What do you want to be as a comic? Do you want to tell spectacular stories or do you want to blow away people’s brains like a bullet travelling with a muzzle velocity 900m/s? Is there a destination of a comic or is a comedian extension of who he is as a person? So many questions and no perfect answers but let’s explore everything together.
A storyteller needs to be an excellent performer so that he can convey those little nuances with ease and develop a connect with his audiences; a good performer feels everything to the fullest so that he can communicate those feelings to his audience. On the other hand, a great joke writer astonishes everyone with his clever one-liner and unthinkable punch lines; he garners a lot of respect because of his witticism and intelligence. They both have followed a different path to make that connection with the audience but ultimately everything boils down the relationship a comic develops with the audience. It’s tempting when you hear someone like Mitch Hedge berg and go on a writing spree of clever one-liners or when you see the great Bill Burr doing his helicopter bit, it just leaves you wondering that how far standup comedy could go. But one needs to understand that they never vehemently tried to become those people, they were those people since the time they came on this planet, the point that I am trying to make here is that you don’t need to force yourself in a certain direction and try to become something that you are not.
Stephen Fry the famous British comedian and actor wrote in his book that “One of the best things any performer on stage can do on stage whether standup comic, ballet dancer, torch singer, character actor or tragedian, is to relax an audience. To let them know that everything is going to all right and they can lean back in their seats happy in the knowledge that the evening won’t be a disaster. Of course, another of the best things a performer can do is provoke a feeling of excitement, danger, unpredictability, and instability. To let the audience know that the evening might fail at any moment and they need to lean forward in their seats and watch intently. If you can manage both at once then you are really something.”
Taking a leaf out of Fry’s book why can’t a comic be both a great performer and a brilliant writer. George Carlin used to call himself “a writer who knows how to perform his material” and there are a quite a few greats like Chappelle, Seinfeld, and more who were able to bring best of both the worlds in a package so mesmerizing that the world can’t seem to get enough of them. They said the smartest of things and performed like a rock star with memorable monologues and had super-intelligent punches that’ll be etched in our memories forever.
In comedy, you try to make people understand things that you don’t understand about the world and society, and to do this it’s better to use every weapon in your armory. No one is stopping you to tell your jokes the way you want to, just tell those jokes exactly the way it’s in your head and if you can do that you are a good performer, period. If absurdity is your thing there is always a place for that in standup comedy. In conclusion, I would say that you’ll be a prolific performer or a genius joke writer, if you are that person inherently, you don’t HAVE to become anything, you gradually become whatever you naturally are. Honesty is comedy’s best friend and a comic’s lifelong companion. So always be you, not the best or worst version of you, just you and the rest will follow.