I realize that sometimes, this blog doesn’t seem like it’s about the New York City stand-up scene. It probably seems more like a blog where Lucas and I just talk about our problems in life and our personal issues. Wouldn’t it be better if I just wrote a list? Something straight and to the point, like “10 Steps to Guaranteed Success in NYC!!"
Let me assure you, I realize that if you’re thinking you might come to New York to pursue comedy - or any other goal in life, for that matter - then documenting our temptations to commit suicide or our bouts with self-doubt won’t help you as much as a list of open-mics or a step-by-step plan to get an audition at the Cellar.
But that’s the thing about doing comedy in New York. Very few of the obstacles that trip people up are the ones that are universal. The shit that will get in your way and prevent success here? Go ahead and trace the calls - they’re coming from inside the house.
Honestly. It’s not hard to succeed here, on paper.
1. You bust your ass, do between 10-20 sets a week, until you feel comfortable onstage regardless of any circumstance. Have at least one breakthrough where it fully occurs to you that you onstage is the exact same person as you off of it.
2. While you’re waiting for that epiphany to show up, don’t go to the same 10-20 shows each week. Constantly be looking for different shows, and force yourself to not fall into the same patterns and the same circles.
3. Don’t hide behind your material. Be willing to be onstage, without telling any of your jokes, and be willing to either be funny or bomb, as yourself. You don’t have to do this all the time, or even often. But you have to be willing to do it. You have to know it’s okay to bomb a set. You have to understand that no set can hurt you unless you let it. Have your Neo-stopping-the-bullets moment.
4. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be social. Just don’t be a dick.
5. If you ever like a joke that someone tells, let them know. If you care about good comedy, and not just your comedy, you’re fully ahead of 80 percent of comics in the world as far as “being social” goes.
6. Now, apply the first sentence of number 5 to comics of the same sex and comics of the opposite sex. That’s where everyone else will screw up. Work harder to reach across the gender aisle. We’re all human beings.
7. Communicate with anyone who books you on a show. A booker is not a robot that mathematically books the best comics. It’s a human being that experiences negative emotions when they have to deal with complications. So if you think you’re above the rules, pretty soon it won’t matter how funny you are.
8. If you let a booker know in advance, usually you can be late to a show. But if you are, you have no right to bitch about either your spot on the show, or if they can’t fit you on. Period.
9. Know what your goals are. If your goals are to get on television, search for an easily-definable character and a tight 7-minute set. If you want to get into clubs, know that your chances are better if you hone a 15-minute set that leans toward the clean side. If your goal is an artistic one, then be at peace with not getting a TV credit or any club work. Don’t bitch about not getting the things that you claim you don’t want. It’s annoying and hypocritical.
Note: If you’re after something other than the artistic pursuit, you may need to scrap steps 1-3...I just don’t have experience with pursuing any other goals except my own. Sorry.
10. Don’t get angry that someone else gets something that you "deserve more." Of course you think your jokes are funnier than theirs. They’re your jokes - from your perspective, your jokes are super-relevant and super-relatable. By definition, every comic in the world feels the exact same way. Shut up. Get better. Be more honest onstage. Find more truth. Do your job.
11. Once you do those 10...I don’t know. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll tell you whatever else I’ve figured out by then.
What’s my point? If you do those 10 things, you’re going to be fine up here. It’s that easy. It honestly is. Do those 10 over the course of 3-5 years, and you’ll be at peace with wherever you end up.
But that’s the thing about doing comedy in New York. You get tripped up. You get knocked off track. You have a good two weeks, but then it feels like nothing is happening, so you get discouraged. You get off track, and then it’s three months later, and you haven’t been up in a month. Or you’ve gone to the same 7 shows for 4 weeks in a row, and you haven’t met anyone new, and you haven’t given anyone else in the city a chance to think that you should be on their show next month.
Why does that happen? Why do we not take the steps we know would make us succeed?
That’s what this blog is about. I’m not as interested in documenting the shows I do. I mean, I am to an extent - I’ll try to keep documenting that side of this journey, too. But if I were reading this blog 3 years ago, I’d have got more out of knowing I had such an internal struggle ahead, as opposed to knowing the name of the door guy at Gotham (no disrespect to the door guy at Gotham).
I know what it would take to succeed up here. So why have I struggled so much to do any of it during my first year here?
Sigh. Welcome to New York.
I guess the answer to that question isn’t in a top-10 list. Instead, it’s been documented - albeit with long stretches unaccounted for - in the form of this ongoing blog.
I don’t know if it always comes off when you read my blogs, but there’s honestly nowhere else in the world I’d rather be, and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing, than trying to solve that riddle: Why do I get in my own way? Why do I always seem to be afraid of reaching for my highest ceiling in this life?
I guess if you feel that way, maybe this is where you should be. In the city with the highest ceiling in the country, and probably the world.
Or maybe I’m just crazy. I don’t know. Come find out for yourself, if you want. And let me know if you figure it out first.
With love and well-wishes,