December 16, 2010
I think that the best advice is specific advice.
I was at the FunnyBone with two of my friends. One of us had won free tickets to a show somehow. I had only thought about doing comedy at this point so I was ready to take some mental notes. I don’t remember the names of any of the comedians on the show that night, although I do remember laughing a lot. The feature comedian especially impressed me. He said he had quit a six-figure job in the computer industry in order to pursue stand up. It takes a lot of guts to walk away from that just so you can follow your dream. Either that, or he got fired from that great job, divorced his wife because of it and stand-up was the only other option.
I had to go to the bathroom halfway through the headliner’s set. As I exited the main room, I saw the feature comic in the lobby. He was setting up his “merch,” a big source of a road comedian’s income.
“Great job,” I said to him as I walked toward the bathroom.
“Thanks,” he replied.
“I’m actually thinking about doing stand-up for the first time next week at an open mic,” I proclaimed. “Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?”
“Yeah. When you get on stage, take the mic out of the stand and then move the mic stand to the side of the stage.”
There was a pause.
“And?” I asked.
“No that’s the advice. It just makes you look like a real amateur if you don’t do that.” Another long pause. “Did you want to buy a CD or a T-shirt?”
“No thanks,” and I headed on to the men’s room.
It seemed bewildering at the time, but that was great advice. It was something I could use. I don’t know how many times I’ve got crappy, vague advice like, “Just write everyday.” Or “You need to find your voice.” That doesn’t help me at all.
So my first time on stage, I moved the mic stand to the side. I noticed later that pretty much every working comedian does that. It makes you look like a pro.
Thanks to the unnamed comic I saw at the FunnyBone back in 2006. Your advice has been heeded.