The Worst Advice I’ve Been Given as a Comedian

Me on Stage

Sometimes people ask me for comedy advice, and I usually tell everyone the same thing:

Go do some open mics. You’ll probably be bad at first but you’ll either get better or you’ll quit. Either one of those is fine.

What I don’t tell people is the piece of advice that I got when I was probably in my first year or two of comedy. It came from a club owner and booker who I won’t name, because he’s not a bad guy. I just happen to disagree with this one piece of advice he gave me. He’s also given me some very good advice. I also want to keep working at his comedy club.

The worst advice I’ve been given as a comedian is: Don’t get married or have kids

This is bad advice, but that doesn’t mean “Go get married and have kids” is necessarily good advice. I was already married at the time so it was a moot point. It’s also worth mentioning that the person who told me this is also married and has kids.

He elaborated on this point by saying that comedy is a hard career (he’s right) and that having a family to worry about makes it harder (he’s probably right, but I’ve been married the entire time I’ve been doing comedy so I can’t say for sure). He compared it to tying a weight to yourself and trying to swim.

My objection isn’t that the advice is wrong, because of course he’s right. Being unattached makes doing just about anything easier. Being a carpenter is probably easier if you don’t have children too. But making something easier to do doesn’t make you better at it. It’s like saying you should only play video games on the “Easy” setting, because you’ll win more.

I don’t think being married and having a child necessarily make me better at comedy, but those things certainly make me better at being a person. I don’t mean married people are better than unmarried people, or that people with kids are better than people without kids. I just mean the me that is married and has a daughter is probably better than the alternate universe version of me that isn’t married and doesn’t have a kid, because I wanted to get married and my wife and I wanted to have a kid.

Most of my material now is about my daughter. She even tells a joke on my album. My wife and daughter give me something to talk about on stage that’s specific and personal, and that’s the kind of comedy I like. They also give me a reason to get better at this so I can make a viable career of it. Doing comedy usually means I’m spending time away from them, so I have to work hard to make sure it’s worth it. 

Comedy (and carpentry) are easier without a spouse or children, but making something easier doesn’t make it better. Just go live your life however you see fit, and then write jokes about it. Or don’t. It’s up to you. Just don’t make major life decisions for the sole purpose of it being easier to do a few more open mics every week or to nail a few more boards together. (I know very little about carpentry.)

P.S. – Conversely, the best advice I’ve been given as a comedian came from my friend Jay Black who told me:

Don’t think of it as your show. Think of it as the show

It’s a little vague and prophetic, but I took it as meaning that it’s less important to worry about how I’m doing on stage than it is to focus on whether or not the audience is having a good time. Comedy should be fun for everyone in the room, not just the person doing it.