A majority of comics begin their careers in their early 20s. I was in my senior year of college when I first started performing at open mics. There are exceptions with the occasional middle-aged rookie, or kid who isn’t even old enough to drink yet, but for the most part, 21-25 is the usual starting time for beginner comics. Some communities have a dozen or so, while others have even more. There’s another season of Last Comics Standing about to air, so be prepared for a crowded open mic. Out of all of these comics, most of them will fail to ever get a paid gig.
In a lot of communities, usually one or two comics get ahead and start getting work. If you’re one of these comics and your town has a solid club, you’ll get to work with some famous comics. The sold out shows on a Friday and Saturday are a far cry from the barren open mics. You get to mingle with big names, meet hundreds of people after the show, and you actually get paid. With this comes the jealousy of your peers. That’s normal and to be expected. No matter what level of comedy we’re at, we’re always jealous of the comics at the level ahead of us. (…from feature, to headliner, to door deal, to theaters, to sitcom, to syndication, to movies and so on…) Here’s what happens. Young comic who has now joined the “real” comedy world can’t help feel good about him/herself. Arrogance might be mild, but multiply that with the jealousy of your peers and you’re going to come off even cockier. Even if you aren’t, your peers will insist you are because it’s an easy thing to point out and agree on. So how do you avoid it?
1. You don’t need to mention your gigs to everyone else in person before open mic night. Post it on your webpage or Facebook page. Word spreads quickly on its own via jealousy. Let them bring it up if they want.
2. Keep your time schedule like everyone else’s. Show up just as early and stay just as late at all of your open mics. Avoid being aloof at these shows.
3. Don’t name drop.
4. If peers are talking to you about your big-name gig, humbly acknowledge that it is a big deal and you were fortunate to get it. Acting like the biggest gig of your life is a casual occurrence won’t help your image.
5. Give advice only when asked. You’ve only been doing this a few years so you’re not in the place to correct other beginners. (Consider yourself a beginner the first four or five years.)
6. Stay quiet at the pre-show meeting.
Honestly, there’s an epidemic of “first taste of success” comics. Youth is not respected in this business so don’t remind others of yours. Stay humble. In Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage I mention how you must balance being liked by not just the audience, but also the other comics and the club managers.
I often get accused of writing these blogs with specific people in mind who are at fault. That’s true for this one, 23-year-old Rob Durham.