It’s Hard to Be Funny

Comedy DVDs are usually a recording of a comedian’s stand-up comedy routine.   An album that’s been out for about ten years is very different from most.  It’s called Comedian featuring Jerry Seinfeld.  Rather than focusing on a comedy routine, most of the documentary features behind-the-scenes insights into the physical and psychological effort it takes to develop a stand-up comedy routine. 

If you’ve watched it before, it’s worth a second viewing.

The show includes conversations with:  Jay Leno, Robert Klein, Bill Cosby, George Shapiro, Ray Romano, Chris Rock, Garry Shandling, and others.  Also featured on the disc is the developing comedy career of Orny Adams.

There is a lot to learn from the experience of others:

  – People who are great at doing something have a compulsion to do it.
  – If you have a reputation for being funny, the audience will give you a break, for awhile.  Then you have to BE funny.
  – It shows how difficult it is to develop new material.  “It’s quite painful.”  The pros make it look easy, but it’s hard work.
  – Opening with untested material is a mistake typically made by a rookie.
  – The audience has never written a joke, yet they’re the judge of whether or not your humor is funny.
  – Get stage time.  It’s your job.
  – If you’re bad you can blame the audience.  Or you can make no excuses.  “I just wasn’t good.”
  – The experiences of performing on late-night TV talk shows is valuable watching.
  – Often we are our hardest critic.  “I focus on the tiny mistakes.”
  – The show helps you appreciate the physical effort required to do a 45 minute comedy performance.

I highly recommend you rent or buy this video.  What I have shared in this short review is the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much to learn from the hard-earned experience of the professionals who have paid the price to “make it look easy.”   Comedy skill is not a gift from heaven.  They worked for it.