The first years of comedy are always the toughest.
As a new comic, you (for the most part) are really just trying to figure out what the hell you are doing so you figure out your voice as a stand-up.
The first three years of a consistent grind is generally the time you are considered a newbie on the scene and we try to do all we can to get out of that mode and into the actual comedian mode.
Whether you’re new or a bit more seasoned, it is interesting to reflect back and assess your mistakes.
These are the common and often fatal mistakes of newbie comics.
Focusing on quantity over quality.
This is probably one of the biggest mistakes of new comics, but being so green lends itself to a focus on how much we are doing versus the quality of what we are actually doing.
Quantity over quality plays itself out in many ways:
You’re burning yourself out with performing so much without any real goal in mind.
You’re focused on doing EVERYTHING that you end up getting nowhere.
The focus on quantity usually works at first, but only to a certain extent and eventually becomes difficult to maintain.
The more you push quantity the more the shortcomings become noticeable.
Think about it this way: you’ve written A LOT of material and have practiced different sets each time you perform. You think you have half an hour of material to use. Then the time comes where you’re invited to do a real room...let’s hypothesize a ten-minute set. The set starts out okay, but the jokes become noticeably unprepared and you don’t have the polished material to save it.
Focusing on quality builds a solid base. Sure, it may not sound as exciting to focus on the same material for an extended period of time, but it keeps your focus on building strong material. Your chances of being seen as a strong comic become more probable.
Not listening to the right advice.
Newbies tend to come in all shapes and forms, but many tend to act like they know what they’re doing when they really don’t.
The truth is it takes time to gain an accurate perspective of how we perform and this takes gaining self-awareness in comedy.
Even I fell into this trap in the first couple of years where I was being told to “stop being so careful,” but I was too afraid to offend and thought I knew better. Nowadays I have listened to that good advice, but I tend to wonder if I had listened then would I be further along?
Not all advice is going to be good advice or even applicable to your path, but taking the right advice can change things. You only hold yourself back from not listening when you should.
Being lazy with networking.
Networking is a huge part of any industry, but I notice new comics and even some seasoned comics don’t take the time to do it. They think just going to open mics and going to the shows they’re booked on is enough. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.
Being a success in any industry isn’t just about showing up to perform, it’s about setting yourself up for the opportunities to be seen. Ultimately, you HAVE to be social.
Even if you don’t like socializing (for whatever reason), people tend to not care about those that they don’t see consistently. That’s just how minds work and I can tell you that even if a comic is not the strongest, the more they are seen will give them the edge over a comedian that has the skill, but not the aggressive networking prowess.
Comparing yourself to others.
We all have insecurities, but you never want your insecurities to make you an insecure person on the scene or in this industry. This usually starts with comparing ourselves to our peers and being unrealistic about our own growth.
Believe me, I have seen this happen where someone is doing well for their first year, but they focus too much on what others around them are achieving. It puts unnecessary stress on our own minds and can often be what makes us crumble.
The truth is everyone has a different path not just in this industry, but for their own growth as a comedian. Just because someone else gets something before you doesn’t mean you won’t achieve something great. Especially in the first year, you’re lucky to book anything really.
It all comes down to what you’re doing and not discounting your own growth. It’s no one else’s career, but your own.
Got questions or something to add? Comment below and let us know your thoughts!