"As Hard As I Tried In The Beginning,
I was 33 years old in 1992 when I started my stand-up comedy career - for the second time. What makes someone even think about becoming a comedian?
The reasons I had were the exact same reasons you have now.
I was an medical educator in the Navy at the time (I retired from active duty in 1999) and I took another stab at it, because...
I could make a classroom full of students laugh so hard that it would disturb the other classes -- teaching what would normally be considered painfully dry and boring topics.
So I figured that taking a shot at stand-up comedy wouldn't really be that hard. I remember vividly what I was thinking when I first made the decision to become a stand-up comedian:
"All I had to do was write some jokes, tell them on stage and soon I would be discovered!
It can't be that hard.
And I know I can be funnier
than anybody on TV."
Boy, I was naive in the beginning.
I knew in my heart that I was funny enough for the stage and could make something big out of stand-up comedy.
I thought if I just had some good information on how to write great jokes, I was on my way to success! I did what seemed like the smartest thing to do at the time...
I spent hundreds of dollars buying every book I could find and taking workshops on how to write, develop, and perform stand-up comedy material.
I studied joke-writing techniques day and night. I wrote joke after joke, then rewrote them over and over again until I believed they were as funny as they could possibly be.
I spent countless hours memorizing and performing my "killer jokes."
With all my hard work I knew I had an act that would be a knock out! Then I went on stage and performed the material I had written.
I couldn't believe what happened next...
Most of my material didn't work. The material that did work didn't work well at all. I'm not talking about once or twice. I'm talking about having below-average to poor performances on a consistent basis -- for months.
I studied longer. I worked harder. I wrote and rewrote material. I talked to every comedian who would talk to me, trying to get every scrap of information I could to help make my act better. I practiced more.
I put 110% into every performance. And after 6 months of seriously working my butt off, I can honestly say...
I would get some laughs, but I had made little real progress. My act was nowhere near the level I wanted it to be at. And working harder without significant results only made my frustration grow even more.
I got to the point where I figured I had just one option left...
"I Just Couldn't Do It Any More"
It was a really hard decision for me - but I decided to quit stand-up comedy. I had to face the cold hard reality. I just wasn't cut out to be a comedian.
After months of study and hard work, I simply couldn't write great jokes and I just figured I wasn't cut out to be a stand-up comedian.
Then a very strange thing happened...
I was teaching classes in the evenings to supplement my income. On one particular evening, I strayed into a non-related topic and had the class laughing so hard, the building manager came over to the room to see what was going on.
This had happened before, but on this night, it really sparked my attention.
What happened that night kept nagging at me. There was one thing I just couldn't seem to figure out.
I could make a whole class full of people laugh so hard that they couldn't hardly breathe....
But I couldn't even come close to that when I was on stage.
And the most puzzling part of all was...
I wasn't doing any of the prewritten jokes from my stand-up comedy material in the class that night -- just like every other time I had gotten really big laughs from a group I was teaching.
I knew I was on to something -- I just had to figure it out. I was determined to find out why I could make people laugh when I was just being myself, but when I got on stage, I was mediocre at best.
Well, I did figure it out...
"The Light Bulb Suddenly Came On!"
Immediately, I threw out almost all of my old comedy material.
I ignored everything I had read on writing and performing "jokes" and started over. I began to create specific tools and techniques based on my new discovery to develop comedy material.
Almost overnight, I had managed to work out an easy, step-by-step system for developing and performing stand-up comedy material on stage.
Did it really work?
Well, let me just say that the system was so powerful...
I went from struggling with a seriously lame stand-up comedy act at open mikes to headlining 600- to 1500-seat theaters in less than 2 years after throwing out my jokes that had been poorly written "from thin air".
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