Here are a bunch of questions I have encountered in my pursuit. I've decided to put in them into self-interview format. Enjoy!
- Should I memorize my jokes?
When speaking to several comics, it seems to be "to each his own." In the very beginning stages, memorizing seems a bit useless. As a comedian, you need to be able to morph and change in front of different audiences. You need to be on your toes and be prepared for interruptions (waitress mishaps, hecklers, microphone feedback/failure, etc.) You may realize that in your prepared set, placement of a specific word in your joke may not do well with a particular audience and you'll have to gauge that and adjust accordingly.
Let me be more specific:
Let's say the punch-line word is "Coco-cola." But you know that this particular audience doesn't drink Coke, but instead, they drink Pepsi. And they are unfamiliar and perhaps even dislike any reference to Coke and Coke products. So if you memorized the joke, as originally planned with "Coke" in it, the joke will fail. And maybe the audience will turn on you. You, as the comedian, will fall flat on your face.
So you need to be verbally nimble. Instead of memorizing, standup comedians suggest that you memorize the format of the joke. You should be able to understand the structure of your joke enough to change it as needed.
My take on this: "Dammit!"
I find this to be hard to do. It's like memorizing the format of crossword puzzle. But with time and experience you learn to "go in" and "out of" your set when interruptions or omissions occur in your set. Can't wait 'til I have a handle on that!
- Should I take part in any "Bringer shows"?
Like the title says, a bringer show is where you, as the comedian, need to "bring" people to your show. The booker makes money off of this, and it's dangerous for you as a comic because, essentially, you're selling your soul by using your friends and family to your benefit. Usually the guests/audience has to pay either for admission/entrance or for a drink minimum.
When you do a bringer show, make sure your set is tight. You want to invite the friends aren't the "laugh-y" friends (friends that laugh at every joke because they think that if there's dead silence, that's a cue that you're bombing, and in their eyes that's bad. So they overcompensate by doing the filler fake laugh.) You don't want that because it's deadly obvious. And it'll hurt you in the end.
Plan on recording your "bringer" set because if it turns out great, you'll want it to later promote yourself to other managers, bookers, bigger and badder comedy clubs, etc. Ideally, you want a video format. Visual is always much better than simply audio.
Bringer shows will get you in good with the promoter/booker, if your friends turn up and end up paying. But can be detrimental if the opposite occurs.
Bringer shows are dicey, at best. Very little payoff and there's a lot to lose.
Ways to overcome the bringer show, do your own show. Find a great venue (laid back owner), set up your own show, with a set of comics that you know are solid, and promote up the wazoo. You can develop your own following and create a name for yourself that way. The hardest part is finding a regular audience. You can always collaborate with bands and dance parties. I, mean, c'mon really. Who doesn't want to laugh?
- How do you get good fast?
The best way is to get on stage--often. It's inevitable and unavoidable. You need to be on stage in front of an audience as often as possible. I've been told several times to try to get on stage every single night. If not, try to get close to that. However, it can get expensive, especially if you have to pay to get on stage. But again, you can promote other people's shows for stage time or you can create your own shows. Both are a sacrifice of time. But whoever said work was a bad thing?
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