Wednesday, July 4, 2007

"How long've you been doing comedy?"

Yes, this is the inevitable question amongst standup comics.

...This is inevitable question...

I always ask because there is a bit of a hierarchy in comedy, as in any position, job, occupation. It's the basis behind history. You need to learn where your forefathers came from---those that took the plunge before you and established what you're working with today. Now granted, the guys that have only been around 1-2 years really haven't made that much of a 'splash,' so to speak. But they still know more about the environment that you will be working in. And at the same time, they are dwarfed and will be learning along with you.

But I've noticed there's a parabola of how people answer that question: "How long you've been doing comedy?"

Remember Conic math: The PARABOLIC Asymptote, is used for a Parabolic line approaching to a curve, so that they never meet; yet by producing both indefinitely, their distance from each other becomes less than any given line.

When a parabola is formed, it is basically a shape of a "giant U." The two arms of that "U" will travel indefinitely but never approach the axes ( x, y). Have I lost you?

Perhaps here's a better definition:
"For parabolas, the two arms eventually become parallel to each other..."

So my point is that they're essentially traveling within the same environment. One arm is seeing what the other arm is seeing: same conditions, same circumstances, same niche.

If you're still having difficulty, explore the Conic section of your college math book.

And then there's this other shape called a Hyperbola, which sort of acts in the same way. Parabola-Hyperbola demo

[I added this link because I just thought this page was cute: An Emotional Parabola]

Okay...okay, let me get back to the point, as it relates to comedy.

If a burgeoning comedian were to travel the entire length of one arm of a parabola or hyperbola, ascend and descend the curve, and make his/her way to the other arm. That other side, that other arm, with a minimal degree difference, is the same condition/environment as the original trip. It's the curve that makes all the difference.

That curve could eventually represent a "learning curve," if you will. But it's a learning curve of mild deceit. It's not a curve of out-and-out heinous lies, but mild deceit.

The beginners who answer that question want to appear that they've been doing comedy longer than they have. So they'll say they've been in it longer and it's to their benefit because they'll appear experienced. They'll get better spots and more time, etc.

...everyone wants to stay around that curve, to remain current....

Those that have been in it longer will say they've only been it for a shorter amount of time, so that when they kill they amaze the GM or the owner of the club.

Where does that difference lie? Somewhere around 5 years. Inexperienced standups with only 2-3 years will push closer to 5 years. And experienced with 8-9 years will say 6-7, maybe even 5.

You see, the inexperienced comedians are on one side, ready to travel the curve. While the experienced comedians have traveled the curve. Both are in the same environment. (I preface this by saying that once you're in the comedy circuit, you keep seeing/running into/meeting these "Big Dogs." But you're on the same stage, using the same mic, in front of the same audience.) I know, because I've been in this three months, and I have rubbed shoulders with Big Dogs.

To the casual on-looker, they can't tell the difference between a powerhouse comedian and a beginner. There aren't any visible muscles or degrees given out--no badges of honor. Granted, if you're Dave Chappelle that's different. But there are a ton of other notables that are just as good, but don't show any visible signs of battle scars or of traveling that curve. It seems as though everyone wants to stay around that curve, to remain current.

So I guess this is a really long and drawn out way of saying how comedians mask how long they've been in the scene, despite both levels of experience occupying the same space. There's only a slight degree of difference and eventually everyone will become parallel to each other. And most definitely everyone will travel that curve.


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Les Becker said...

Now I have to call my old math prof and tell him I finally understand what he was talking about.

Josh Homer said...

I disagree with this one. Most comics will never say they've been doing it for less time they they actually have. Bookers/Managers look at time in the game as how good you are, you might have a door closed in your face if you say you've been doing it for a shorter time than you have. I only know one comic who does this, that's because he's been doing it almost a decade and is still at an open mic level. He knows it, and doesn't want people to say, "Man you've been doing this for 10 years and other comics at an open mic are blowing you out the water? Just give up"