Recently I’ve been getting a fair amount of messages asking for advice about comedy, which I find rather ironic because I don’t think of myself as successful. I’ve had the privilege of performing stand-up for over a decade. Some “big names” follow me on the Twitter.com. But I’ve never written for television or toured nationally. I’ve come to the realization that the reasons that my definition of success has eluded me are the best advice I can give to younger versions of me out there. Please know that I constantly contradict most everything I’m about to list and that I’m aware of that, thanks in advance.
1. Write every day. If something happens in real life and it’s funny, deconstruct why that is. Listen to and watch all sorts of comedy.
2. Don’t post more than 3-5 times a day on Twitter and try and space them out by hours.
3. Don’t let Twitter define you or trap you and your writing, use it to test ideas or get inspired but be aware you can spend hours that turn into days that turn into months and so on. Do you want to be published in a magazine or known as a “twitter comic?” There’s absolutely no shame in the latter but I have higher aspirations always.
4. Write long form! Do it early and do it often. Make it a part of your writing routine. When you get to the stage of submitting packets for tv shows, the expectations from most of them is not just constant hilarity, it’s versatility. Can you write one-liners? That’s great! There are 3,000 people right behind you that can do that too. Wait? You can write sketches or you have pieces published on your blog or CollegeHumor, Funny or DIE, McSweeney’s, etc? You have a background in improv too? If you have all those notches in your belt, you just jumped on a trampoline with a jetpack and now you’re at the top of the heap! You’re a verified triple-threat, GO GRRL!!!!!!!!
5. Wait. Chill. In fact, stop and breathe. Do that often. Not just because it kinda sorta keeps you alive but because a lot of people experience success at the beginning stages and you see them change. I had it happen to me. There were three months of my life that I thought I was a big deal. In retrospect, that’s one of the saddest statements I’ve had to make to but I’ll take ownership and air my dirty laundry in the hopes that someone out there might take one piece of this and save themselves a month, a year? of wasted time. I’m not a big deal because NO ONE IS. It took me too long to know this.
6. Aside from not getting a big head, I’m not here to preach about drugs and alcohol and tell anyone what to do. I know me: I know that if I have one sip it turns into me shutting down the bar in Brooklyn and waking up in Tijuana selling “asthma medication” to make it back to the states. For real. If you have a compulsion, get that shit in check. We all do but for too long I subscribed to a macabre view of life and always felt sorry (just for myself, of course) and retreated into drugs and alcohol and it’s a vicious cycle and a record you can listen to until you die alone in a sad gutter. OR! You can stay active in your hobbies and remember there’s more to life than comedy. Not much. Family, friends, food, fluids. But that other stuff us is what makes the greatest comedy happen. The funniest parts of my act or my writing our when I’m telling a story, the way only I can tell it but it’s real. That’s always where the best stuff comes from. That and tigers.
7. Don’t hate on people. Just don’t. Are you kidding me. You’re too busy to get in fights online.
8. If a “big name” follows you on Twitter, that’s awesome! Be forewarned, they might unfollow you! That happens all the time and then you humble-bragging on the Facebook and Instagram looks even grosser than it did before. Yikes! It is hard to sit on it but learning the value of spending three hours working on a sketch or a script, versus writing ten tweets, having a “big name” follow you, and you kick your feet up and feel like you’ve earned being done for the day is the secret to real, tangible success. All this is to say, Twitter is great! It’s amazing! I love it and hate it. It’s a fun, bizarre spectrum of emotions at this point but in totality my time could have been spent so much more efficiently in the past five years. Once again, I hope all you awesome young writers who have asked me for advice really look at the previous sentence. That about sums it up.
In conclusion, I have no idea what I’m doing. These are just some thoughts that have been floating in my head for a while now and instead of being quiet, I’m putting this out there and hoping it helps in some small way.
Oh! and be nice! Any and of all my success has to do with a combination of good-great(?) writing and always being polite and respectful to not only my peers but older people and young people. Conversely, every time I thought I was better than someone in comedy or life, the world and karma emptied a bucket of crocodile innards all over me to remind me that being a dick is what losers do.
KEEP WRITING! KEEP SMILING! BE WEIRD! BE ORIGINAL! BE NICE!
SHIT! Two last things about Twitter:
1. If someone unfollows you, don’t take it personally. Always be the bigger person. It’s a weird dance and if they don’t come around, so what? But don’t bad mouth them just because they stopped following you ON A WEBSITE where cronuts and dead spokespeople are trending topics. You will probably run into them in real life sometime and guess what, if they’re still a dick you can feel superior for being the bigger the person and sometimes, they’re really nice and you end up being friends and talk often (this has happened to me).
2. If people are unfollowing you, don’t blame them. I did this so much! Great jokes always rise to the top, that’s why Twitter is great. Maybe don’t post 14 tweets in an hour, instead write one REALLY good one a day while you’re working on your long-term project(s). Sure sometimes, people have bad taste but it almost always comes down to lazy writing, in my opinion. Stop doing the same formats. Change it up. More bees.
FOLLOW SAM GRITTNER ON GEOCITIES