Forward: Soon, I will be moving my advice articles to their own site, away from my personal comedy site. This site will be dedicated to comedy advice and opinion blogs. Not only will I post my writings there, but I will also share writings from other comedians. Rob Rego, a comic based in CT, reached out to me with a piece he wrote so I decided to share it and display it on my current site until the other site is up and running. I hope for that site to be a comedy advice hub, one that will benefit comics of all levels. Enjoy this piece by Rob. Pat Oates Author of How Not to Suck at Comedy
By Rob Rego
This is so douchy but I’ve been thinking a lot about how the purpose of any art form is connection. That’s all it is. To create art is to try and make something that causes another human being to have an emotional response, and in sharing an emotion, we somehow feel less alone in the world. I’ll go wear a beret and smoke a cigarette in a modern art museum now.
Most of us won’t admit that telling dick jokes in a basement is an “art form,” but it is, and it’s actually our favorite. We all saw a special as a kid that made our heads explode and in that moment we weren’t alone. A comic’s highest aspiration is to one day make someone feel how they felt when they saw their first great stand up. Even if that’s with dick jokes.
The point of all this lofty bullshit is just to remind myself about the connection part. Material, delivery, and stage presence are my tools as a comic. What I’m building is connection and it sounds like laughter. This may seem like nothing, but I often fall in the trap of thinking I have to connect with the audience to get a laugh, instead of using a laugh to make a connection. It’s a small flip of priorities that can have a big impact on your performance. It’s like someone thinking ”I want people to love me so I can become famous,” rather than “wanting fame because it means people love me.” Being famous has its perks, but being loved because people understand you; that’s what’s going to fill the hole that got you into this business in the first place.
A comic who knows how to connect with their audience is present and genuine. They’re listening to how the room is reacting, they’re not reciting their jokes but telling people something funny; REAL people, not props for your show, that want to connect with you too. Some have walls up, but deep down they want it, that’s why they’re there.
Making this connection is a skill. Just like joke writing, some are better than others, but everyone can work on it and improve. Practice on stage, obviously, but the biggest missed opportunity for comics is before the open mic or in the green room. Unsolicited joke pitching is plentiful and Pat has given good advice about this, but using that opportunity before and after the mic to really connect with your fellow comic can greatly increase the value of the time.
How do you do this? The same way you do it on stage! Don’t treat other comics like props or the competition in your comedy career. Learn who they are and understand that just because someone is not your “cup of tea,” or even a complete piece of shit, it doesn’t mean you can’t relate to them. We’re all doing this for a reason, and if you really get to know someone, you’ll find the connection. Being a good comic means finding that connection faster. It’s your job. If you can’t connect to your fellow comic how are you going to connect to an audience of strangers?
Additionally, understand that we’re all trying to figure this thing out, and even if you think someone is doing it wrong, know that that is part of the process. Accepting what you perceive as other people’s mistakes is letting go of your own fear of failure. The same comic who will tell you to try and fail on-stage will scoff at your off-stage attempts at the business side of comedy. With that being said, young comics listen to advice (with a grain of salt) and respect the time of comics who’ve put in years.
Finally the benefits of connection will multiply the value of your time in several ways.
1) Being genuine and present off-stage will help you do it on-stage,
2) this cold open mic could turn into a great time with people you care about (why are we making this more miserable that it has to be!)
3) Your creative mind will flourish because it can relax a little in a place you feel comfortable. We’re all there anyway, why are we’re wasting time being bored and isolated.