One of the sweet little lies we like to tell ourselves in the comedy community is that standup is a meritocracy. If you work hard, develop your talent, grind away for years in club after club, more doors will open up to you. The best opportunities are only made available to the funniest, most experienced comics. When you start you might be 100th in line, but if you’re very patient, at some point it’ll be your turn.

In reality, however, there are many ways to skip the line, or at least move up the line faster. A simple example of this is people trying standup for the first time, but have a background in performing, such as theater or music. Your material might be mediocre, but you’ve got an advantage over fellow rookies who are just as mediocre but are also learning how to stand on a stage and hold a microphone.

Another way to skip the line is to have social skills and be likeable off stage. I’ve mentioned before that most comics, including myself, are (and I say this with love) socially retarded. If you’re personable and see mingling as an opportunity and not something to be avoided at all costs, you’ll stand out.

I’m opening myself up to hate here but I don’t mean to be controversial, just pointing out reality- women often get to skip the line. Club owners looking to make their lineups more diverse will offer opportunities to female rookies that they would never offer to male rookies of the same calibur. And it’s fine! Lineups should be more diverse, there should be more women in standup, the few that are around should get more stage time. If it means that a club owner should deny the hundred men who email requests daily for stage time and instead offer spots to women who had never asked themselves, so be it. I hope the scene develops to the point that all feel comfortable and welcome in standup and women hunt and grind and nag club owners as much as men do. In the meantime, we just have to make the best of it.

The best way to skip the line is to start doing standup after you’ve already built up a fanbase doing something else. The way the standup process is “supposed” to work is that you start as a total unknown, but after years of grinding in any and every club and posting content online, you build up a fanbase. At the start of your career, you have to win the crowd over, but with time and dedication, the crowd will be on the edge of their seats before you even say a word. You won them over before you stepped on stage. You still have to be funny, but you don’t need to put in half the effort of a rookie doing five minutes three hours and twenty comics into a night.

However, if you’ve built up a fanbase because of a podcast or TikTok or YouTube, if you’ve got a million Instagram followers and then decide to give standup a go, that’s a shortcut to success! I say shortcut but that’s not true. It just means you did the same amount of work in a different field. Not everyone can be a YouTube sensation. You may not have built up a fanbase thanks to standup, but you still built up a fanbase. You’ve been rewarded for hard work and no one should look down their noses at you for that.

The problem is that it must be difficult to judge your own ability when everyone in the room is excited to see you and applauds every word out of your mouth. If the crowd is pissing themselves laughing while you’re on stage, doesn’t that mean you’re a great comic? Certainly not, at least not to the so-called true comics at the back of the room judging every aspect of your set mercilessly.

Self-awareness, being self-critical, these are very important to our development. How can it not go to your head, though, if doors are being opened to you left and right? Do you say, “I got this spot at this great club because it checked a diversity box,” or do you say, “I got this spot at this great club because I’m a great comic”? Do you say, “Eveyone loved me tonight because they know me from YouTube,” or do you say, “Everyone loved me tonight because I’m super talented at standup”?

Over the years I’ve met comics from all over the spectrum (and I don’t only mean autism). Everyone from comics who are too humble and self-critical to comics who are completely ignorant of their talent or lack thereof. It takes all kinds, I guess. I’ll leave it up to the reader to determine my place on that scale.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Standup Gala. A Swedish comic who recently sold out a massive arena in Stockholm has been complaining on podcasts that she wasn’t nominated for any awards at the Gala. Complaining that her peers don’t see her as a real comic because she built up a following through YouTube before making her standup debut and got to do big spots at big clubs without grinding five minutes at a time in shitty basements first.

Selling out an arena but whinging that you didn’t get nominated for an award that means nothing from a Gala no one’s ever heard of? If that doesn’t prove that you’re a comic, I don’t know what would.