The hardest part about comics having a day job…

Several months ago I wrote a guest blog about the long-term process/plan of going from a day job to doing comedy full-time.  Read it here.  There’s nothing wrong with working a job while pursuing a comedy career.  Unless we’re delusional or living with our parents, we all have to go through it.  While you’re still working a day (or night) job, there are a lot of obvious challenges.  Scheduling, fatigue, and a few other common problems can plague anyone burning the candle at both ends. 

The toughest part about being a comic with a job is the times you can’t be a comic.

Learn to put the filter on when you’re at work.  The workplace is one of the best places to find material, but you have to be extremely careful when to hold the punchlines back.  You have to leave the comic mentality at home and realize that most workplaces have a different set of conversational standards than the pre-open mic meeting.  I once got fired from a subbing job for writing that “3 students were being smartasses and embarrassing themselves by using insulting slang, please give them detentions.”  Yes, smartasses got me fired from some hillbilly school in Ohio (Hamilton Local in southeast Columbus).  Luckily, bartending and the whole server industry usually loosens things up a bit, but some of the other better-paying jobs that comics need have no room for verbal error.  

It’s a tough concept because we naturally make jokes in conversation, and especially during important times (like meetings).  We’ve trained ourselves to say what comes to our mind.  “Is this funny?  Yes?  Say it–say it now!”  Another thing to remember is that your coworkers can often be those people in a crowd who just don’t “get it.”  My freshmen students often don’t get my jokes and the other 75% I have to filter out.  So yes, it’s important to train yourself to say funny things, but realistically, we all need money and often the joke you make isn’t worth losing your job over.

This is also good advice for “turning it off” around other comics who are much further along in the game with you.  I mean the guys who have been headlining for years and years.  I was recently talking to one and realized that I was boring the hell out of him and nothing I was saying was entertaining to him.  Be self-aware is what I’m saying.  If the other person isn’t contributing back to the conversation, you’re boring (again, someone should’ve told 23-year-old 33-year-old Rob this).

I’ll be away next week so in the meantime be sure to check out Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage (which is now available on Kindle for $6 less than retail!).

Thank you again for those who share my blog–the numbers continue to climb and I actually had to report my book sales for 2012 (hello, write-offs).


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

2 responses to “The hardest part about comics having a day job…

  • Mike

    Hey Rob. I recently lost my job because of my lack of a filter. I made the mistake of trying material with coworkers; when a topic came up that I had a joke for, I tried out my punchline. Little did I know that someone left a phone off the hook after trying to make a phone call. A voicemail was left and I was said to have been saying terrible things. Next thing I know, I’m out the door. I believe that there is a time and a place for everything, and I know now that I do have to keep my mouth shut and my opinions to myself until I can really work out the jokes on stage.

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