The Comedy Super Threat

Sometimes I wake up - not from sleep, but from the cruise control that always sets in when things feel like I'm on an even keel. Comedy and writing work ebbs and flows, but I get into a program of hunting it down, and listening for opportunities, and routines usually win out in the war of go crazy vs. hunker down.

But there are moments when I wake up from the routines, snap out of things for a few moments and assess the universe outside of my tiny little purview. I get scared in those moments, because I see a universe in which I'm already obsolete - and I'm just beginning on the path I've chosen.

More and more, I see that the concept of just being a stand-up act is obsolete. Instead, there's a need to be be pushing out creative content across varying media in multitudes of formats. Just being a stand-up act no longer consists of calling and emailing and texting bookers, then performing, and writing in between. Just being a stand-up act is now defined by turning yourself into a one-person multimedia conglomerate. Just being a comedian means becoming a content quadruple threat: writer, performer, producer, and marketer.

There are plenty of examples of this in the upper echelons of comedy; Marc Maron and Louis C.K. and Seinfeld and yadda yadda all are pumping out content in a mix of traditional and emerging media, and in ways that have shifted how people consume content. More importantly, though, people at the nitty-gritty-scraping-for-a-hand-hold level - my level - are doing the same.

Apparently in unlimited supply, there are people out there with the grit and time and tenacity to pull it together and do things that make me gibber. Guys like Andy Boyle and Owen Weber, who put my sad little body of work to shame. Both of them are successful professionals in the private sector who choose to pursue comedy on the side, the way nearly everyone who does comedy starts out.

But their pursuit of comedy involves so much more than pounding stages. Andy produces and hosts a comedy series called Funny Talk for Chicago's Redeye, interviewing popular comedians from around the Chicago scene. He's a writer, and a web developer of some renown. And somehow manages to be someone I don't instantly want to strangle.

Owen has produced a series of video shorts of a pretty stunning level of quality (see them here), and put together his own show recently, in a sort of Chapelle's Show format, and hopefully it takes a foothold. I was lucky enough to be one of the warm up acts for his show, and it was an eye opener to say the least that the game around me is changing, and I've only been doing it for a relatively short time. I've also managed to resist strangling Owen, and have even on occasion given him a hug.

Now I write, and I make silly little videos, but I treat stand-up as a devotion. No, I'm not at open mics eight days a week like so many are, but that's because I'm doing shows that I've scraped together in the middle of nowhere for some cash. In the past 12 months, I've put 37,000 miles on my car. I love every second of it, too. I love driving for hours and hours and dictating bits into voice memos and word-wrestling with hostile audiences and crashing in dive motels with collapsed mattresses. Honestly; I was made for that.

But I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to start finding time to push out some different forms of content. I'm not sure the good old fashioned pure stand-up comedian is a viable model now or tomorrow.

What do you think?


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