Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Stretch

In the past few weeks I have seen a couple of my colleagues in the comedic arts celebrate notable successes. In one case, one of my friends won a fairly prestigious contest. Just like that, he's got a credit he can use to get gigs, at least locally. (Local gigs are good because, well, that's where I live.)

Another one just got his first paid work out of one of the local upscale clubs. (By upscale I mean a place that is in the business of doing comedy shows. Not a bar that sets up karaoke equipment around you during your set.) Also a pretty big credit, to say you got paid at one of these places.

I'm excited for them. It's inspiring. If they can do it, why can't I?

But then comes the other question. They've done it. Why haven't you?

Shut up, annoying italicized inner voice! My life is going quite well, thank you. Okay, so I flamed out of the contest. So? So there haven't been any major breakthroughs. So?


Goddammit, I am so READY for some kind of breakthrough!

I once heard a comedian observe that there were a lot of comedians who had between zero and two years under their belt, a fair number who'd been at it for five, six years or longer, and not many in between. Why?

Well, I guess it's because you hit The Stretch. The "no longer satisfied to be 'good for a beginner,' not yet just plain good" stretch. It's hard to tell how much progress you're making on The Stretch, because there are no landmarks. No mile markers, no signs to tell you how much farther. You only know how far you've come, and you only know it's over when it is.

What if there's another Stretch after that?

I can't think about that right now. This is why you don't get invited to more parties.

Another friend of mine who is a TV producer said that to be successful in Hollywood, tenacity is a more important trait than talent is. I think it's the same principle. Tenacity is what gets you through The Stretch, not talent. Perversely, talent can make it harder. If you're accustomed to success coming quickly and easily, you're less prepared to cope with The Stretch.

Opportunity just knocked at the door to my left, and handed my neighbor a big cardboard check. Then good fortune rang the doorbell on my right, and gave my other neighbor an extreme makeover.

My doorbell works, my phone is working, too. (I checked.) So when will it be my turn? Soon I hope, before I strain something making another analogy.


At 1:17 PM, Blogger Dan said...

A common underlying theme that seems to run through your personal posts is comparing yourself to other comedians. Comparing your successes and your failures, not to mention your path along the comedy trail.

Maybe that's what's holding you back?

One of my favorite lines from the classic movie 'Caddyshack' is when Judge Smails meets up with Ty Webb in the locker room:

JS: Ty, what did you shoot today?

TW: Oh, Judge, I don't keep score.

JS: Then how do you measure yourself with other golfers?

TW: By height.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Dan said...

Oh. The above comment wasn't meant to sound harsh so I hope you didn't take it that way. I just thought that perhaps worrying so much about where you're at now may be preventing you from moving forward.

I imagine it must be difficult in your line of work not to compare yourself to another comedian though.

I don't envy your position (except the ones with K! HEH).

At 12:30 PM, Blogger k said...

dan, are you making some sort of sexual overture?

do you think Ish and i have actually engaged in pre-marital canoodling?

why, i never!

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Dan said...

K, it's only 'pre-marital' if you plan on getting married some day. Otherwise it's just canoodling and there's nothing wrong with that.

Canoodling is like rowing a boat. You can do it yourself but sometimes it's easier with two. If it still doesn't work out, change oars.

Oh, and in my imaginary world have.


At 8:46 PM, Blogger Changeseeker said...

Hey, you guys! Canoodling is over on Serraphim's blog. This blog is about Ish's career as a commedian. Humph!

(On the other hand, Dan, your comment about canoodling only being pre-marital if you plan on getting married someday is a classic. Good one.)

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Dan said...

Sorry Changeseeker!

I tried talking about on my blog but I was berated by anonymous and non-blogging bloggers and called imature.

I take it where I can get it. (talking about it that is)

Besides, Ish needs more comments so hopefully more people will read his blog. They're missing out!!

At 4:01 PM, Blogger Sydney said...

I heard Lewis Black on a talk show and I think this part of why he and whosywhatzit. Um the female comedian I like but cannot place at the moment. Ok, Kathleen Madigan broke up. He had hit the stretch and her career was starting to hit. But then look what happened! So see? I mean...


At 4:05 PM, Blogger Sydney said...

And people tell you not to compare yourself but who are we kidding? I mean anyone in any type of creative arts whether it be writing, acting, comedy... I don't think there is any way to keep from it.

I still compare myself to my ex-husband. He's winning by the way.

At 6:58 AM, Blogger Dan said...


Yeah, that's why I posted the second comment saying it must be hard for Ish not to compare himself to other comedians. I initially offered it as a suggestion to hopefully help Ish find his way but then I realized in his line of work he has no choice but to compare himself with others because he's in direct competition with other comedians.

In my line of work I'm not, so I sometimes fail to see it in other occupations.

I hope he works through the stretch and comes out successful instead of quitting.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger Ish said...

Dan & Sydney,

I know I would probably be better off if I didn't compare myself. But honestly, it IS hard not to. One of the great things about doing stand-up is that it's just you up there, and you are in control (mostly) of what happens. Another great thing is you get instantaneous feedback, and it's objective. You're either funny, or you're not. Or you're funny. Ish.

Anyway. Those things also make it easy to measure yourself against others. Sometimes I hear friends of mine do sets, and I think, "Yeah, I get why people are laughing, that's good stuff." Other times, I think, "Jeez, that was some pretty weak material, but the audience loved it. Why?"

Fortunately for the most part, I maintain a generous spirit. I try to encourage my friends. If I can help them out with a bit, I will. On the other hand, I think I need to be a little bit more aggressive in grasping new opportunities.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Dan said...

You've got a good (bald) head on your shoulders! Keep at it. I expect to see your face on TV one of these days.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Sydney said...

ok, and there's also the "luck factor" the being in the right place at the right time. The reason the spice girls were a hit when there are probably a hundred equally attractive all girl bands in seattle who had better chops and didn't.

i make three or four times my former income because my old boss happened to sue someone and an ancillary witness that he subpoenad for the case met me, liked me and offered me a job doing something I'd never done before. The luck factor.

Of course, I have a theory about the luck factors. Its kind of like lightning. Lightening doesn't hit very many people. But the more often you put yourself out there in places where it's likely to occur, the greater your odds. The same thing with luck. The more you put yourself out there, and the more people who see you, the better chance you'll get lucky.

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Sydney said...

the luck factor = whether or not Syd will be able to spell the same word correctly twice in a row EVEN when its in the paragraph ;)

At 6:37 PM, Blogger Ish said...

i make three or four times my former income

Clearly, I am in the *wrong* line of work.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Sydney said...

Oh yeah, you should move to Alabama where everything moves at the social pace of the common slug and sell dead chickens for a living. Watch the lake at night. Its GREAT money, pretty scenery, low cost of living, and I will probably be single FOREVER because I'm not from here and everyone else is and I haven't found one of the is's yet that I'd really settle down with. Nor they me. Always a trade-off, ya know?

Did I mention we don't have a Starbucks. There's that too...

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Ish said...

No Starbucks?

Sorry, I'm out.


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