“How do I find my voice?”
Everybody in the comedy business talks a lot about how important it is to find your comedy “voice” and as a result I get asked all the time by comics for some advice about how they can actually go about doing that.
Every comic’s voice is different and so too will be the process you undertake to find yours, however there are a few broad things you should understand that may help you discover your elusive comedy voice. Here’s a few of them…
1. Your Voice Is Your Attitude And Perspective
For starters, some comics don’t even understand what is meant when people refer to your “voice.” Essentially it means what is the attitude or perspective that runs through all of your material, your performance, your delivery, and ultimately who you are as a comedian. Everything you do should be reflective of a particular outlook on the world, and that outlook is what forms your voice.
2. Your Voice Is Unique
What can you say to the world that nobody else can? What unique viewpoint or message do you have to get across through your comedy that only you can have as a result of the experiences you’ve had in your life? The more unique your voice is, the more likely you are to break through and stand out from every other comedian out there.
3. Your Voice Is Authentic
You can’t fake your voice – it has to be genuine. While a lot of comedians don’t think the audience is very smart, that’s actually a misconception. The vast majority of people can tell when somebody is being authentic to who they are and when their material (or persona) is fraudulent. Don’t try to “create” your voice, try to discover it.
4. Your Voice Will Take Time To Find
There’s no shortcuts to finding your comedy voice – it takes a lot of time, effort, and experimentation. That’s because you not only need a lot of time to generate material and try that material on stage, but you also need enough life experiences to really shape what your voice will become. Be patient. And persistent.
5. Your Voice Will Evolve
Because your comedic voice will reflect your life experiences it will also evolve as your life does. Just like the person you are in your 40’s will be different than the person you are in your 20’s, so too will your comedic voice and that’s ok. Understand going into this that you will never be a finished product and that your voice should change to reflect your changing perspective on life.
For example – when Chris Rock first started out he certainly wasn’t doing material about what it’s like to be living in a rich neighborhood (because he didn’t), but now that’s very much a part of his voice as you can see in this clip.
6. Your Voice Is As Important As Your Jokes
It’s important to be able to write a good joke, but if you can combine that skill with a truly unique voice, then you’re really on to something. There’s a lot of comics out there that have good jokes, are solid performers, and never really make it past a certain point. And the reason for that is usually because they don’t have a distinctive voice that sets them apart from the crowd.
7. Your Voice Needs To Be Consistent
In order for your voice to really connect with people you need for it to be consistent. You can’t have an anti-establishment outlook on the world in one bit and then suddenly be pro-establishment in the next or else your voice will seem disjointed and nobody will be quite sure what to think of you. For example, if your comedic voice is that of a “nerd,” then it’s unlikely that bits about how you were a cool kid in high school are really going to fit your voice. This is another reason why it’s important when considering what your comedic voice is to choose carefully because it will ultimately impact your material and every other decision you make about your career.
8. Your Voice Is What You Stand For
If you think about any successful comedian, you can probably describe in an instant what they stand for – and that description is a reflection of their voice. You know why Doug Stanhope is different than Jerry Seinfeld and why Sam Kinison was different than Richard Pryor. Virtually every comic that succeeds on that level has a clearly defined outlook on the world that shines through their comedy – in short, you know what they stand for on and off the stage.
9. Your Voice Is Vulnerable
In order to find and develop your comedic voice, you have to be willing to be vulnerable. You can’t hide who you really are – in fact, you have to do just the opposite. You have to be willing and able to show the world who you are and be willing to accept that the result of that won’t always feel great. Because…
10. Your Voice Isn’t For Everyone
Just like not everybody is going to like your comedy, not everybody is going to like your voice either. And that’s ok. Actually, it’s better than ok. Don’t worry about trying to appeal to broad audiences – just worry doing what’s genuine to your life and experiences and know that there will be other people who connect to that. And it’s those people that are the ones that actually matter and the ones that will enable you to have a long and successful career. The haters? They’re meaningless.
More Stuff To Read About Finding Your Voice
Here’s a few other posts I’ve written that touch on issues related to finding your voice: