average person starting in standup has no training, no experience on stage
whatsoever. Now and then someone starts
at a bit of an advantage; I’ve met several people in just the last year that
came from theater backgrounds, or even took courses in standup. Still, in nearly every case, we start with no
self-confidence, no feeling of security, a bit of awe and wonder about it all
and respect for the comics we meet that have been doing this for years.

time, though, that awe and wonder, and even respect, fades away. We have too much confidence in ourselves and
feel like we deserve every gig we ask for, like club owners should be asking us
to perform instead of the other way around.
We grumble when other comics get the opportunities we don’t, when they
get more time on stage than us, even if they have significantly more experience
than us. Awe and wonder give way to
hubris and bitterness.

And all
of this happens in six months.

doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s happened around me, and yes, even to me,
so many times in just my four years in standup that I’ve noticed the
trend. It surprises me every time and
not at all. It happens for a number of

– We’re
HUNGRY. Whatever the reason that drives
us to the stage in the first place, once we start we want to perform
everywhere, for as long as possible.
Every club is a goal and every club we don’t get gnaws at us. When we’ve done open mics for awhile we want
a place with a little more prestige, whether or not we’re actually ready for it.

– Why
not me?! I love our community and there
is a lot of support to be found amongst comics, but we’re competitive,
too. We often smile when a peer gets a
great chance that we haven’t earned yet, but we don’t smile with our eyes. We can name several reasons why that comic
succeeded where we didn’t, but, “That person is more talented than I am,” never
makes the list.

– We’re
not as good as we let on. Or, rather, we
aren’t as confident in our abilities as we express to others. We don’t ever
say, “That person is funnier than me,” but we worry, “Do people think that
person is funnier than me?”

only thing, besides blind luck, that opens doors everywhere is experience,
performing in as many places as possible, as often as possible. I thought that was universally accepted, but
I was disappointed recently when a high-profile comic publicly announced that
this is a myth created by white men, since only white men get that many
opportunities. I thought this was
insulting, not only to comics as a whole, but especially to the women I see
hunting and working and struggling and being rewarded for their efforts.

the same time, though, I can’t say I was surprised. This is a person who does very well by
performing exclusively for special events and niche clubs. It’s something I’ve noticed among other
rookies, myself included, that we can do very, very well when the crowd is
very, very good, but bomb when the crowd isn’t there for us, because we perform
the same way no matter the environment.
Maybe they just aren’t into our styles, or they don’t have much
experience going to clubs. Maybe the
venue itself isn’t the best for comedy.

comics I respect, I’ve seen them go into rooms where everything is wrong for
comedy, from the venue to the crowd, and turn it around. That’s a talent I respect and it comes only
with experience. When I can do that,
when I can adapt and at least survive whatever gets thrown at me, that’s when I’ll
stop referring to myself as a rookie.
Are you killing it only in special events and niche clubs? Welcome, fellow rookie! We are a wonderful community.