Every comic feels like quitting at some point. Hell, some people even type “Should I Quit Comedy?” in their search engine and then scroll through the results. I know I did. It wasn’t much help besides comforting me that I wasn’t the only one that got that down about my comedy at some point. I ask myself this question about every six months or so. Usually following a set where I got what I perceived to be a bad set. So I have a few things I think we all should consider when making the decision to quit comedy.
First, I must say, more than anything, the people who SHOULD quit comedy are the ones that never seem to. These are the people who no matter how many times you see them perform they never get markedly better. Yet at the same time, they always feel they are killing it. Almost always this is followed with an unbalanced sense of entitlement. Yeah, these comics should probably quit. If not quit, at least get out of the way of those that are really serious about it.
Here are five questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether to quit comedy.
5.) Am I any good? This one requires some honest reflection. There is nothing more painful than being honest with yourself. In fact, it’s the ultimate kick in the teeth for your self-esteem. However, you know based on seeing videos of yourself, the shows you are getting booked on and the responses you are getting from folks after shows, whether you are improving or night. If you have been spinning your wheels for years and years and don’t seem be where you wanted to be, maybe it is time to take a break.
4.) Am I willing to put in the work and time to get where I want to be? Most comics don’t even begin to break out of their shell and slide into their true voice until about ten years into doing stand-up. If you are just two or three years in and you are wondering why you aren’t headlining and the thought of 7 more years grinding away is horrifying to you. Maybe it’s time to consider another career path. Comedy is for the long haul. Most of us will never make it. Hell, I have been at it for just about 7 years off and on and I am no where NEAR where I know I will end up. I am ready for the work I have ahead of me. Are you?
3.) Are my priorities in the right order? Many people, comics included will tell you the most important thing in the world to them is their family. Unfortunately, comedy is not very kind to the family. Comedy is long hours away returning with little money to show for it constantly being exposed to toxic situations where you call your own morality into question. DO you have your priorities in order? Maybe it’s time to take that management job and bump up the contributions to your 401K. Otherwise, you are going to have to figure out how to put the important things first and make all your decisions with the number 1 most important thing in mind.
2.) Is comedy killing me? This one I think is one of the most ignored questions. Some comedians are just fun addicts. Most of us are in fact. We want to have as much fun as we can all the time. Comedy is fun, but the buzz you get on stage fades and often has to be replaced with alcohol or drugs. In addition, the diet of a stand-up comic is probably one of the worst of any profession aside from touring musician. Are you putting yourself in jeopardy by continuing to be around the booze, drugs and awful foods? Not long ago this would not have been number 2 on my list, but seeing fellow comics die around me because of years of unhealthy living is enough to make me bump it up the line a bit.
1.) Am I having fun anymore? If you get to the point that no matter what you try, no matter what shows you do, no matter how great the crowd response, you still just don’t feel it the way you used to? Well then, my friend, it is time to hang it up. Running into miserable road comics makes me want to just scream at them “THEN FUCKING QUIT ALREADY!!!” If all you are going through the motions and the passion has died, it’s time to put this marriage to stand-up comedy out to pasture. Hopefully at least you aren’t already three ex-wives in before you make this decision.
How to quit comedy
Not all at once, but gradually, stop booking gigs and showing up places for stage time. Fall back into your regular life if you even remember how to do this. Read some books, take a needed vacation or just go get a job somewhere in the woods as a lumberjack or tour guide. Get to know yourself finally. If it was really time for you to quit, you will be surprised how amazingly supportive those around you will be. Just please, for the love of anything, DON’T MAKE A MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT QUITTING COMEDY… Just slip into the shadows and begin to breathe and live like a normal human. If you are a stand-up for life, just like a drug, or an addiction to illicit sex, you will find yourself drawn back to it. One day, in a dark alley, when you come across a chalk board sign on the side of a building that says “Amateur Comedy Night”. You will find yourself with shaky hands scribbling your name on a piece of paper, for five minutes. Just five more minutes… man.
NOTE: Submissions to the 2014 Scruffy City Comedy Festival begin on Sunday June 15th at 9am.
Have you ever thought about quitting comedy? What made you think about it? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!