When I started comedy, it was typical of most comics. I had a friend or two tell me I was funny, got talked into it and tried it out. I was awful. I mean awful. Not the worst, as I quickly found out, but pretty bad. The thing that made me better is that I realized it. I recorded almost every set, constantly rewrote jokes or scrapped bad ones altogether. Even with this self-awareness, I found myself after a couple of good nights thinking I was way better than I actually was. This is natural and easily the worst thing about comedy. It’s accessible to anyone, at least at a base level, who is willing to talk into a microphone. Want to be in a band? You at least have to invest in $500 or more in equipment and get with a few others and practice. Want to act? You have to audition. Want to tell jokes? You have to find an open mic and write your name down. It encourages a lot of no talent losers and frankly, out and out psychopaths.
I was pretty cocky the first time I got into a comedy contest. I had killer sets and got to the finals. I was sure I had a chance to win, but the crowd was sold out, markedly older and I drew the dreaded first spot. I bombed. I should have known, the host, a touring comic with over a decade of experience was struggling. The crowd was there for one comic only, but I did no favors to myself and left the stage like I got my ass kicked. I worked hard, cleaned up my set and wrote more jokes. The next year, I won the same contest. After I won, a local guy who had been performing less than a few months was black out drunk and trying to fight the staff of the Funny Bone. His white trash mom was screaming, “I know a lawyer! I’m going to sue your asses!” Yes, that sounds like a solid case. “As you can see clearly, the Laffometer had the highest reading for my client.” Even though he apologized a week later, he was done. He never did stand-up again, at least not in this city.
Having done stand-up for over a decade and having both success and failure, I can say it’s mostly my fault (or to my credit) for everything, good or bad. I got to work with a popular hypnotist named J Medicine Hat several times. One thing I noticed was that he was pissed off and critical of himself after every show, even if it went well. I have noticed this in successful comics. Most garbage comics are the exact opposite. They never learn, they just genuflect and blame the crowd, the venue or some bizarre apparition no one can see but them.
I will say, the reciprocation of booking is terrible, worse than it ever has been. Comedy cliques are definitely a thing and it’s tied as much to social media as real life. I’ve worked people and noticed they keep booking their friends over and over…which is their option if they want to do that. All these can be discouraging, but I would suggest to any comic who feels “disrespected” I would run down this list for you. 1) Why don’t you start your own show? 2) Are you funny? I mean like go into a cold room outside your comfort zone and make people laugh? Do you record your sets so you can actually hear laughter or the absence thereof? 3) Do you actually ask to be on shows? If so, can you ask for feedback if they don’t use you and not lose your mind about what you hear? If no to any of the above questions, then work on your act (or yourself) before you go on conspiracy rants about all the people out to get you. Or get help. From the comics I’ve met, that covers a pretty big chunk.
No one books a comic who is a problem. If you get black out drunk, are continually late, talk shit about the venue or other performers, fight the crowd, or refuse to promote the show (I could do a book on that), the person or business booking the room has no use for you. There’s someone else who won’t do that and is just as funny or at least is close enough and won’t cause the booker an ulcer. A wise man or rapper or someone once said, “Check yo self before you wreck you self.” Of course, the people that need to read this won’t or will get mad and personalize it, so I may as well piss into the wind, but oh well.