have insight. It’s just how we present our viewpoint that makes the difference.
For example, I’m in technical terms an LGBT comic. On the scene, I’ve met several who share that same label, but my “struggle” as an LGBT individual may not be the same as someone else.
The same goes for other common experiences: breakups, moving to the city, jobs we hate, bad friends, mental health, etc. It’s not a hindrance to have shared struggle (with comics or audience); it’s an opportunity to connect and make others see how they can relate.
No one has a monopoly on a topic, only their experience with the topic.
Audiences can tell when it’s not your “struggle.”
Let’s face it. Audiences are smart and we cannot fool them.
Too often, I see a pattern of comics approaching a topic or perceived struggle in a way that lacks authenticity. They present it as their own personal struggle when in reality, it’s not.
This is just my opinion, but topical and political humor have the highest risk of being given the cold shoulder. It’s a high probability that the most we have on such subjects is an opinion and never really experienced a direct connection to it. Sure, these topics might make us heated, but just because something upsets you doesn’t mean it’s your struggle. For example, abortion is a hot button issue; I have found that at least 99% of the time, if a comic only has a superficial connection to it, the audiences don’t want to hear it. Same goes for immigration, Trump, etc. Unless you are Dave Chapelle who has a skill of mastering these topics, but even he isn’t every consumer’s cup of tea. Such topics are a veneer and it doesn’t allow them to connect to the real you.
You might get some laughs but those won’t be career making laughs that get you to the next step in your career.
Let’s be honest, the comedians who have real struggles are ones we connect to. Even if something is mundane, that struggle is still true to you. Even if we are unable to have everyone relate, showing that struggle helps the audience connect to the real you.
Got questions or something to add? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!