Comedy Advice I’ve Learned The Hard Way – Part 2
–By Jan McInnis, Comedian and Keynote Speaker
“Don’t bring the waitresses back to the condo!” These were the signs posted all over the comedy condos where we comics lived together for the week of shows. (Yes, I had the privilege of rooming with 20-something male comedians who liked to party.) The club owners posted these warnings because of what generally happened when a comic got “too cozy” with a waitress: the waitress fell in love, the comedian moved on to another city the next week, and then the heartbroken waitress quit. It might make for a good Julia Roberts movie, but it’s lousy for running a business.
What I learned: Don’t mess up on the little stuff. While I never had a dating issue with the waitstaff, I understood what the club owners were really saying– you may be funny, but that’s not the club owner’s only concern. I know I’m funny, but I also know I also got booked because of the things I didn’t do.
“Because I saw what happened to you.” I heard this from a friend and former comedian. Even though we both started out at pretty much the same time, I moved on to bigger gigs while she faded out of comedy. Years later, I ran into her and, after a couple glasses of wine, asked why she stopped doing comedy. Without hesitation, she answered, “Because I saw what happened to you.” She heard about the hard one-nighters (see above “thinkin’ jokes”) and it scared her away.
What I learned: Don’t let someone else’s experiences scare you away from your journey. I assured her that things are going great now: the one-nighters are (thankfully) over, and the crowds actually like my “thinkin’ jokes!”
“Don’t worry about being stuck as an emcee.” This was probably the best career advice I ever got, and it was given to me from veteran comedian Lord Carrett (his real name!). The emcee spot is for new comics and it’s the bottom of the comedy ladder: low pay and no prestige. So many comics push to move out of that spot as fast as they can into a better paying position (feature or headliner). Unfortunately, they don’t have the stage presence or material to do well in those spots, and so they end up being labeled as a mediocre act or not getting booked at all. Lord told me to stay as an emcee as long as I could stand it while building a strong act, and then I’ll have the tools to make a good living at it. I followed his advice, and like clockwork I zipped up through the comedy ranks.
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