For performance, a stand-up has to achieve many things to truly “nail it.”
From what I have seen from open mics to pro shows, three major elements have to be felt:
Basically, the set is performed in a way that is true to your style and the jokes make the audience feel like you’re performing that material for the first time and that you really believe in what you are saying.
It sounds and in many ways looks easy when you watch a pro do what they’re supposed to do, but in reality, these are some of the hardest things to master as a stand-up. During the process of growth, it’s going to be an uncomfortable experience and embracing being uncomfortable is the only way you will hit your stride.
Here’s what I have learned.
We only grow in moments of discomfort.
I have been attending a lot of open mics recently and for the most part, it has been difficult. Both scheduling wise and experience wise it is taxing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to be around other comics, get on stage and perform, but the reality is that open mics generally are not real audiences. It’s other comics that for the most part just want to do their set and leave to the next mic. I don’t blame them.
It doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time though, and I often see comics approach and leave the stage with a defeated attitude because they didn’t get exactly what they wanted from the room versus actually practicing their bits and committing.
You can learn a lot even in a dead room; I’ve seen some let the mood consume them whereas others were able to pick up the mood by giving it their all (even at an open mic).
These difficult moments are gifts because there will be a time when you do a real room and that room is dead; the only thing you can do is handle it and attempt to turn it around. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, but you’ll be better equipped to handle a difficult room the more you experience it.
It’s your ego believing you should be comfortable.
Ego is a powerful thing and in stand-up it CAN be used as a tool to propel you forward...but it will also be the thing that holds you back if you aren’t careful. The comic that operates with the mindset of “I’ll only do it if I feel comfortable” isn’t going to go places.
I’ve met comics that truly believe everything is about them: the room has to be perfect for them to care, and if it’s not then it’s everyone else’s fault (audience, producers, etc.).
Sure, there are moments that are unfortunate like hecklers, but even I’ve seen hecklers be handled beautifully and the comic is still able to recover the set. However, for others, it diminishes them to the point where they lose the room and things just become awkward. It’s clearly a difference in having real experience with embracing all types of situations versus just performing where you feel comfortable.
Yes, we want to get to a level where we are comfortable performing on any stage, but that doesn’t come without the harsh experiences to build confidence and be able to handle anything.
Are you giving it your all on stage? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!