Energy Vampires

Friday August 9th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I’ve heard some refer to it as the “80-20” rule of business, and others the “90-10”. What it boils down to is that 80-90% of one’s actual business and/or problems in business come from 10-20% of one’s customers. I don’t know what the exact numbers are, but I find the principle to be true.

   An overwhelmingly large percentage of my comedy bookings come from a small percentage of bookers and it’s always been that way. I’ve chosen to branch out through the years and find more work all over the country than most comedians I know, but it’s still from a relatively small base.

   I have especially found this principle to be true in my comedy classes, although it’s probably as low as a 99-1 ratio between good customers and problem ones. Most people who take my classes are intelligent, inquisitive, and show up ready to learn something. They’re a wide range of people from all walks of life, and I find this extreme diversity to be not only refreshing but educational.

   More times than I could count, I’ve ended up learning about interesting facets of students’ lives I never expected, and I come out by far the richer for it. I’ve come to count many former students as personal friends, and that’s one of the main reasons I have continued to teach all these years.

   It ends up being extremely rewarding on a number of levels. Only a tiny percentage of students ever take standup comedy past the hobby stage, but that’s to be expected. This can be a cruel and inhuman lifestyle, and it’s certainly not for the masses. Only a select few ever make it a vocation.

   That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun though, and that’s often why people do it part time. It’s a way to experience the thrill of being an entertainer while still having some roots in a ‘normal’ life and I find absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s a creative outlet for people who are comedy fans.

   Most students aren’t delusional as to their chances of hitting the big time, and I clearly inform them within the first five minutes of every session of classes I ever teach that this is NOT an easy path to guaranteed success. Standup comedy is a craft, and any craft requires lots of hard work to attain any degree of proficiency. To do it on a professional level requires hard years of sacrifice.

   Because there is such a wide diversity of individuals involved, it’s inevitable that on occasion a kook or two will cross my path. This is to be expected, and most times I don’t mind. I don’t have a problem with someone being odd, but once in a great while someone shows up who is just not able to be taught. I try not to turn anyone away who wants to learn, but at times I have no choice.

   I’m getting much better at picking out the wack jobs early, and I try to give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me reason to cut them off completely. I want everyone to get more than they pay for in my classes no matter how much that may be, but there comes a time when it’s not worth the energy drain and there needs to be a line drawn. It ends up cheating the other students.

   I haven’t had to cut anyone off in a while, and I forgot how unpleasant it can be. I had someone in a class about a year ago that was a red flag all the way through, but despite that I gave my best teaching effort to the point of spending extra time before and after classes. That was a mistake.

   This person has been a total pest since. It’s always a downer to have to excommunicate anyone but sometimes it has to be done. I have to focus on how rewarding teaching is as a whole and not the occasional energy vampire who makes me question why I do it. The good outweighs the bad.


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