It’s been a few months since I’ve written an article. I wrote an article weekly for almost 3 years. 2 years worth of those comedy advice pieces became a book, How Not to Suck at Comedy. I took a break from writing articles to focus on more on my stand up and other projects. But lately I noticed I noticed my creativity hasn’t been what it was. I feel like I’m not firing on all cylinders. In the last 2 years I had recorded 2 albums. Now, working on my 3rd, the process felt different. I felt stagnant. Something was missing. I wasn’t sure why. Then it dawned on me. I had gone away from my routine. I got comfortable and took a break from certain aspects of my comedy process. And my growth suffered.
Now I’m not trying to suggest that just not writing an article each week caused my writing and creativity to suffer. There are other factors as well. I was focused on other projects but also was not doing little things I had previously been doing. I had gotten away from the routine that got me to the point of creating 2 separate hour long sets. I had become comfortable.
When we first start out in the world of comedy, we have no clue what we are doing. We are terrible and delusional. After a few open mics and glimpses of comics who get it, we fall out of that delusional stage and start to try and figure out a work ethic. We start writing, performing and editing. We hit mics with goals and a purpose. We develop a routine. That routine and work ethic gets us our first non open mic gig. A few comics will get that first taste and think they made it, stop doing the things that got them this far and never get better than occasional unpaid guest spot or showcase spots. Most comics get that first taste and work even harder to make that a regular thing. It is when the comic starts getting club work that something occurs. The work ethic slows down. The tireless writing and editing decreases. They frequent less open mics. They have the act they need now to get the spots they had been chasing for years. And they do well in those spots. The act is solid. The hard work they put in has made them worthy of this role. But after a while frustration starts to set in because they aren’t advancing. They are stuck in this “I host the clubs that book me but no where else” rut. And those clubs aren’t considering them for longer sets. The comic is stuck. Why? Because they fell out of their routine that brought them to the dance.
When you go to an open mic, who is there? Is the mic filled with 5-10 year vets who headline all the local shows in your area? No. It is rare to see one or two of those comics. Those comics decided a while back that they are too good for open mics or that the open mic just isn’t worth their time. But those same comics are now frustrated because all they are getting booked for are shows they have previously worked. They aren’t getting the club spots they used to get or getting work from new bookers? And that is because they have fallen out of the routine that once made their act fresh. They stopped writing and working on new material. They stopped being around hungry comics. They lost that edge. They fell out of their routine. And now the new comics in the area have no clue who these older comics are. They have seen their names on fliers or possibly heard of them but haven’t met them. And these new comics think that when you get better at comedy, you don’t need open mics anymore. You don’t need to write anymore. That you achieved a certain level and you can stop doing these things. And in a year, those comics stop hitting the mics and they become stale and frustrated. And all any of these comics would have to do to get to that next level is to go back and revisit what brought them to the dance in the first place. To revisit what had worked before.
I was missing the mindset writing articles put me in. Thinking about comedy made me want to create comedy. Writing about comedy made me want to write new jokes, edit old bits and just want to be around those who shared the passion. After I wrote an article, I would write new premises or ideas. I would then want to hit a mic or try new material on a show I had that night. I would be excited to develop and become better. The material would become stronger and better and the new ideas would keep coming. All of the sudden, I had a new set. And then I would start structuring and streamlining that set. I would write articles about what I was encountering while building the new hour. Or I would write about what I noticed other comics struggling with while I was at mics with them. I had a routine. This routine helped me be creative. This routine helped me get to where I was but it will also help me continue. I’m not “too good” to work hard. I’m not at a level where I don’t need to write, edit, change, repeat and develop. And if I want to keep achieving new heights, I need to always be doing these things. I need to revisit what I used to do. We all do at some point. If you are feeling stuck or stagnant, ask yourself, am I putting in the same work that got me to where i was before I felt stale? Go back to your old routine. Do the things that you did that made you excited about your sets. You aren’t ever too good to work hard. You aren’t ever at a level to work less. If you forget what it is like to be in that mindset, go hit a mic. Watch hungry comics work. Let it remind you of what you used to do. Then, go put the work in. Revisist what you used to do.
New articles will be coming. I started to write this article and have already written 3 new premises for bits I’m going to work out at a mic tonight. Because my 3rd album isn’t going to write itself. I’m back to my routine. And it feels great.