How to Get More Fans As a Stand-Up Comedian: The Key to Becoming a Successful Comedian Through Originality
This video blog will discuss…
- Why creativity is necessary to become a successful comedian
- Why originality gives the audience a reason to remember us long after the show
- How creativity and originality expands a comedians fan base
- Why many comedians fear originality
Why Originality Is So Important For Long-Term Success As a Comedian
In this article I want to discuss originality and creativity in stand-up comedy and how that creativity can expand your fan base and help you become a more successful comedian. Both creativity and originality are severely underrepresented in stand-up comedy training, comedy classes, and especially books on how to write comedy. The prevailing idea seems to be that if you use a step-by-step formula to write comedy and apply it better than anyone else then that is going to equal success in the end. This is what practically every stand-up comedy class teaches. Surprisingly, this concept is almost entirely absent from comedy schools as well. But this simply isn’t what you see when you study great comedians. They don’t just apply the same rules better than everyone else. They’re highly original and very creative. In fact, if you look at the top 100 comedians of all time you’ll see that they were all different from each other. The only common factor is how creative they were.
It’s a very important point that is not represented right now in stand-up comedy training. In order to become a successful comedian you cannot simply apply the same rules better than everyone else. Being 5-10% funnier than all the other comedians on a given show isn’t going to expand your fan base… and if it does then it’s only going to do so marginally
Why Originality Is Important To Become a Successful Comedian
When you’re highly original, you appeal to a certain niche of audience members far better than other comedians. I know the word “niche” tends to scare some comedians because they want to be mainstream… but realize that some of the most successful comedians out there started out as niche comedians. Comedians like Zach Galifikinakis and Steve Martin.
Martin was a niche comedian for years and years while he was developing the idea of anti-comedy. Anti-comedian didn’t appeal to the mass of audience members early on. however, he appealed so much to a small group of audience members that those audience members took it on themselves to go out and tell their friends “hey. you have to go out and watch this comedian.” He was so original that those audience members didn’t want their friends to miss out on a unique experience. If you want to become a successful comedian this is exactly the reaction you want from audience members.
That’s really what it comes down to as a comedian. We want to give the audience a reason to remember us. We want to give them an experience, not just go through our jokes, get some laughs, and call it good. We want to give them a reason to come up to us after the show, engage with us, sign up for our email list, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube channel… etc. We want to appeal to them so much that they want to take further action to make sure that they can see us again. This doesn’t happen when you’re just a little bit funnier than the other comedians on the night. If you’re not original you’ll be continually struggling to expand your fan base, simply because you’re not worth talking about. Successful comedians are all worth talking about. Not because they’re successful, but because that’s a prerequisite of becoming a successful comedian in the first place.
If you look at the successful comedians that you believe are worth talking about you’ll see that you enjoy telling your friends about them. You want to introduce people to the best comedians out there. In fact, you probably take it a step further than that and you get upset whenever someone doesn’t agree with your opinion. You take it personally (at least I do when I’m telling friends about stand-up comedians that I love). If you want to expand your fan base and become a successful comedian than you need to create that feeling in your own audience members. You need to create the feeling in audience members of “I need to go out and tell people about this.” The fact of the matter is that this simply doesn’t happen if you’re just a little bit funnier. Even if you have the best joke on the night the chances that that is going to expand your fan base is minimal. It’s the joke that made the impact, not you. So even if you’re really honing your writing, that doesn’t guarantee that your fan base is really going to explode the same way that being original is. In the long-run, it does nothing to help you become a successful comedian.
You can’t guarantee that you’re going to be the funniest comedian on any given night. That’s something that is out of your control. On any given night a comedian could come on stage just before you and kill it, leaving you with an audience that’s tired… or perhaps the comedian brings the audience members to the show and their biased… whatever. You can’t control those factors. But you can always control how original you are.
How original you are is going to dictate how many audience members you are going to appeal to and how much you appeal to them. If you appeal to them at a much higher level of originality then, yes, you’ll alienate some audience members. But you don’t need to be worrying about that because you’ll be appealing to your niche audience more than anyone else out there. That’s what is really going to create the most long term success for you. You need to create that feeling in audience members that they just saw something special and worth talking about to their friends.
You can’t do this with every single person. If you try to create mass appeal right off, what happens is you end up diluting your material so much that you’re material comes off lukewarm. Audience members don’t feel the compulsion to go out and tell their friends. That’s why developing this creativity is instrumental in learning how to be a comedian. It’s not something that should be done “later on” in your career. It needs to be with you from the very beginning.
Why Some Comedians Fear Originality
I believe a lot of comedians have a certain amount of fear of originality. The more original you are as a performer the more you’re going to alienate some audience members… that’s just what happens. If you only look at the short-term perspective then this is true. But if you look at the long-term perspective it gives you a huge competitive advantage. Highly successful comedians have learned to place their long-term goals ahead of their short-term goals.
Look at all the comedians that have broken out. Demetri Martin was a highly original performer, but not as original as Steve Martin. You don’t have to be extremely original to appeal to audience members with your originality. Both Steve Martin and Demitri Martin did it in their own way. Steve Martin developed anti-comedy. He was a complete break from stand-up comedy’s past. he was on the extreme side of the originality continuum. Even though he appealed to a niche audience, when he broke out he was more successful than any other comedian before him. Demitri Martin, while not being nearly as original as Steve Martin, was still highly original and worth talking about. He was different from every other comedian out there.
The point is that you don’t have to go out there and trample every stand-up comedy rule out there in order to be original or become a successful comedian. Demitri Martin was able to be highly original, even within a very constrained framework (he kept most of the rules, but applied his own originality to them as opposed to Steve Martin, who pretty much trampled all the current rules of stand-up comedy). Whether you like Demetri Martin’s material or not, you have to look at a comedian like that and say that he was definitely original. You could put him on any show and whether he was the funniest comedian that night wouldn’t matter. If there were 20 comedians that were all really funny on a given show and Demetri Martin was there… you’d remember Demetri Martin. It’s as simple as that.
Learn more about the Creativity For Comedians Program