For me one of the best things about performing stand up comedy is the thrill of the new joke. I love the whole process. The little nugget of an idea that suddenly surfaces in my brain. The writing it down and expanding on some things and eliminating other things. Trying to figure out where in my set I will put the new joke. Taking it to the stage and trying to remember it. Saying it differently than I wrote it. Working on how I will use my voice and body in the joke. Seeing how the audience reacts. If the audience responds badly will I cut the joke short or will I ride it out and go down with the ship or pull it out in the end? If the joke fails what will I say to get the audience back on my side? How much more will I be able to create with the joke on stage than I could when I was writing it out? If it goes badly was there enough in the joke to give it another shot?
It is all quite a rush. Many comedians stop writing once they get their 15, 30, 45, 60, 90 minutes, etc. They figure well these jokes always work. The audience leaves happy. The people who hired me are happy. I’ll just keep doing these jokes. There certainly is a logic and a certainty to that approach. I think there is also a laziness to that approach. In my mind once a comedian stops writing he stops being an artist on some level. He is merely reciting the same lines he always does. He knows exactly where the laughs go. He has decreased the element of danger in his act. Live comedy should have some degree of danger in it.
I never really understood how one could turn off the comedic creative juices forever. I go through periods of time where I have a lot of new ideas for jokes and there are other times where it is hard to come up with anything new. That is to be expected. I know ways to stimulate my creative juices. I find if I read current events or visit different parts of the country or world I am inspired to create and comment on what I am seeing. Then I store those little joke nuggets in my head eagerly anticipating the time I get to share it with an audience. A new joke to me is like a flower waiting to bloom. It lays dormant but then it bursts onto the scene for the world to examine and hopefully enjoy. The audience’s laughter is the pollination process. If they respond well it may encourage me to push further with the joke. Find new tangents. Take new chances. If after enough time the joke does not get a good reaction the chances are that joke will die on the vine. I will conclude that I was wrong or I have not figured out how to do the joke…yet. There may come a time when I can do the joke better so I may come back to it.
Many comedians are afraid of jokes not working; especially when they are getting paid. Well you certainly can’t have too many jokes failing in a set but if you never tried jokes you would not have a set to begin with. I guess my point is never let go of that thrill of creating. The excitement of new material will help keep you sharp. It will make audiences want to see you again as they know you will have new insights to share. Creativity is an artist’s life line. Once it stops a little bit of us dies.