“Oh you’re a comedian! Cool! Tell me a joke.” Anyone who makes the mistake of being in public and admiting that they practice stand up coemdy will hear some version of the statement above. Guaranteed. Like death, taxes, and loud obnoxious pop music playing at grocery stores, its unavoidable.
Yes, it’s irritating, yes is annoying, and yes, I have to let it go. Here’s the thing. People mean well, they just don’t get it. I think it’s human nature to focus more on the final result rather than the process that led to the result. Think of the last time an elite level athlete did something that defied gravity, or the last time you heard your favorite rapper use the perfect combination of words to a beat that instantly transported you to another space and time. When we find ourselves experiencing people with exceptional skill doing their thing, it looks effortless. Of all types of entertainers, the creative process a stand up comedian goes through is the most misunderstood. To this day, my wife doesn’t understand why I’ll sometimes need an hour before a performance to go over the details of my set and get in the zone.
But you’re already funny. Just go on stage and be funny”, She likes to say.
What she doesn’t understand is that doing stand up isn’t just about being funny. It’s about being funny, in front of total strangers, ON DEMAND. When you’re with friends and cracking jokes, a lot of the work has already been done. They know you. They know your loves, hates, fears and desires. They are already aware of how you view the world around you so they are primed to laugh. With strangers, you actually have to “catch them up” to the point where they trust you enough to laugh. In order to do all that, people need to understand that what you do is essentially construction. It’s a process, and that’s all they need to know. After that, you shouldn’t have to spend too much time explanjng something that you don’t want to do. And remember, if they cant respect your choice after such a clear explanation, then you can always offer them the option to kick rocks.
PS, allow me to offer up some semi successful, previously used answers when asked to “Tell a joke” outside of a stand up environment. I start with “Hey, I’m off the clock!”, then add:
– If you had a friend who worked at the post office, would you invite her over, hand her a package then ask her to take care of it in the morning when she clocked in?
– If you had a friend who was a garbage man would you throw your empty soda cup in his face and say “You already know what to do with that.”
– If you had a friend who was a pilot, would you knock on his door at midnight and ask, Aye bruh, throw some jeans on and shoot me over to Dubai real quick.”
If you had a single, open minded homegirl who was a stripper would you… bad example.