20 thoughts on “3 Things Comedians Are More Afraid Of Than They Should Be

  1. Some road comedians are afraid of what they don’t know. They don’t know the venue, they don’t know the crowd and they don’t know how to adjust to either with their material. Sex jokes will not always save you in front of any and all crowds.

  2. Thank you for that last sentence. I’m always surprised when I go to shows and hear 95% of the jokes being about sex. After an hour or so of that, it gets tedious and boring. And I find that there tends to be at least one comedian who has a set about something that doesn’t include sex at all and that comedian tends to get a much more consistent response. I never get why more people don’t notice that.

    Also, I was in a comedy troupe that was headlining a show. We had 6 or 7 comics go on before us. It was a very conservative, family-oriented crowd. The first two guys did some pretty raw stuff about sex and the audience was silent. They got mad at the crowd and ended their sets early. One comic was sitting next to us and asked us what was up with the crowd. We filled him in again (as we had done with all the comics). He sat there, then got up and did 7 improvised minutes about bottled water and it KILLED! The crowd loved it. The comic after him went back to sex and bombed. Don’t get why that’s such a go-to.

  3. Rob Costigan says:

    Excellent post, Oreo. Glad to see my thoughts about material fleshed out in someone else’s experience. Younger comics don’t realize that If there’s a six year old in the audience with her parents, your abortion joke probably won’t fly. That why I love doing shows in front of different audiences besides the standard 20-something bar crowd. And while sex is a great subject to joke about, there’s so much other material available in this crazy world we live in.

  4. Andy says:

    I agree with all of that… I see a lot of guys just do nothing but dirty stuff, and I wonder why they don’t try to expand.
    Sure, they get some big laughs at an open mic at a bar, but they can’t go anywhere else and expect that response.

    It gets frustrating when you stick to mostly clean material and are in comedy contests, though. They tend to like shocking stuff more than clean stuff…. but you gotta stick to what works for you.

  5. Landon Meyer says:

    All good points here. I think another (and this is more for new comics) is that they have a fear of not having a huge audience at open mic nights. Sure, I have seen many open mics cancelled because of literally no audience at all, but open mics should NEVER be expected to sell out or even be half-full. Open mics are for comics to work out new stuff, and you don’t need that huge crowd to accomplish that. Finally, too many comics feel that they have to do the same 5 minutes every week. NO. You should NEVER go up at an open mic with the same 5 minutes you did the week or night before. Even if you do get that huge crowd. Sure, you want to give them your best stuff, but keep in mind that it is still open mic and that show is for YOU, the comic to try out and polish new material.

  6. Chelcie says:

    Technology. I’ve met a lot of road comics that know nothing about Facebook, Twitter or even Youtube.

  7. PEPE TOiLET says:

    Research is the best thing for that situation. Natural talent will only take you so far.

  8. ANITA COMEDIAN says:

    your advice is so wonderful that i wish we could SHACK-UP!!!! u r so helpful and encouraging. i could use u in my life DAILY

  9. PDXCHawk says:

    Yet another in the amusing chronicles of “Things anyone reading this already figured out”

  10. Barbara Todish says:

    Most comedians are fearful of being defensive about “their” comedy. As if we even own our personalities let alone OWN our words! Our words own us, UNLESS we are SPONTANEOUS instead of FORMULAIC! When u r spontaneous the formulaic “robots” (comedy club “OWNERS”- won’t they be surprize to learn that their comedy clubs OWN THEM!) etc., want to censor and ban you!

  11. Barbara Todish says:

    To clarify: (as opposed to being defensive, I hope lol) Formulaic comics and the promoters of same, r afraid 2 even b AWARE that they r defensive of formulaic, ie “politically correct” comedy. PC comedy, meaning the kind of comedy where it is acceptable, and even demanded that we bully each other, i.e., the kind of comdy where we bully each others identities of all kinds via stereotypes, and even joke about elites, the rich, the bankers, polititcians, etc. It’s even ok to tell the “truth” 2 power, in PC stand-up comedy, etc. HOWEVER if u offer ALTERNATIVES, i.e., spontaneous, audience generated, real interactive, emotionally risky improv, instead of commercial improv (which is PRACTICED) and if u DARE to suggest and u try 2 show how almost everyone (except 4 some few alternative comics) takes themselves, their $, fame and power and their sexuality, etc. 2 seriously, and offer a way out (ie through risking 2 b spontaneous like in some improv) u r THE ENEMY! I wish I was wrong about this, but it seems 2 b the case that if, and when u yourself ENJOY doing stand up comedy, and/or real ad lib improv, and if U do it 4 U, U alienate all (or at least most) of the audiences, even open mic audiences filled with other comics, because U R revealing to others that they r taking themselves 2 seriously, and that is a truth 2 hard 2 bear 4 most who r living the illusion that they r real. In other words, almost everyone takes their ILLUSION of life 2 personally and 2 seriously and they r 2 afraid 2 risk re-finding, or finding 4 the 1st time, their real, as opposed to their PC illusion of,”their”, sense of humor. I am sure u will say that “I” am taking my sense of humor 2 seriously, but “my” sense of humor took “me” a while ago, so there is zero “me” 2 b defensive about anything! lol http://trainradio.blogspot.com/2011/06/barbara-todish-banned-from-academia-and.html

  12. john says:

    Im sorry bout I think you think you sound smart but you don’t. Im not trying to be rude I’m just telling you that you sound ridiculous.

  13. Joe says:

    I read this 4 times and still didn’t understand it.

  14. Wardrick says:

    I wish it were as simple as not worrying about being disliked by part of the audience. But that’s more advice for newcomers, amateurs, and showcase guys in big cities.

    Once you’ve started to make your living doing stand-up, and it is your main (or only) source of income, you’ll be surprised where you wind up making compromises. Or, sometimes “selling out” in ways you didn’t think you would. If you want to keep working, that is. This is (as we often forget) a business. And, with any business, there is negotiation.

    Alienate half the crowd at an open-mic? You’ll be okay. Do it at your local club where you do showcase sets? You’ll be okay. Do it on the road when you’re booked for a week? You’ll possibly not be back. Or you certainly won’t be headlining.

    Many clubs do what they can to stay in business. And discovering the next big “Niche Comic” is not high on their “To Do” list. They aren’t seeking brilliance or that next original act. They’re seeking someone who makes a majority of the audience laugh and have a good time and come back in the future.

    Now, I’m not saying we all need to be hacky or derivative or close doing “The Arms” onstage. But sometimes it’s best to crawl before you fly. Regardless of what you might here in a comedy class, you’re going to have to compromise on the business end of show business to get places.

    Now, if you’ve got a day job that’s great and can afford to take only the gigs that embrace your act and have no fear of losing work from those that do not, go for it. But if you want to tour full-time, get used to doing a little crowd pleasing. Just sayin’.

  15. Josh Spector says:

    Hey Wardrick, you’re absolutely right in what you’re saying. However, the one thing I would add is that your comments apply to the concept of essentially working as a “hired gun” for comedy clubs and performing to general audiences who don’t really know you.

    There’s nothing wrong with that, but ultimately I believe that the goal should be growing your own personal fanbase which will allow you to not have to compromise. Because when you draw the crowd (as opposed to just performing for somebody else’s crowd), then you will be performing to people who like you for what you do. It’s a very different thing.

    I think it’s easy for comics to fall into the trap of trying to appeal to everybody, which is ok and you can make a career out of doing that, but it can also prevent you from ultimately developing your own personal fanbase.

    It’s kind of the difference between owning your own business vs. being an employee in the non-comedy world.

  16. Wardrick says:

    Good points, all. As I get further into this career, I begin to see that building a loyal fan base is something not only important, but very attainable. Comics are wise to seek out those who are drawn to their humor and build on like minds.

    What I see more these days, however, is not newer comics worried that the part of the audience will not like them. I see more a mad dash to shock the crowd or alienate them in order to brand themselves as something niche or edgy. So, rather than trying too hard to be liked by everyone, they try too hard to be disliked by many. Phoniness is a two-edged sword. Two much in either direction screams of trying too hard.

    Great article, mate.

  17. Josh, another great read! I’ve been reading the site for a while but don’t think I’ve ever left anything in response yet.

    I can see what Wardrick is saying as well, though, but I’m just a newcomer to the scene. I do feel a definite need to utilize every avenue to put myself out there, though and I enjoy this aspect of Connected Comedy. The shotgun effect is the way I look at it.

    Today it seems like you’re just waiting on that pellet to hit the right person and then you’ll be shuttled along the way. But if you don’t hit that person, why not build your fan base and one reader, viewer, and even haters at a time!

    I’ll be the first to admit though, I’m new and probably have no clue about what I’m talking about, but I’m too old not to attempt every means available to help me along in my journey through stand up comedy.

    Take care,

    –Tommy Sunshine!

  18. Barbara Todish says:

    Instead of a fan base I want a fan release, “Fan” me yes, (especially when I am hot lol) but let my comedy go (& b subliminal!) because “bases” seem 2 anchor u and pull u down from the heights of what is absolute, namely alternative improv that is totally audience interactive & spontaneous. All other humor is relative and relatively limiting (like married mens’ mothers-in-law!)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XegltDJLUHo

  19. Another great article Josh! Always enjoy reading your stuff… Maybe time to compile all this knowledge into a book??

  20. Scott Erick says:

    One other thing I think comics are way too afraid of is getting screwed, and that leads them to miss opportunities. That’s one thing I’ve certainly noticed in working with an Internet start up. Many of the (relatively unknown) comics scoffed at the contract, b/c they didn’t understand the ins and outs of the no compete portion of the contract. For a number, I had to spell out that you can’t reproduce material from a particular (created, contrived character), but that doesn’t mean you can’t perform the content, or pursue a tv deal with a different character. I think comics forego necessary exposure to protect themselves. It’s like wearing a condom while trying to get pregnant.

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