My First Year in Comedy

Lately a lot of new people starting out in the comedy have been asking me questions I had my first year; how do you do it, where do you go, any advice... it wasn't until I had to think about these questions multiple times, I realized I don't know what I'm doing. If we were in different boats, I haven't drifted that much further from the dock. My answers are lame. All I can do is share my experience. Even when I know they want to be on television and I just want to be funny. 

My first year was tricky. I thought I knew the game, but I really didn't. I thought I was funny, but really wasn't. The sad thing is we all think we're funny, until we realize there is more to this than you will get booked if you could bring friends or the jokes you share with your friends won't work with everyone. Even when you do one you heard work on a comedy special. I remember a few months into comedy, I asked someone that has been five years in, "when do you get good?" And she said years. 

Accepting it will take years to get good is the first step to being a comic. The second step is if you could do a hard room; I was weary of Dorsey's Locker. I didn't like B Street Cafe in Hayward. I hate Above the Underground in Redwood City. The room is linear. The bartender talks louder than the comic on stage on the other side of the room without a microphone. She's hot so someone is always flirting with her. It's space out so people sit in areas of the room rather than together. Paul U-streams your 10 minute sets so everyone can see you eat it at a open mic. And there is always a drunk ruining your set. I was heckled by open micer that bombed before me. When I started to get the crowd going, the open micer shouted "you did that one last week!" He apologized privately and said he "wanted to add to the show." How? I don't know. Working in a notoriously hard room will only make your skin thicker and help you appreciate your jokes and laughter. It will turn you saying "it's not my crowd" to "I'll see you next week."

I used to walk out of rooms. If I saw the sign-up list was stacked or no audience and the energy wasn't there, I would use this as my excuse. There was no benefit to doing a set. Or if I was tired, saw a couple of better comics bump, and I couldn't remember what day it was, I would cross my name off this list. Now I see stage time as my time. It's my job as a comic to get laughs in any situation. The jester's job was to make the king laugh whenever. If he didn't do it, the jester would be beheaded. Makes the kind audience member watching you do your set and giving the half crack smile more meaningful. 

If I have any advice, it's to take every gig offered. Even if you think you'll bomb. When you can't lose, the only place to go is up. I don't have an excuse not to go to Above The Underground. It's close to where I live, it starts late, and it's work. The fan is loud because without it, it's hot. Audience won't pay attention because they're drunk or just don't care. And it's spacious. So laughter will get lost. Walking off stage without feeling like they beat you up is an accomplishment. 

I also wanted to know how to get paid. Not that I wanted to do it for the money, but I wanted to know how to do it as my only job. I also find the irony of the most rewarding thing I do is for free. 

The ultimate goal is getting better. Maybe it's to get on television for some, but for me it's getting the credit from people wanting to see me do my magic trick. If the 10,000 hour rule is true, and I do believe in it, you won't get there your first year. Unless you do 27.4 hours of comedy every day for a whole year. 

The short answer to these questions; 

How do you make money? Get an agent. It's their job to find it for you. How do you get an agent? Get better.

What did I think of your set? It could be better. 

How do you get booked? Ask the booker. Have a clip ready. And get better.

Any advice? Get better.

Kevin Wong