How old is too old to start?

Hi Dave – I worked as a comedian for ten years, opening and featuring. Is 51 years of age too old to go back into it? – D.K.

Hey D.K. – You know what? That’s one of those questions only you – and anyone else who checks out a calendar before making a move – can answer for sure. But also “for sure” I have a few thoughts about this.

So here we go…

First of all, I consider comedy – writing and performing – to be a creative art. I’ve written that countless times in these FAQs And Answers, so no detailed explanation is needed.

It’s just the way it is.

I’m so old… (yawn)!

I also believe using your creativity and being psyched (excited) about sharing your “art” with others is like a Fountain of Youth. Don’t laugh. Again, I’m serious. I’ve had too many former friends (and I mean former because I have no interest in hanging out with people like this) hit a lazy-boy chair (yeah, I know it’s La-Z-Boy, but I don’t feel like getting sued) at the age of 30 and announce they’re over the hill. They hang onto jobs they hate because it’s too much work to find another. Their free time is spent vegging and basically, watching and critiquing other people that are doing or creating other things.

They never seem to create anything except annoyance. And at least to me, they always seem to look and act a lot older than they really are. The only thing they accomplish is getting older.

Am I being too hard on these people? Maybe, but they won’t read this anyway.

And now that I’ve made my opinion perfectly clear, let me tell you about another creative artist who doesn’t look at his age as a barrier. Oh yeah, and we’re still friends…

Rock on dude!

A musician pal I hung with during my years living in NYC was deeply into heavy metal rock’n roll. We’re talking Led Zeppelin, KISS and Guns & Roses type of screaming vocals, guitars, drums and, as expected, The Look of being a rock star. He didn’t make it as a teenager, or even into his 20′s or 30′s. But you know what?

He’s now in his 50′s and rockin’ out harder than ever.

He has a real job to support his creative endeavors, but instead of investing his salary into buying a more comfortable chair and big screen TV experience, he built a recording studio in his basement. He’s continually writing (creating) and recording (performing). It’s his creative outlet and passion, but also more than just a hobby similar to playing in a local band on the weekends.

It’s a business.

About once a year he has enough material to release a CD of hard rock originals on his own independent label (same as self-publishing your book). Through the internet and YouTube, he’s developed a fan base in Germany and some Eastern European countries that the more youthful independent (and inexperienced) bands haven’t even discovered yet. It keeps him off the couch and more importantly, from wondering:

“What if…?”

So, how would you answer that question ten years from now? You might think 51 is old – but it’s not as old as you’ll be tomorrow, next week or next year. If you have a creative passion and want to give comedy a shot, there’s no better time than now.

And yeah, I know. That sounds like such an overused, tired and old cliché. But it wouldn’t be overused, tired and old if it didn’t make sense.

I won’t even get into stories of creative artists making it in their careers until they were older (Google Grandma Moses if you really need an example). I’ve heard Rodney Dangerfield sold paint until he was 40. Not sure how true that is (anyone want to throw me some facts?) but I tend to believe it.

There are different ways you can get back into the comedy game at a more advanced age.

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You need to consider your material and audience. But then again, that’s what just about every comic needs to do anyway. For instance, you have a better chance of winning the Lottery than making a comedy career on the college circuit. Through my experience as a college agent I know that’s true. And as father to a couple college graduates, I know for a fact there’s nothing easier for them to tune-out than an old person (think over 30) trying to make them laugh.

I remember interviewing Bill Engvall for my book Comedy FAQs And Answers and mentioning that I thought he’d get a lot of work in the college market. He told me I was nuts. He said his material was about being married and raising a family, which ain’t exactly what college audiences relate to.

I’m only surprised he didn’t hand me the invisible, “Here’s your sign!” He was sooo right…

But as you know, I also talk about the potential for work in more mature (think again over 30) markets, which means pretty much anything other than college and high school prom shows. Your open-mic circuit can include Rotary Clubs as well as comedy clubs. It’s a matter of writing material your potential audience will relate to and laugh at – and then finding the best venues to deliver it to them.

It’s also about telling yourself you’re not too old to do something you really want to do.

So, for another inspiring example to get you off the lazy-boy and onto the stage…

Contemplating a career change.

The age range in my comedy workshops has been pretty wide. We used to go as young as 13 (it’s now 18) and as old as… well, there’s no limit. The record so far is 72 years young. And you know what?

He ended up working a lot more than some of the much younger members.

This late-starting comedian knew what he was interested in talking about and what potential audience would be interested in hearing it. His material was about being 72 and some of the things he – and others near his age – was doing and dealing with. He was fun, funny, active and creative. And believe it or not, he started working almost immediately because he was an original rarity.

An older adult doing comedy.

He booked MC spots in good clubs but made a financial KILLING playing events for senior citizens. I kid you not! Last time we talked – and this was a few years ago – he was a working comic and bouncing around like a guy half his age.

Okay, maybe except for the ones half his age that are stuck in comfortable chairs and critiquing him for being “too old” to do that sort of thing…

So, are you too old at age 51?

It’s up to you, but I don’t know if that reason alone could truly hold a creative artist back from at least giving it a shot. As far as I’m concerned, it beats the heck out of vegging in a chair and watching someone else go for it on your large screen TV…

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