I recently attended a live show at The Comedy Cellar at The Village Underground featuring Judy Gold and Jessica Kirson. Rachel Feinstein opened setting off one of the funniest shows I have attended since diving into the comedy scene.
I can honestly say that there wasn’t more than twenty seconds where I was either giggling or laughing with my hand over my mouth because that’s what you’re supposed to do so you’re not considered a bad person for laughing at something edgy.
After the show, I met Judy and Jessica. During the meet and greet they were swarmed by new comics and one question from the crowd of new comics stood out to me: “how do I get better?”
I thought Judy would offer some profound secret that we’ve never heard before, but she put it very simply: “get up on stage.”
As comics, this may be something we feel we hear far too often. I even heard this at the beginning of my comedy career while taking Jim Mendrinos’ class back in 2014 at Gotham Comedy Club. At the time it just seemed too easy. Just get up on stage?
But is it really that easy?
If you think about it, yes. It is that easy and here’s why.
You get more comfortable the more you get on stage.
Comedy is like a sex for virgins. The first time is a disaster and you’re an awkward mess, but the more you practice and continue pushing yourself, the more you improve over time.
I can’t tell you how horrible I was the first time I did comedy. I was at the Village Lantern doing my first open mic. It was freezing in the room, but somehow I was sweating.
I was telling a joke about how Mexicans don’t belong in horror movies (needs a major rewrite). No one laughed. In fact, someone belched at a moment where I felt there should have been a laugh. Maybe it was my awkwardness and inability to move around stage but I definitely wasn’t comfortable and left the stage before even getting the light.
Now, it’s a different story. Three years in, I milk every second I get on stage and understand things like premise as opposed to rambling. I’ve figured out how to read a crowd as opposed to hoping something lands. Overall, I’m far more relaxed and ready to take on the crowd and invest less in hoping everyone likes me.
Stage time helps you figure what works for you.
There are really only a few comics that can get away with saying anything on stage. Some people just have that natural ability to pull it off.
Many of us have to work at figuring out what we can and can’t say on stage or how we should approach a topic. This is part of figuring out your comedy brand.
For example, I know I can get away with a lot on stage, but there are certain things just don’t land for me such as overtly sexual gay comedy.
I am a “gay comic” by default, but I have a more awkward appeal when it comes to sex. Awkward experiences work better for me to discuss as opposed to a gay comic who has the traditional sexual appeal that can go balls deep into overtly sexual discussion.
This also plays itself into your stage persona and even your energy on stage: finding what works best for you while testing things out.
The more you are on stage, the more you are seen.
As you get better with more stage time, you open yourself up to the opportunity of being seen by others.
Whether it is a live show at Gotham Comedy Club or even an open mic, there’s always going to be potential for more opportunities and not getting up on stage regularly is doing you a disservice over time.
If someone is thinking about casting for a show next month at that mic and they see someone on the scene frequently as opposed to someone they see occasionally, chances are they will pick the person who is seen more frequently. Think of it as probability for stage time.
It’s understandable that life can get in the way, but if you are serious about being a comic, you’ll average at least a mic a day in your regular week. How you do it is up to you, but it really is a true saying: practice makes perfect.
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