Is there any point studying comedy for an academic qualification?
Someone asked that in an online comedy forum for comedians and wannabe comedians last week. It wasn’t and won’t be the first or last time the question is asked.
My reaction is – admittedly as a non-performer – absolutely not.
You are either capable of being funny or you are not. You learn from doing, not from listening to someone else telling you how to do something you either have or do not have in your psychological make-up.
Those who can… do.
Those who can’t… don’t.
They may try but they don’t.
Spend the time you would have spent getting an academic qualification or buying books written by academic wannabes by going out and seeing as many BAD comedians as you can and learn from their mistakes.
If you can’t see what bad comedians are doing wrong or where good comedians occasionally fail, then you are never going to be a successful comic.
You are not going to learn as much from watching a good comedian as you will by watching a bad comedian.
You learn from mistakes – yours and others – not by watching perfection. And, in any case, you don’t want to copy another person’s version of perfection. You want to create your own perfect stage version of yourself.
Comedy cannot be taught because teaching implies rules and there are no rules if you want to be original.
If you follow the alleged ‘rules’, you will – by definition – be unoriginal.
But there is a major downside in wanting to be an original comedian.
Performing comedy is not a job for sane, well-rounded people.
It is a vocation for misfits.
If you don’t have something missing in your life – a great, gaping psychological hole eating away inside you – you won’t be an original comic.
You may be watchable, but you will not be great.
Comedians are masochists with a vocation.
If they are about to play a gig, they fear the audience may hate them. Yet they must play it.
If they have a great gig, they ‘know’ their next gig is unlikely to be as good. Yet they must play it.
If they play a bad gig, then they are confirmed in their suspicion that they are as shit as they feared they might be. Yet they have an emotional need to play the next gig.
Comedians are spurred on by their own insecurity rather than by their own self-confidence.
They want to get an ongoing objective reassurance from the audience that they are ‘good’ – likeable, loveable, creative.
They are insecure inside.
To overcome this, they want to control the audience to such an extent that each and every member of the audience will be unable to control his or her emotions.
That is the whole core of successful comedy.
Each and every member of the audience will be unable not to laugh.
Their bodies and souls and nervous system – their reactions – will be controlled by the performer.
To be successful as a comic, you have to feel incomplete and be lacking in self-confidence inside and, as a result, want to demonstrate to yourself your own ability to control others.
This has not necessarily any connection with financial success.
Comedy is a series of paradoxes.
If you follow the so-called rules, you will – by definition – be unoriginal and will not stand out from the crowd.
Yet, if you are too wildly original, you will not be accepted by the general middle-of-the-road crowd.
But what do I know?
I genuinely don’t care what people think of me. So I don’t have the soul or psychology of a performer.
All I know is…
There are no rules.
Though, of course, by saying that, I am stating an opinion as a certain fact.
So you should ignore that and everything else I have written, because there are no rules.
A true comedian’s mind is a collection of extra-ordinary paradoxes.
A series of interlinked, extra-ordinary paradoxes.
In that respect, they are just like an ‘ordinary’ person.
But with talent.