Friday, October 18, 2013

What Now?

The stage at Goodnights in Raleigh, NC
a club I would like to be working
I started performing for pay in 1995. I have to admit that back then I thought there was a chance, albeit a remote one; that I would end up famous. After having spent the past 18 years as a working stand-up comedian I'm pretty sure I now know, it's not going to happen.
Some may find that last sentence pretty negative. It may even sound like I've given up hope. I don't see it that way. I see it as a realistic view of where I am in this business I love. The issue for me now is what should I do with this information.

One option is just to roll over and quit. I sincerely doubt that will happen. I enjoy being a comedian way too much to quit now, success or not. Stand-up comedian is how I identify myself and it's become who I am. I can't even imagine the words "I used to do stand-up" ever coming out of my mouth.

Another option is to ignore all the negatives I have going against me in this business. I know my age; looks and poor ability to network have seriously held me back. Truthfully, of those 3 the ability to network is the one that really counts. It will even get you past the first two. The truth is you don't even have to be very funny if you have the ability to network. Don't hear this as jealousy but I know my share of comedians who really aren't all that good but they work all the time and are able to get into clubs that wouldn't even consider working me. Why? They really know how to turn on the charm, something I've never been able to do. I suppose I could give learning how to network another try, but it has not gone well in the past. I'm just not good at it. Whatever I say never seems to come out as genuine, even if I really mean it.

My last option is to accept the way things are and work with what I have. That is exactly what I'll do, that is what I've always done. In truth it really won't change my goal for stand-up comedy. You see it was never my goal to be famous, it has and will continue to be my goal to be someone that other comedians respect and want to watch.

I have a long way to go towards achieving that goal ... I feel like I am a good comic but have a long way to go to become a great comic. After all these years I feel like I've found my style and I've found material that works but I need to take things to the next level.

The next level is I need to make that change the great ones have done. I need to start abandoning the material that has worked for me all these years and start to talk about the things I am really passionate about. That combined with the style and voice I have developed is what will allow me to take that next big step and become the comedian I have always wanted to be.

Making a change like this is a frightening thing. Making this change comes with a lot of uncertainty. I'm not afraid of going on stage and bombing as I work on figuring things out. What I am afraid of is taking a new act into the clubs and getting bad reports. These days work is hard to come by and you are on the bubble each and every time you come in.

When I started you could have an OK week and still come back. The clubs were much more tolerant of comics working on their act. It used to be that Sunday shows were the ones were you did your new material and tried things out, not any more. Now days you do that and you do so at your own peril. Unfortunately these days you need to go in and kill every show because if you don't you most certainly be taken of the roster. Clubs these days are afraid that someone is going to come to their show and not be satisfied and not come back. That makes it very difficult to try new things.

It could be time to go big or go home ...

Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is
Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.

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