Thursday, October 06, 2005

Performing vs. Writing


I've been getting up a lot lately. Between classes, shows and stalking bookers whom I want to book me, I am out about six evenings a week.

And I love it. I love doing the shows, talking shop (and talking shit) with my fellow comedians. So I rarely turn down an opportunity to perform. For the most part, if I can do it, I will do it.

The thing is, that leaves precious little time for writing (to say nothing of reading or watching TV). And I need to write. I need to develop new material, so that my shows don't get stale.

Generally speaking, I believe that the more shows I do, the better I get. Or to be more precise, the better my performances get.

At the same time, I need to write in order to generate new material. The more I write, the better my material gets. (And the more material I have.) A former "Daily Show" writer once told me, "it's never wrong to write."

So might I be performing too much? Do I need to spend more time writing?

(Cue "Sex and the City"-style close-up of computer monitor as I type)

What's the proper balance between writing and performing?

I think I have enough opportunities to perform that I can be a little selective. I can let some of them go by, for the sake of having some time to write new material, and just having a life with a little more balance.

I also need to do laundry.


At 3:38 PM, Blogger JenL said...

"I also need to do laundry."

My suggestion, not that you asked, is to take your laundry to one of those laundromats that charges $1/pound to wash and fold your laundry for you and write during the time you would have spent doing the laundry.

At 5:59 AM, Blogger Dan said...

I would be interested in knowing exactly how a comedian writes material. I mean, all my stuff is 'spur of the moment' but then again I don't perform comedy as a career, just a distraction.

Do you pick a topic that is current or interesting and then develop jokes around it? It's really quite fascinating to me.

At 7:30 AM, Blogger Sydney said...

Yeah umm, so if you stay home instead of performing, will you actually write?

I take it you must also have a day job or you'd be writing during the day. Can you like - oh heresy - write at work?

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Ish said...

JenL- I think I have a place that will do my laundry for 0.95 a pound. For an extyra fee, they'll even separate the colors and the whites!

At 7:55 AM, Blogger Ish said...

Dan- I think you have given me a topic for a future post, thanks!

Sydney- I do have a day job, but I can't write at work. I'm too busy downloading porn.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger m said...

I think you should have rocked it old school with the whole "Doogie Howser, MD" computer screen...

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Sydney said...

yeah well, and NONE of the porn is a source for good comedy material - i find that VERY difficult to believe. Who's that guy who does the whole midget prostitute in the sink bubble bath bit.

I totally ripped it for my blog today.

At 1:58 AM, Anonymous Neil said...

I disagree with Jeni. Write IN the laundromat. What's funnier than people standing next to each other washing their dirty underwear?

At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just starting with comedy... But is there a big difference between the type of writing meant for reading (i.e. newspaper column) or meant for stand-up? (performing)

In other words... Will the same jokes be effective in both writing vs performing? Or do they each require different elements?

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Ish said...

Anon, I think there are some similarities and some differences.

The basic DNA of a joke is the same - there is a setup and a punch. The funny comes because your premise has created an assumption, and the punch shatters the assumption.

"I shot an elephant in my pajamas." = premise.

He was in his pajamas when he shot an elephant. = assumption

"How he got in my pajamas I'll never know." = punch, shattered assumption.

One big difference is the nature of the two mediums - visual vs aural. In stand-up, economy with words is important - you have to try to "get o the punch," to take out anything extranneous that doesn't help you get to the funny part of the joke.

You also have to consider the sound of words - there maybe many synonyms for a word, but one is likely the funniest choice.

I have also written things that are funny, but they are just hard to say. (Try going on stage and saying "reckless speculation" or "prescription strength." Harder than it looks.)

In writing, you have to consider how things *look* too. In general, I find that in writing, I tend to be too spare, to move on when I could spend more time building an idea, or describing a scenario. This may be related to habits from writing stand-up.

Or maybe I'm just lazy.


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