We are all our own worst critics. I was talking to a fellow comedian after a show last week and I expressed the thought that my performance had been mediocre. He turned to look at me with this weird look of confusion on his face and said “that’s one of the best performances I’ve seen, did you not hear the applause?” and I truly hadn’t. What I’d heard was a roaring silence after a single joke halfway through.
(Hear that? That’s the sound of your father being disappointed)
As a species we appear to be pre programmed for self doubt. It’s a survival feature, caution being the best way to not get eaten by a sabre toothed tiger, but in the modern world this leads us to be afraid of taking risks and not appreciating our achievements. If you think you’re always doing badly it should inspire you to work harder.
Personally I find the little voice in my head telling me I did badly to be a bit tiresome now. For one thing it’s making masturbating very tricky.
(Oh god I can’t take it anymore! The constant beatings, the teasing and ultimately the weeping!)
How do we overcome this? I know comedians who are infused with this great sense of self worth, producing work that pushes the boundaries and takes comedy to new levels. Or at least they did. I haven’t gone to the Fringe this year but if this article is true then comedians are all suffering from that same sense of self doubt, sticking to safe shows and worn material in order to maintain a mean average rather than risk a career devastating 1 star review.
(Next year’s Foster’s winner! Bobo the clown does material on his mother in law and airline food while he smashes custard pies into his face)
Like a parent hearing about their child’s recent killing spree at their high school I blame the media. Comedians are (mostly) trying to build a career and that means maintaining a certain image. That image being young, attractive and capable of appealing to multiple mass markets. Like a Mars bar.
(I’m sorry but if you want to make it in this industry you’re going to have to lose some weight)
Comedians should be worried about their material, making people laugh and not copying other comics. Comedians should not be worried about whether they are over the hill at 30 or if their hair is fashionable enough for the press in the audience.
The obvious irony of this is that the most successful comics ignored the image issue. Robin Williams, Jasper Carrott, Billy Connolly, Les Dawson etc etc were all just funny and unique, even modern comics like Dara O’Briain and Daniel Kitson are hugely successful due to the focus on their material/performance rather than their image.
(I’m so turned on right now)
I say we abandon the quest for fame, We throw down the need for acclaim and we just focus on our own stories. From now on I’m going to assume I’ve crushed a gig unless I’m told otherwise. A comedian’s job is to make the audience laugh, if you’ve done that you’ve done the exact thing you’re supposed to be doing. It doesn’t matter if someone in the audience is going to write a review of you in the Telegraph it should matter that someone, anyone, in the audience found you hilarious. This rule doesn’t apply if that someone is your blood relative.
(You SMASHED it honeypie! Now lets go get some ice cream and feed the ducks!)
My new mantra is “I’m a comedian, I make them laugh” and if I can safely say that’s happened then I know I’ve had a great gig.
- Comedians Shouldn’t Joke about People with Disabilities (revolutionarypaideia.com)
- How Come Comedians Don’t Have A Go At Political Correctness? (stirringtroubleinternationally.com)
- The stand up, the writer and the shipping container (kenelkes.wordpress.com)