What Can Comedians Teach Writers?

last comic standing title card
“Last Comic Standing” title card (from Wikipedia)

A few months ago as I was watching through a few episodes of the show “Last Comic Standing”, one thing I was struck by as I was watching was how much writers can learn from comedians who go through very similar processes.

Here is one key lesson I learned:

  1. Just because someone has been doing stand-up for more years, it doesn’t mean they’re funnier or that they have a better connection with an audience than someone who has been at it for less years

Where this comes from: This is mostly the fault of the way the school system is set up in most countries. We’re taught from an early age that all we have to do to succeed as students and get good grades is: a) show up, b) attend every class, c) take detailed notes, d) study for all the quizzes and tests, e) review all the quizzes and tests for the exams, etc. So, basically, as long as we put in the work and the hours, we’ll get good grades.

Why this is problematic: Writers tend to carry this philosophy into the way we think the publishing world works. We think that as long as we spend years dedicated to learning and honing our craft, as long as we write novels and short stories and then finish those tales, that this “earns” us a ticket to publication. We’ve done the hard work, after all, so why shouldn’t publication be the reward? Unfortunately, the publishing world doesn’t work like this. Like, at all.

How this applies to writers: Up until very recently, I used to carry around a lot of resentment and baggage because I’ve been writing for 15 years. So when I see examples of people who have only been at this for 4 or 5 years and they have more novels and short stories published than I do, the jaded part of my personality comes out and I shake my fist at the universe, asking “why them” and “why not me?” But I had to learn the hard way through seeing there are comedians who aren’t quite household names who have been doing stand-up for more than 20 years and they’re not as funny as some people who have only been at it for 3 or 4 years.

So, the lesson is that just because you’ve been writing for a longer time than someone else, it doesn’t automatically make you better, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re more skilled than they are or that you know more than they do, and it doesn’t mean you “deserve” to be published because you’ve been writing longer.

Want to read more on the topic? Here’s an interesting article called “Seven Things Writers Can Learn from Stand-up Comedians” that you can give a gander.

Thoughts? Do you agree? Sound off below!

2 Replies to “What Can Comedians Teach Writers?”

  1. Sad but true. It’s easy to feel entitled, but that doesn’t guarantee success. I don’t think anything really does guarantee success in this industry, because it’s all about the right book at the right time in front of the right people.

    All we can do is improve our odds. People can write for decades without pushing themselves to get better at it.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.