There’s something in comedy that is brought up constantly, but never really understood until we’re years into our craft.
It’s our energy.
Energy is something that is personal to us as comedians and it’s typically generalized into three areas: high energy, low area, or somewhere in between.
Why is it so important to be cognizant of our energy?
Energy affects our overall comedy style.
Every comedian has their own different style of comedy, but if you really break it down energy dictates the material, delivery, etc.
One of my favorite comedians is Chris D’Elia. His style of comedy is full of explosive energy and nonsensical anecdotes. He’s really carved out his niche as a high energy performer and his bits work because of his energy. Now, think if Chris D’Elia suddenly shifted his energy to anything less than what he’s known for. The same bits would likely fall short because they require that little extra to really make an impact.
At our level, this is seen when we work out a bit and many of us agonize about a bit not being ready.
I’ve seen probably thousands of performances both at open mics and shows and at least 50% of the time the material is there, the comic just isn’t performing with the right energy. Either it’s the bit itself that takes certain energy or the comic isn’t comfortable yet with matching the energy they’re used to performing in; it’s all about growth and those are learning lessons we become more aware of over time.
Energy dictates how you’ll get booked.
Most newbie comedians go into comedy thinking if they just focus on getting good then they’re a shoe-in for every possible opportunity. The harsh reality is you CAN become a strong comic, but your energy dictates where you will likely be welcomed initially. Think about it...in the clubs, high energy is king. Audiences want to see a comedy show where comics will “go there” not just with the material, but in performance as well. This is where you see the best act outs, riffs, etc. Even from my own perspective, as a producer on the club scene it’s much easier to cast a lineup of high energy comics versus comics with lower energy. You have to think about things like the rhythm of the show, if a comic were to not do so well would the next comic be able to pick it back up their energy, etc. Shows have to be strategically planned and the execution of a show is just as important as the individual comedians’ execution of their performance.
This is different when you get into the realm of television. From my own observation, opportunities like late-night favor mid to low energy comics. Being clean is definitely the deciding factor, but if you really look at who is featured, their energy isn’t extremely high and if they are naturally a high energy comic, it usually results in a performance where there’s a bit of awkwardness. Again, this is based on my observation, but it’s something to take into account.
Getting comfortable is half the battle.
You will never get an accurate sense of who you are as a comedian until you are fully comfortable on stage. Period. Even I didn’t know what I wanted to convey as a stand-up until a little over a year ago and this was heavily based on my shift in energy. In the past, I was performing with an awkward mid to low energy that wasn’t natural to me. Sure, I had practiced in that particular energy I had then and had some great nights at shows, but it wasn’t consistent. It wasn’t until I began to channel the emotion behind the jokes that I found the right energy whether it was an annoyance, anger, confusion, etc.
Even at open mics, I love seeing when someone really owns their energy and I witness the shift. I had that happen the other night with a friend in comedy. He went from his regular low energy to high energy and it was such a positive that I felt like it was a completely different comic. Sometimes we don’t notice these things, but that makes it even more imperative to pay attention to how we perform whether it’s a recording or being actively present.
Energy is going to be a different battle for every comic, but it’s something we all have to figure out eventually. It takes ample writing and practice to really hone and understand and is never an overnight process.
Got questions or something to add? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!