First of all, this is not an attack on comics that say they have been doing comedy longer than me. This is a call to some introspection that could help some comics realize that ‘doing comedy’ is not as simple as a monthly or bi weekly performance if you want to get better and become serious about doing comedy.
I realized this past year that I haven’t been entirely honest when answering the question ‘How long have you been doing stand-up?’. I used to tell folks my start date was the first time I stepped on stage. After all these years I see that this in inaccurate. Here is why. Why I first stepped on stage and did a stand-up set it was at a party in February of 2006. I had written nearly 20 minutes of jokes to perform between bands. I did my jokes and it was ok, but I didn’t try it again until the same party the very next year. In the spring of 2007 I began getting on stage almost every week. Only once a week, but every week for sure. That stage time dried up in the fall of that very year. In 2008 the only stage time I really got was at paid gigs. Shit. Really? Paid gigs after doing comedy probably 40 total times? What the fuck? Not to mention the fact that the paid gigs were maybe once or twice a month.
I didn’t start doing stage time every week until May of 2011. Then it went from every week to twice a week, then three times a week. This is when I started doing comedy. If you take a break, you are pretty much starting over. If you did it for 20 years and took a few years off you certainly can say you have been doing comedy for two decades, don’t get me wrong. But if you live in a place that has monthly stage time and you have only gotten on stage SOME of those months. You have really yet to start doing comedy seriously. If you say you have been doing comedy for 10 years and you have gotten on stage a total of 100 times, they are going to be like ‘Jesus, I have only been doing comedy for three years three times a week and I smoke this dude.’ Don’t make yourself look like a dick like I did.
So how long have I been doing comedy? It will be 3 years in May. 3 years of getting on stage over and over and over again. 3 years of actually working at it and being honest with myself during at least half of that time.
But there is not any stage time where I am!!
Then if you are serious about comedy and you aren’t going to be abandoning your obligations (family), then it is time to move to somewhere with more stage time. I am simply saying what many other veteran comics have said over and over. Either create the stage time or move to where it exists. I created it here in Knoxville. Now our scene is just beginning to get good and has 5 nights a week of stage time. Nothing amazing by Atlanta, NY, Chicago, L.A. standards, but great for Tennessee.
Authors Note: It took over a year of doing stages three times a week JUST to stop saying my spin out words like “You know what I am saying” and “That’s all I am trying to say” which were picked up from other comics I had done regular stage time with in 2010 and early 2011. It then took me ALL of 2012 to figure out how to dispose of swear words that didn’t add to the joke. Example ‘So I was ‘fucking’ going to the store.”…. Improving is hard and it takes a lot of on stage AND off stage work. Read more about how just getting on stage doesn’t mean shit by checking out my blog ‘Stage Time Doesn’t Mean Shit‘
Follow me on twitter @mattwardcomedy and remember that the Cape Fear Comedy Festival which I co-produce is taking submissions for $25 until Friday Jan 31st and $25 after that until Feb 14th at Midnight. Cape Fear Comedy Festival Submission Link