Maybe it was growing up with Bill Cosby albums. Perhaps it was a constant need for personal attention. It could have even been a deeper psychological thing that can only be explained by a licensed professional. Whatever it was, I chose part of my career to be in comedy. I have spent parts of the past 13 years in clubs, on campuses, and in front of corporate audiences simply making people laugh.
When standup goes well, it’s like crack – highly addictive and incredibly enjoyable where you’ll do anything to get your next hit. When it doesn’t go well, it’s like… ahem… crack – that deep dark underbelly part of crack where you lose sleep, lose weight, look like shit, and wonder how you could be so stupid to get involved in something so soul-destroying to begin with.
Luckily, the good nights have far outweighed the bad ones.
I enjoy exploring thoughts and simply finding the funny. I love that I can go up on stage with a plan in hand and then completely abandon it because, hey, “I felt like it”. Maybe deep down I even superficially enjoy it because it’s a more interesting response to dreadful cocktail conversation starters like “Soooo, what do you do?” Most of all, though, I think I most like the just-in-time feedback.
You want ROI? Choose comedy. Spend 2 minutes on stage and you immediately know what your return on investment is. Simply put, either they’re laughing or they’re not. There’s no need for an HR-mandated, 360-degree-feedback, quarterly review with your boss answering lame questions like “…and where do you see yourself in 5 years?” (People should just use comedian Mitch Hedberg’s response to that question: “Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of you asking me that question!”).
You don’t need to track Q3 sales data or year over year earnings per share or pre / post brand awareness figures to know whether you’re doing your job or not. If the crowd is responding to your performance with laughter and applause, consider your contract extended. If they’re not, well, you might want to think of the end of your set as a temporary pink slip. And don’t let the mic stand hit you in the ass on the way out.
There are no politics to navigate. No multi-tasking to distract you. No offsite team building exercises where you’re asked to catch a 400-pound office admin in a trust fall. And you’ll never hear a comedian say, “Well, I left the audience a voice mail but they haven’t got back to me yet.”
It’s you. The audience. And your microphone. That’s it.
Over the years I’ve learned that there are thousands of variables that can lead to a successful gig and thousands more that can lead an unsuccessful one. Countless small details can be the difference between a standing ovation and an experience that can only be described as the longest 30 minutes of your life where you question your sanity, your talent, and why God selected you as the one to go down in a ball of flames in front of 100 strangers at a charity golf tournament.
I once got a call that literally went like this:
“Hi, Mr. Tite. I’m looking for a comedian and someone gave me your name. The event is next week and I will need you to roam around interacting as a court jester for about 3 hours. You don’t happen to have your own court jester costume, do you?”
Are you kidding me? A court jester? And he expected me to have my own court jester costume? I wouldn’t improvise as a court jester for 3 hours if I literally was the last comic standing.
Well, that’s what I wanted to say. What I chose to say was,
“It sounds really fun but I’m not really a character comedian and my adult-onset asthma limits my ability to roam for extended periods of time. Perhaps I can give you some names…”
There are comedians I know who would not only be brilliant roaming as a court jester, but they would actually love doing it, too. Thankfully, I’m not one of them.
I guess that’s one of the reasons I could never see myself doing standup comedy full-time, even though I completely respect my friends who choose to do so. The life of a comedian is a tough one. I’ve always loved advertising because it lets me create and perform while still being involved in business and the rest of society. It’s a win-win. So thanks, advertising. You allow me have two passions which is rare.