Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why bother?

Most people would think that all it takes to make it as a stand-up comedian is the ability to be funny. I can tell you that is a part of it. I could even make a pretty good argument that it's not even the most important part.

When I first started doing comedy for pay I thought that in order to make it in the business I should not only concentrate on being funny I should also be a professional. I already knew what being a professional was all about. I owned several businesses at the time and had also successfully worked my up to being a Senior Loan Officer at a bank. You just don't do that without being professional.

Being professional at what you do requires commitment, you have to take things seriously. You have to communicate well, show up on time, be motivated and work hard. In the business world if you are a professional you greatly increase your chances of success. I know this because I've seen it happen many times and it has worked for me.

I can tell you it's not necessary in comedy. I have come to believe that actually the opposite is true when it comes to stand-up comedy. The more professional you are the more it seems to turn off the people that you work with. Show up on time, do a good job on stage, don't drink, greet people on the way out and then go right home after the show; don't plan on coming back.

Get there at the last minute, go onstage to cheerlead the crowd, drink through your whole act and then drink with the staff until they tell you to leave; you'll be coming back for sure. Why? It's actually simple enough, in the abstract a comedy club is a bar. Instead of having a jukebox or the occasional band for entertainment there are comics. A bar makes it's income selling drinks. That's what everything is geared towards.

I am going to generalize here but before I start I will say this. There are perfectly good, honest hard working people that work in bars. I'm not quite sure why but the people that work in bars are generally not of the finest caliber. That is not to say they are bad people. What I am saying is they seem to be more prone to drink and party. So they gravitate towards people who do the same.

Drinking and partying seems to be a favorite pastime of many of the comedians I have  known over the years. So you see we have 2 groups of like minded people that are brought together with the shared interest of having a good time. That good time involving will involve partying and we all know that alcohol is  major component when you are out to do some serious partying.

You see where I'm going here? People gravitate towards what they know. Is it any surprise that bad behavior is tolerated in the stand-up comedy world? Bad behavior seems to give you an "edge" that actually gets you ahead.

Are you someone that can walk into any bar, make friends and feel like you're at home? You are half way towards a successful career in stand-up comedy! That's because the people that staff the clubs that you will be working with will immediately sense you are one of them and embrace you. You'll party with them and it will make you a "club favorite". They will look forward to having you back.

I, on the other hand am an "acquired" taste. I don't have a lot to say to people. I figure when they are at work that's what they want to do, work. I don't drink before or while I'm on stage because I take what I do seriously. I'm trying to do the best show I can. To do that I need to have my wits about me, I don't want to be impaired in any way. I don't hang out after the show and drink with the staff because I'm not much of a conversationalist. I also (call me weird) have this thing about driving while impaired. I don't want to take the chance that I'll kill someone. I also don't want to get a DUI and loose my license. That's going to make working pretty difficult.

I guess I just don't get it ...

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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