One of the reasons comics struggle in their career is because often they get easily distracted by a variety of things that wind up holding them back. Here’s 10 common distractions I see that too often hold comics back…
1. Other Comics
It doesn’t matter what other comedians are doing or what they’re saying about you and what you do. There’s no limit to the number of people that can have successful comedy careers and while it’s a competitive industry, it’s not an either/or success scenario. The more time you spend worrying about what other comics say and do, the worse off you’ll be for it.
Everybody has things they’re afraid of and that fear can easily prevent you from succeeding. Don’t let your fear of failure get in the way of pursuing your overall goal. It’s incredibly easy to be distracted by your fear and allow it to be a reason that you don’t pursue something you want to pursue. It’s ok to be afraid of something, but it’s not ok to use that fear as a reason not to do it.
No matter what you do, there are going to be people that hate it. And those people are more likely to be vocal about those feelings than the people who like it are to be vocal about their support. That’s why 90% of the comments on the Internet are negative. But ultimately, the haters are meaningless. All that matters is the people that like you – concentrate on them and don’t allow the haters to distract you from what really matters.
You will always have things going on in your life outside of comedy that will compete for your attention. It may be another job, family, friends, or any of a million other things that pop up in your life. We all have limited time and it’s easy to allow those things to distract you from your comedic goals. If having a comedy career is really a priority for you, then you need to figure out how to make time to make it happen – it has to be as important a piece of your life as all those other things.
What’s best for your comedy career isn’t necessarily always what pays you the most money and that’s important to remember. A cruise ship gig may pay better than doing free shows in Los Angeles, but if your ultimate goal is to work in Hollywood then it’s not necessarily the best way to accomplish that. Money is obviously important, but you shouldn’t let it be the only thing that determines the path you take – sometimes you need to ignore it.
6. Short Term Gains
Too many comics are too focused on what’s happening with their career in the short term and not enough are focused on the long term plan. Whether you’re chasing money, exposure, or an ego boost, it’s important to make your decisions based on what your long term career goal is as opposed to getting distracted by seeking short term gains that could actually be preventing you from your achieving long term success.
7. The Odds
You’re probably going to fail. Very few comedians ever succeed. The odds are stacked dramatically against you. You need to understand that, but you don’t need to dwell on it. Don’t let the scope of the war distract you from the battle at hand. Focus on the things you can control and making progress to your goal, as opposed to getting overwhelmed by the odds of what you’re trying to accomplish.
Don’t be jealous of other comics and don’t worry about making other comics jealous of you. It’s too easy to get wrapped up into all of that and it’s ultimately not productive at all.
9. Conventional Wisdom
Just because the “experts” (including myself) say there’s a particular way you’re supposed to frame your act, or use social media, or do your podcast, that doesn’t mean that there is. In fact, most people who succeed do so because they choose to be different and go against the conventional wisdom of the day. Don’t get distracted by how others say you should do things, just do what feels authentic to you and learn from your mistakes.
10. The Rules
There are no actual “rules” so don’t worry about them. Make your own.
20 thoughts on “Don’t Get Distracted: 10 Things Comics Need To Ignore”
hit the nail right on the head with all of these.
I take issue with this, mainly #1: It doesn’t matter what other comics are doing, even if it’s stealing my material?
Or what if you happen to use someone’s t-shirt design on your blog post and don’t link to the shirt or the designer? Should that designer not worry about you?
Do you really think a comic stealing your material is going to ultimately prevent you from succeeding?
Do I really think that? Like, for me? I personally don’t think my jokes are worth hoarding, but in no way is joke theft something a comic should ignore. There’s plenty of documented cases where joke theft has ended careers and prevented others. So.
Whose career was ended by joke theft? I don’t mean the stealer, I mean the person who was stolen from?
when was the last time you’ve seen anything from carlos mencia?
Maybe Jim Henson should worry about the aforementioned designer then. Douche.
It’s very easy to get sucked into the drama online and off. Ignore it. Drama is best saved for that particular family member…
One thing I’d add to this list: isolated incidents. That is to say, comics shouldn’t base whether or not they go to a venue or use a certain joke on one time going there or using it. I’ve done many venues where the first time is excellent but subsequent times weren’t always as good. Also, I’ve used jokes that killed the first few times and, then, didn’t do so hot but, upon rehashing them, they killed. Comedy is a longitudinal process; you have to see how places and jokes work out over time.
that was awesome! thank you 🙂
Yup. Right on! For every comic, regardless of how long you been doing comedy!
There are no cases of careers ending from joke theft, for the thief or the victim. Mencia, Wiliams, and Dane are still making great money and writing new stuff. They got called out and moved on, whether they actually did it or not.
Comics worry about this way too much. Just write new jokes. If someone steals your best joke, write a new best joke. If your joke is truly yours it will be impossible to steal.
That is nonsense. Scumbags can steal faster than an act can write. How can a new performer get an hour together if it keeps being stolen? The joke does ‘Truly’ belong to anyone who writes it. BUT if another comic does it on TV first then it becomes theirs and the originator will cringe every time they do their own joke. How any true comedian can make light of this makes me shake my head. On a positive note, great ideas above.
I read an aweful lot but rarely comment but that was an excellent article. It was something I really needed to her. Thank you.
Good tips Josh
“Never tell me the odds” – Han Solo
All good tips Josh. Though tough to implement at times. At some point we all think “Well, why doesn’t THAT guy like me?”
While I love with all the points on this, the one I admire the most is #7. I feel the odds start against comics, and it’s a battle to advance to each level (i.e. ‘open mike to emcee’, ’emcee to feature’, ‘feature to headliner’). THEN….you have to consider additional career options. Are you trying to make TV shows or movies?
In the film ‘I Am Comic’, Ritch Shydner explained how at the top of his career he shot 7 pilot episodes. None of them were picked up. He continued working in comedy (including co-writing with Jeff Foxworthy), and that why I stress the importance of learning about all employment opportunities around stand up comedy.
During my interview with Tom Dreesen last year, he explained how performing stand up should the means to a comic’s next goal. No one should play clubs forever, because it will eventually burn you out.
You know, thank you. Seriously. This answered a lot of questions in my head. That was awesome. AND I think it also applies to life in general, don’t you?
words to live by. I will meditate on this every morning. Very inspirational.
Solid Josh. I always appreciate your words.