I read about, think about or attempt to do comedy for most of my waking life, even when I’m ostensibly doing anything else. If I’m talking to you, chances are excellent that my real intent is to suck something funny out of you for later use. So no, I’m not very good company sometimes and a sub-par conversationalist at best. It’s not you, it’s me.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be a successful comic. Statistically speaking, based on age, race, gender and intelligence, I have a negative 10% chance of ever making money from comedy, let alone making even a minimum wage living from it. I don’t even know if I will ever achieve the coveted laugh/applause break. After a year of doing comedy somewhat regularly, I’m getting about one polite chuckle per minute of performance-about the same as the first time I performed. Just enough feedback to think MAYBE it wasn’t JUST a polite chuckle and maybe the rest of the audience was just very stoned or naturally stupid! In any case, 10 more years and I’m out of here.
I recently read an article that encapsulated succinctly what has taken me two years to figure out on my own, “Quit Comedy, Not Your Day Job.” It’s pretty negative and the kind of advice that you might get from an asshole relative you stopped spending time with. The problem with hard truths is you have to be ready to hear it before it even makes sense to you.
What I hear Steven Padilla saying is, if you’re doing comedy to get rich and famous, then do ANYTHING else, you selfish, deluded jerk.
He takes a long time to get there and it’s brutal reading, so let me pull the most important paragraph out and save you a bout of depression (assuming you aren’t already fully actualized):
“If you are doing stand-up comedy to make people laugh, then continue to do it. If you are doing it for a challenge and for the rush, keep doing it. If you are doing it to get better each time you go on stage, please do not stop. When you go on stage, have a purpose. Make some short-term and long-term goals. When you reach those goals, make some more. Never stop trying to get better.”
I will add my own pollyanna tag to this idea, which is pulled whole cloth from a book I’m reading called “Creativity” and altered to fit to comedy: There will be years of hard work, doubt and confusion. Doing comedy for its own sake will be rewarding even if you aren’t vindicated by “success.” If you can make yourself believe this, you will do comedy for the rest of your life. If you can’t, take up golf today. To paraphrase Mr. Padilla.