Archive for September, 2010

How long you been doing it?

At some point, when two comics are getting to know each other, one will inevitably ask the other one, “How long you been doing it?”  It’s kind of like asking someone what their major is or what they do for a living.  It’s a getting-to-know-you type of question.  But, of course, it’s wrought with judgment thusly:

If the comedian really sucks, and they’ve been doing it 10 years, you think to yourself, “Holy shit, 10 years and you still suck? What happened? I’m so glad I’m not you.”

If the comedian is amazingly excellent and they’ve been doing it five months, you think to yourself, “Holy shit, five months and you’re already that good already?  Damn you!” And no matter how good they are, no matter how they shred an audience into strips, if they’ve only being doing it five months, they’re still considered a newborn.  There’s a kind of paying-your-dues that they still have to endure. Where is the cut-off for earned industry respect?  I’m not entirely sure.

The thing that I always want to ask is:  How intensive was the time that you’ve been doing stand-up?  Assuming natural talent is equal, if you’ve gotten on stage once every six months for the last 10 years, yeah, you might still suck.  And if you’ve been getting up three times a night for the last five months, yeah, you might be really really good. A better question is: How many times have you been on stage in the time you’ve been doing stand-up?  I’m not sure if every comedian knows that number but I know mine (and I have no idea how it compares, incidentally).

I’ve been doing it just over three years — still a baby in the eyes of the industry.  But the very first time I ever got on stage alone to tell original jokes to a live audience was one night two years before that.  Should I count that?  If that’s the case, I can legitimately answer five years.  But I don’t count that. I count the day I said, “I want to be an stand-up comedian,” and quivered on stage for the first time — and then started getting up regularly.

One time, I asked a comedian how long she’d been doing it and she simply answered, “I don’t answer that.”  On the one hand, that’s a little snotty, but on the other hand, she was saying that her comedy should speak for itself.  If she’s good, she’s good, and it shouldn’t matter how long she’s been doing it.  It’s a good point.  But I still wanted to know, y’know, to judge her and stuff.

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September 12, 2010 at 2:58 pm 1 comment


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