Trying new material

is scary.

I’ve just got to the stage where I have 5 or so minutes of trusty,  people laugh at this more often than not, material; tried and tested in the furnace of the open mic circuit.

More to the point, I can actually remember it.

So trying out new material is a leap into the dark. Like all wannabe comedians I want people to like and laugh at my jokes. Of course I’d settle for hate me, so long as they laugh at my jokes. Which explains a lot about me.

But that’s why it’s scary to try new jokes. It’s like going on a date with someone you’ve only just met while all your friends and family watch. And occasionally throw things.

Ok it’s not that bad. I have been known to exaggerate. But it’s scary.

What I don’t do is tell the audience. They don’t care whether it’s the first time I’ve told that joke or the 1000th. They just want to laugh. No need to say “That’s a keeper” or “I’ll chuck that then”. Even if it gets you a cheap laugh it undermines the carefully constructed illusion of professional competence, which in my case needs a lot of construction.

So I always wince when other comics do it. We all do it. When things don’t work we want to get a laugh, any laugh quickly. We tell ourselves, and the audience, that that wasn’t our best stuff. “I’ll tell you a good one, now.”

Trouble is it makes you look needy. And the one thing an audience doesn’t need is a needy comedian. They want to laugh not feel sorry for you. So don’t do it. Man up, suck up the painful silence and carry on.

Which is what I’ll do until the next time a joke falls flat. “I’ll chuck that one then.”

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Comments
2 Responses to “Trying new material”
  1. I’d probably disagree with you there.

    I think you’re focusing too much on whether your material is ‘good’ than on creating a rapport with the audience. Dunno, I’ve seen Stewart Lee successfully riff for 10 minutes on the fact that he messed up his opening line and thus damaged the audience’s expectations. You don’t need to ‘conceal’ it when you fail – as a performer you are an inherently interesting human being, not a machine for delivering gags.

    • David Sharpe says:

      I’m definitely coming round to your way of thinking on this. When I concentrate on my material and trying to get everything technically perfect I tend to do much less well than when I focus on comminucation with the audience.

      Having said that people saying “Ok that one was new” still seems a bit defensive. Making a joke out of it is good. But when people pretend “that one doesn’t count” it still makes me cringe.

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