It’s a tough road to becoming a successful stand-up comedian.
Whether you are an ameteur or even a professional, the business has a way of throwing things at you that you may not be prepared to handle or things that chips away at our desire to continue.
Sometimes we lose drive or make choices we wish we hadn’t. Sometimes we just stop honing our craft altogether and realize what a mistake we have made.
There are plenty of ways to putting your comedy career into decline from being unprofessional to not harnessing your comedy brand. However, there is one thing you can do that will for sure slow you down on your path to becoming a successful comedian: it’s saying “no.”
The Power of “No”
What exactly do I mean by saying “no?”
Saying “no” means not acting on the opportunities that present themselves to you or the opportunities that are accessible to you. You don’t even have to verbalize the word to make it clear you don’t want the opportunity. You can just ignore and that’s enough to get the message across.
Joan Rivers said it perfectly:
"I have to tell you that it's not going to be easy. Take every chance and every opportunity that you can. Don't say 'I can't' or 'I shouldn't' or 'I'm too tired.'"
In a city like New York, there is an abundance of comedy. Everyone knows this.
You can’t turn any corner in Greenwich Village without encountering someone barking or a sign promoting free comedy at a bar. Even publications like TimeOut NY have their own pages dedicated to the city’s comedy scene.
Because of this abundance, comics have virtually limitless opportunities to get better or get ahead in the business, but it still shocks me when comics ignore or dismiss what comes their way because everything, especially in the beginning phases of comedy, should be seen as an opportunity.
Maybe someone invited you to be on their bar show? A podcast? Or an opportunity to start producing fell into your lap?
That’s kind of how COTL started, with an opportunity that fell into the laps of Sonja Savanovic and myself through a connection at Gotham Comedy Club; This connection and opportunity to produce got the fire started in us and we eventually grew it into something bigger. If we hadn’t said “yes,” we may not have COTL today or at least have it at the level we’ve achieved with it.
Saying “yes” to an opportunity opens you up to learning and growing and especially for comics, a chance for exposure and further inspiration. Why would you deny yourself that and let that opportunity go to someone else? Chances are that opportunity may not come around again or it will take a lot longer to come back around.
Figure out what is actually an opportunity vs. what’s a waste of time
Now, it can be difficult to gage what exactly is a real opportunity vs. what is a waste of your time as a comedian and the further we get into comedy, the more we need to be aware of this.
For example, I don’t do bringer shows anymore. Bringer shows in my opinion are not consistent with the COTL brand and I believe their value diminishes the further you get into comedy. I have made this clear to many bringer show producers that “invite” me to be on their shows.
The main value of a bringer show is for the comic to get a taped set...that’s about it. I can do that through my own shows with COTL so bringer shows have no benefit for me when I can do it for myself. This may be different for someone else who hasn’t yet explored production or doesn’t have that resource.
However, everything else beyond bringer shows is an opportunity that I will ALWAYS take whether it’s a bar show, seeing another comic’s show (NETWORKING OPPORTUNITY), or doing a friend’s funny sketch.
I even got invited to take part in a podcast in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn this past weekend with The Goon Cast. After researching these guys and realizing their reach, it would have been stupid to say “no” because it’s another chance for exposure as their social media presence is impressive to say the least.
When something has the ability to strengthen your presence as a comic, go for it, even if it’s time consuming or you feel you don’t have the energy. You’ll reap the rewards over time, especially if there is a real added value.
Moral or this article? Say “yes” to real opportunities as much as possible and stop making excuses not to further your career as a comedian.
You started this path so why not go full force and do it right?
Got questions or comments? Write below and tell us what you think!