Being put on the spot

As comics, we have a right to let people know it’s what we do (although some people claim the title of “comic” months or years before they should).  Sometimes we make smartass comments at our other job or to people we don’t mean to offend.  If they know we’re comics, we are forgiven sometimes.  Unfortunately, this title also comes with the burden of those who don’t know any better who will inevitably ask us for a joke.  I hate this.  If I ever write another book about comedy, it will be aimed toward the comedy fan to educate them against things like this.  Stand-up comedy doesn’t work (nor should it have to) on request.  Trust me, I’ve been forced in many of my other jobs, and people have a hard time taking no for an answer.

This week’s lesson, you’re not a joke jukebox.  Metaphor time…Surgeons need a lot of equipment and preparation to perform a surgery.  People don’t just slide up next to a doctor and ask them to take care of a few dozen kidney stones.  If they tried, it would be a total disaster.  Jokes/bits in isolation almost always result in the same kind of disaster.  While substitute teaching I’ve had to deal with a lot of this.  I’ve experimented with jokes (the few that are clean and completely non-offensive) over the years with students, teachers, etc.  It’s amazing how only a few out of twenty get them.  Appreciating humor is a type of intelligence just like being able to do math, read well, or even having musical talent.  It’s no wonder they invented laugh tracks for sitcoms, people are dumb.  People who ask you to do a bit aren’t really asking for comedy, they’re actually saying, “Okay, try and make me laugh.”  When this is their attitude, you won’t be able to.

Here are my suggestions of what you can do.  One option is to tell a street joke to appease the morons (or younger people).  I don’t do this because I don’t want them to think that’s what I do for a living, plus I suck at telling these kinds of jokes anyway.  But if you’re okay with it, that’s fine.  The second thing you can do is simply refuse and just tell them when your next show is.  If you have to, lie about when your next show is if you don’t have one, they aren’t coming anyway (make it on a Wednesday night at 11:00 in the bad part of town).  I usually just tell people “I’m off the clock” and to find my show schedule at my website.  If someone who knows you really wants to “hear your stuff” they should have to make an effort.  It’s not like open mics are turning away customers because it’s too crowded there.

As a comic, have some pride.  Keep your act a mystery that only the patrons of your shows get to enjoy in the proper setting.

Finally, I wanted to point out a common misconception about these posts.  These are not excerpts from Dont Wear Shorts on Stage.  Though there are a few similar topics, especially in the older entires, most of these entries are entirely different.  In other words, you’re not going to learn everything I included in the book just from these posts.  This blog is just a sample of my writing and teaching style, so go check the book out on Amazon, or get a signed copy for the same price at my webpage.  You can also look it up on your Kindle, Nook, or through iTunes for the e-book version.  And as always, thank you to anyone who buys, spreads the word about, or reviews my book or blog.

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About Rob Durham

With an English Degree, three years as a doorman at the Columbus Funnybone, over a decade of stand-up experience, and a recent certification in teaching high school English class, writing a book seemed like the next inevitable step for Rob Durham. The son of a coach, Rob has an excellent ability to teach and explain things in the easiest and most direct way possible. His (often labeled ridiculous) memory allows him to think of every possible situation that a new comic might face because at one point he was there too. Rob gives an inside look at comedy that doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges every performer faces. Without ego and the myth that “anyone can do it” Rob gives the reader a true feel of what living the so-called dream feels like, from preparing for that first open mic night to touring the country. View all posts by Rob Durham

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