A few years ago when I first wanted to do stand-up, I googled “how to get started in stand-up” [like all the greats did].
I came across a piece of advice from Louis C.K. that I thought was pretty good. Here it is from laughspin.com: “Go on stage as often as possible. Any stage anywhere. Don’t listen to anyone about anything. Just keep getting up there and try to be funny, honest and original.”
I thought it was good advice. I mean, Louis C.K. is was pretty successful.
But now I think it’s wrong.
Which is a scary thing to say when so many other people buy into that piece of advice.
So many I’ll say this: It’s wrong for me.
If I had one hour to get better at comedy, I would spend it writing better material.
It’s easy to grind it out at open mic after open mic and not get any better. I’ve seen some people [me] do the same 5 minute set for months, not advancing one bit [also me].
If you’re trying to get stronger in the gym, you add more weight.
You change things. And that’s what writing new material does for a comic.
A few weeks ago, I had a spot at Gotham Comedy Club [my fave club in NYC]. A few days prior, I decided that I’d perform two new minutes. In a 6 minute set, 2 would be brand new. Risky, but it’s the only way I was going to get better.
I wrote some material about Iceland. I thought it was okay, but I didn’t think it would do well.
I was wrong.
It went FAR better than I could have imagined. [Someone actually laughed.] Whether I keep that material is another question—I’m constantly adding new stuff and cutting poor performing stuff—but the lesson to me was this: write as often and as much as you can, and trust that some of it will work.
But the point is, now I’ve got 2 new minutes to play with. I have something to revise. Something to improve upon. Sure, the delivery might change in subsequent performances, but at I’m 2 minutes ahead of where I was before.
My advice today, mostly to myself, but also to anyone who’s listening, is to write more. Write every day. Spend as much time as you can afford writing. Write new stuff. Improve old stuff. Don’t just get up day after day and bang out the same exact material.