A Wonderful Workout

Thursday April 11th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

   People who aren’t comedians have no idea what is actually involved in the performing process, even though most think they do. I’m sure it’s like being in a rock band or playing pro sports – it’s a commonly shared dream of millions, but a ridiculously low amount ever get to do it as a career.

   Everyone may think they know what goes into not only getting there but maintaining a level of professionalism, but until one physically does it there’s no way to predict all that it involves. The craft requires extremely hard work, lots of it and the process never stops – or at least it shouldn’t.

   I’m to the point now when I really don’t need to work on my act anymore, although I still do at every opportunity. I can’t name the actual percentage of comedians at my level that haven’t done a single thing to improve their acts in years, but I’d have to believe it’s rather high. It’s common, and I see why. There are so many other things to deal with, many times the act itself is left alone.

   Technically, nobody makes us work on our on stage show. We don’t get more money if we’ve got ‘new material’, and that’s a widely misunderstood term as it is. The average public thinks we can just crank out new and polished jokes and bits and routines at will, when in fact it’s not true.

   Sometimes adding even one line or a single word to a bit can take months to do correctly. It’s a delicate process, and requires discipline to work on it over time in front of different audiences in different situations. Sometimes a way a word is inflected can make a difference. It’s an art form.

   I’ve always been aware of this, and have used my stage time wisely. That’s the only time when I’m in control, so I take it very seriously. I may look like I’m just goofing off up there, but I’m at work and am paying attention to everything that’s going on. As I get older, I’m even more into it.

   Tonight was a magnificent opportunity to practice, and that’s exactly what I did. The situation I am in at Zanies is rare, so I took full advantage of it. They love me there, and I’ve proven myself as a solid headliner. If there’s such a thing as comedy job security, I have it there. I don’t want to ever abuse that status, but if there’s ever a place for me to experiment with something it’s there.

   There was about a two thirds full house at Zanies in Rosemont tonight, and they were in a good mood. I could tell by watching the opening acts it would be a good audience, and I could’ve gone up and done my regular show and been done with it. It’s a weeknight, and my pay wouldn’t raise no matter what I did. Nobody was expecting anything other than what I do, but it wasn’t enough.

   Not for me, anyway. I knew I had a chance to improve, so I jumped at it. I decided before I got on stage I was going to dramatically slow my usually manic pace for the entire show and deliver my material in a completely different way than I normally do. It’s like a basketball team deciding to switch from playing a fast break style to a slow down offense. A different skill set is required.

   Not only that, I threw myself off even more by opening with material I rarely if ever use in that spot and throwing my big closer in about fifteen minutes in to see if I could follow it. I did, and it was a hot show start to finish. I was on my toes the whole time, but it was a wonderful workout.

   These are the kinds of things a craftsman does, and it keeps me fine tuned and in the game. The audience was great, but they would have loved most anything I did. I could have phoned it in but that wouldn’t have made me any better. I worked on my craft tonight, and it’s deeply satisfying.


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