The other night a guy I used to work with called. When I saw his name on my phone, I let it go to voicemail. He’s a friendly kid, maybe 30, and a massive fan of comedy. We worked together at a bar and restaurant a few years back, and he’d always tell me jokes and bits that he’d heard on a comedy channel radio station that they played non-stop in the kitchen.
Professional comedians hate that, but I’d give the fake “that’s funny” response and walk away. Once, he started repeating a famous comic’s joke, and when he was done, I named the comic and said, “We made out in a van in Austin.” From that point on, I was this kid’s hero.
I stopped doing stand-up seriously years ago, so people telling me jokes and trying to talk comedy these days is like telling me about seeing my old boyfriend with some hot young chick. Good for him, but I don’t care anymore. Let him break her heart now.
When I listened to his message, he sounded down and said he just wanted to talk and could use a good laugh right now. Fuck. It was late, and I was tired and didn’t feel like talking, but I also didn’t want to be responsible if he did something to hurt himself and I could’ve helped but was too lazy to call back, so I did. He was fine. He was binge-watching comedy specials on Netflix. After telling me a few of his favorite jokes, he said he was feeling depressed because he wanted to do stand-up.
Well, being depressed is a good first step.
He lamented for a few minutes, so I said, “Then write five minutes and find an open mic.”
More lamenting. “Five minutes seems like a lot. I don’t know how. Blah, blah.”
I said, “Five minutes is a lot, and nobody knows how to do it at first. Write down some ideas that you think are funny. Then figure out how you want to say them. It’s like telling someone a story.”
“That’s it?” He asked
“That’s it.” I said
“Any writing advice?”
“Yes. Ass in a chair.”
Sit down and write badly. Keep writing badly until you don’t anymore. And then repeat.
That’s the secret of writing and comedy- keep doing it until you don’t suck at it as much.