Starting out in the comedy business is very difficult. The only way to improve your act is to get as much stage time as possible. New comics do this by attending an "open mic night" at the local club. It's very simple. All you need to do is get your best five minutes, sign up, and guarantee the club that you will provide some of the audience. Depending on the club, this can range from 5 to 7 people. Easy, right? The first time an aspiring comedian does this he or she usually winds up filling the place up. Family and friends come out in droves to support the budding artist. I have seen as much as 35 people come out to watch little cousin Anthony become a star. Even if Anthony fails miserably they all lie to him and give him delusion's of grandeur. Aunt Sofie is so proud. "I'll see you on Letterman soon". Anthony suddenly feels compelled to do it again. He approaches the club owner, or in some cases, the organizer of the open mic night, and tries to get another gig. They immediately say yes. Anthony thinks he is on his way to being a famous comedian. What poor little Anthony doesn't realize is the club is not impressed with Anthony's performance, but his ability to bring audience. They are a business first and a comedy club second. The club owner is not interested in the next rising star. He is interested in making payroll this week. Anthony leaves the club, starry eyed and armed with his next club date. A month from now. He only has to bring 7 people. He got 35 this time, 7 should be a cakewalk.
Anthony goes up on stage and doesn't realize he should have spent more time preparing for his gig than trying to get audience. He bombs. A horrible display. He leaves the stage with a pit in his stomach. The nine who came are gracious and tell him he was good. They lied to Anthony. He was awful. They lied enough for Anthony to try again. He gets another date. He has to bring 7 people, once again.
Anthony spends his days trying to get people to come see his show. He e-mails everyone he knows. Asks people at work. Family members he hasn't spoken to in years. He is getting close to the deadline and few are committing.
Gig three. He makes it. Seven people come see him. Whew, he barely made it. Learning from his past mistake, he goes back to the five minutes that worked the first time. He prepared. He goes up. He does well. Unfortunately, the seven he had out there saw him the first time. They make some comments. "Anthony, you did the same jokes". "We thought you would do different jokes". "You were good, but this cost me 75 bucks". "Why did the show go on so long, and those other comedians were terrible". Anthony has now lost all his people.
Anthony becomes like an Amway salesman. He cannot go to family events anymore without being ignored. People react in horror as Anthony approaches them. "He is going to ask us to go to another show, tell him we are busy". Anthony continues to harass his family and friends so he can get stage time. The beloved Anthony is now known as "oh no, he's coming over here".
Anthony realizes his ability to bring people to his shows have ended. This is known in the biz, as "burning out your people". He resorts to open mic nights that do not require people. These take place in bars, pizza places, taco joints, laundromats, you name it. He becomes what is known as a barker, which means you hand out flyers outside the club in exchange for stage time. Anthony is at the bottom rung of the comedy ladder, but he soldiers on. He thinks one day, someone will see him and based on his five minutes, he will become a star.
Anthony's delusion lasts for years. He works at Home Depot and practices his comedy on co-workers. Even with little stage time, he gets better. He refuses to give up. He joins other comics in writing groups, develops a character, auditions for commercials. Anthony gets a lot of rejection and continues to fail, but will not quit. He asks people to come all the time. He tries to build a following. It's hard. Most of the time he feels like he is going nowhere.
Anthony represents every comedian, musician, artist out there. When he approaches you to support him, do the best you can to be there. Anthony appreciates it. So do I.
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