Hi Dave – I had a great set last night and one of the other comedians that went on after me tore into me. It got real personal and it really hurt. The people running the show asked me if I wanted to go back on to get revenge, but I did not. Did I handle it the right way? – N.R.
Hey N.R. – Sounds like the first shot has been fired in a comedy war. But whether or not you want to get down into the comedy trenches (common comedy term – not mine) with this big mouth depends on a couple factors.
- Your personality on stage – your comic voice
- How you want to be seen on and off stage in this biz
Maybe I’m naive, but with 25+ years of experience working with comedians, I’ve found this biz to be very supportive. Sure there are some real pain-in-the-butt jerks, but I don’t know of any career path that’s immune from that syndrome.
Usually it’s based on jealousy and/or a power trip ego. And the funny part of it – and again, I’m talking from experience – I’ve found the more powerful someone is in the biz, the more supportive they are of new talent. This includes comedians, talent bookers and other behind the scenes people.
Hmmm…. I feel a sense of disbelief running through some minds with that last statement. I think my experiences on this topic would make an interesting and opinionated future FAQ and Answer. I’ll wrap my mind around it for awhile, but in the meantime…
What you have to decide is who you are on stage and how you want to be seen by others – your co-workers (other comedians) and the people who can hire you – in this biz.
Comedians who are good friends can tear each up on stage. No problem. It’s like a sport and can be very funny. We used to do that at the NYC Improv – to the extent of taking a microphone into the men’s room and holding it over a flushing toilet when a friend’s joke bombed.
It was hysterical and the comic on stage could rip into us for the rest of his set. Not a problem – we loved it.
But when it’s mean – as it seems to be in your case – there’s no point in it. This comic’s attack on you is either based on jealousy or a power trip – or both.
This big mouth is trying to make himself look better at your expense. You can handle it two ways – and this is based on what decisions you made when I asked earlier.
If you are the type of comedian that can rip this guy apart verbally – then go for it. I can’t imagine another comedian taking a cheap shot at someone like Bobby Slayton (The Pit Bull of Comedy) and walking away with his ego still intact. Slayton would verbally slaughter him.
The same holds true for Lisa Lampanelli, Dave Attell, Chris Rock… you get the picture, right? These comics can hurl verbal hand grenades at anyone who dares mouth off at them first. I’ve seen them all in action and believe me, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of the insults.
Are you similar? If so – next time go for the throat.
But if that’s not who you are on stage (or in real life) and you’re not up for verbal comedic warfare, then you did the right thing. Let this blowhard blow his own horn and reputation with other comedians and bookers.
Comics are not going to want to work with someone that has a reputation for taking cheap shots. And bookers want to deal with the least amount of problems as possible. Again from experience as a booker, I’ve known non-headline comedians (important factor because a headliner that brings in paying customers can pretty much do what he or she wants) that are very funny, but a pain to work with.
So guess what? We don’t work with them when it’s at all possible.
Who needs the extra aggravation when the job itself can be aggravating sometimes? Like with any job, you go for the least resistance. And if someone else is just as funny and easier to work with – that’s who gets the gig.
The bottom line is that in an ideal world, all you should be concerned about is becoming a better comedian. If someone with the same career goal doesn’t like you, then you must be doing something right.
Want revenge? The best way to get back at this person is to get more laughs, which will lead to more bookings.
So use this as an incentive to focus:
If your hard work and dedication pay off, maybe someday this loud mouth will be parking cars at a comedy club and ripping into his new co-workers while you’re inside headlining. Make it happen.
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Thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!