If you burn chard, what do you call it?
I think up heaps of dumb little one liners all the time and so rarely write them down. That seems non-smart, considering my cellphone at the very least can be an expensive note pad. At the time when I was actively seeking to write sets and do the stand up thing, hit up open mics, I locked it all down regularly. Now, not so much. I’ve had this idea every now and again that I should get back into it, write a set and perform, but it doesn’t happen. When I think back, this whole project was in some way an outlet of my desire to plot out sets. I thought that if I made an effort to get jokes, one liners, puns and narratives onto a page, they might translate to the stage. It did for a little while. I’d write sets here then get up and perform. It was working nicely. Of course though, you notice this past tense I’ve been using.
I got busy (an excuse), didn’t get the response I was looking for (more accurate), felt a bit beaten down (uhuh), tried to write new sets rather than thinking about how editing could find the funny in what I’d written. The late nights that comedy called for didn’t gel with the early mornings that work necessitated. I let this stuff slide and dropped it altogether with the hope that maybe I’d pick it back up when things opened up. When I had more time, I could find my voice and get the response I sought.
Really though? Really? Who am I kidding?
I’ve made excuses like I’ll probably continue to make excuses. It’s hard to get up there and put yourself on the line, throw your ego out into a room in the hopes that nobody will step on it too much. That kind of thing leaves a mark, visible or not. So blaming the crowd for not getting the joke is easier than acknowledging to yourself that maybe you should’ve crafted it in a more obvious way. Why are you putting the burden of unravelling layers on your audience instead of sculpting it in a way that shows the layers that exist, but exposes the jewel in the centre. It’s your job to jump through those hoops, not theirs.
Laziness is a big part of it. I like writing things, looking at new, refreshing angles and topics. I don’t like repeating myself, it feels stale. Getting up and doing the same 5 minute set for a few days feels repetitive to me, but I’m nowhere near a level where I should expect to be doing anything else. I want to find a unique view, but the humour isn’t there if nobody can relate to what I’m throwing out. So I drop something, move on and create something else. In the meantime, the material I do never gets perfected. The jokes don’t get better because I don’t try. They stay stale, imperceptible, because I never bother to work out the beats and breaths, refine phrasing and pacing. Comedy has a rhythm and even if I’m hearing the words, I’m not really listening to what I’m saying. Structure is so important, but structure is easier to see on a page than it is on a stage. I get the conventions, but I don’t have the foundations. How do I get them? Write, perform, refine. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Hypothetically if I were to get back into it, what would that look like? Open mics. Late nights at bars, out till at least midnight most evenings. My priorities would shift from time with friends to meeting new people. Potentially new friends. My focus would shift from maintaining to exploring. That quality time I’ve been able to enjoy would recede. I’m sure I’d meet excellent new people, but I’m sure I’d have to wade through a bunch of self-fellating narcissists on the way. Comedy isn’t a hobby, it’s a paradigm shift. I’d have to learn to eat shit on a regular basis, learning to pick myself up after bombing. Comedy is commitment and requires an unwavering willingness to climb those steps every night, sometimes multiple times in a night. It’s tireless, brutal and unrelenting. It also seems like it could be hugely rewarding.
They say it takes maybe 100 times up on stage for most people to find their feet. I’m somewhere in the realms of 15-20 short sets. I’m a baby, I have so much to learn. The question isn’t if I have what it takes, because I think I do. The question is whether I’d have the commitment to find those things in myself that’d allow me to do it, to become who I’d need to become in order to find the happiness I sought in it.
Can and do are two different things. One involves taking shit, the other involves leaving it behind.