A DREAM written down with a date becomes a GOAL.
A GOAL broken down into steps becomes a PLAN.
A PLAN backed by ACTION makes your DREAMS come TRUE.
But a DREAM minus GOALS and a PLAN becomes REGRET.
I know that sounds just like some cliche fluff that you’d find on one of those cheesy motivational posters in an office.
I know, office? Yuck!
But you would be amazed at how many people—especially artists—don’t even write down their goals.
You know how most people go through their lives? They WAIT for something to happen. Writers, Actors and comedians are most vulnerable here.
One of the reasons this happens is because they’re waiting for success, not planning for success.
When you want to be a lawyer, you know you can go to college, then law school. You talk to a counselor and they map out a plan of classes that will get you to a certain number of units of a certain selection of classes and you graduate.
Maybe you’re working as an intern for the last part of school. If you do well in school, sometimes that firm hires you.
Then you take the bar exam with a certain number of questions on that exam and you have to get a certain percentage of answers right so you can pass the bar.
In many cases you are hired right out of college and the firm you’re working for pays the expense for you to take and pass the bar. Congratulations! You have a job. You are a lawyer!
Unfortunately, it is not the same thing with show business. You don’t have a specific amount of classes you need to take, you don’t have to achieve a certain amount of units, you don’t have a test and you don’t get a degree that says you are qualified.
So what are you supposed to do?
As an actor, you go to class, you develop the skills, you do an agent showcase, you get an agent and they send you out for auditions.
But what about comedian or comedy writer? It’s really the same thing, but it’s up to YOU to develop the skills, then submit for the job.
Just as you would with a regular job. It’s really no different except that you don’t have a test and you don’t have a specific amount of units you have to pass and you don’t have to have a degree.
The good news is that you don’t have to attend a specific amount of years or earn a specific amount of credits at a university or trade school.
You just have to prove your competence.
There are two primary ways of developing that competence.
- Go out and just do it and do it and hope for the best.
- Take classes, get coaching to master the fundamentals from someone with real experience. Learn to avoid the mistakes and have a safe environment where you can workout, receive guidance, have accountability and develop a set faster and more efficiently.
I’ve tried both ways, and trust me, it’s much faster working with a professional.
Each method has their benefits and their pitfalls. Getting out and performing is great, but I’ve seen 10’s, maybe hundreds of comedians getting up at the mics regularly doing the same material that doesn’t work, the very next week they come up and do the exact same material and it doesn’t work.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
I’m sure you’ve heard this: Albert Einstein is credited with saying that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.
Famous UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”
Having a coach or a good teacher, can help to guide you through the writing of solid material. Can help to give you the extra tip or pointer that can take a joke that’s not working and make it work.
I believe that if you think an idea is funny, but it’s not getting laughs, then most likely it’s funny, but it’s just missing an element that is needed to trigger the laugh.
In my classes, part of what we study is WHY people laugh. What triggers that?
When you understand that at its most intrinsic level you can begin to make changes to a joke to take it from a semi-chuckle (because it’s a funny idea) to a triggered laugh because it a funny joke.
Here’s an example:
One of my students went up and did this joke:
I’m in menopause and I’ve been getting these terrible hot flashes lately. I mean they’re bad. Last night, we were home, the kids are asleep and I got this awful hot flash. I was burning up. So I just peeled off all my clothes. I swear I almost game my husband a heart attack. Thank God we weren’t at Starbucks.
It’s a funny idea. But it’s not quite a joke.
One element that should be present in all jokes is surprise. So I suggested changing the set up to a more assumptive set up by removing one of the elements from the maxim of the five W’s (Who? What? Where? Why? When? and How?). So we removed where, (“we were home”).
So that changes the set up. Keeping “the kids were asleep,” helps support and misdirect the audience to assume she is home and give her a better opportunity for surprise. So the joke becomes:
“I’m in menopause and I’ve been getting these terrible hot flashes lately. I mean they’re bad. Last night, the kids are asleep and I got this awful hot flash. I was burning up. So I just peeled off all my clothes. I swear I almost gave my husband a heart attack… ‘Cuz we were at Starbucks…
Now, with the sudden change in location (surprise) and using Starbucks as the punchline, it offers another opportunity for her to add a tag to the joke:
… (Shrugs shoulders) the coffee wasn’t the only thing that was hot…”
After understanding this concept, it enabled the student to add her own tag after that. She said, “I just took my husband’s coffee cake and said, ‘would you like me to heat that up for you?’”
Fixing the funny idea and making it more of a joke, gave it a much bigger laugh in front of the audience. Also adding the two tags, allowed for her to get three laughs from the idea, instead of just one.
Having the guidance from someone who’s a professional who understands the mechanics of comedy writing and performance can help you learn a lot faster and reach your goal of developing an act in a much more efficient way.
So getting up on stage and just doing it over and over and over the same way is not the most effective way of getting better, it’s just the definition of insanity.
The New Year is right around the corner.
If you have a DREAM…
Set some GOALS…
Make a PLAN…
… and make your DREAMS come TRUE!
and may you have an amazing 2018!