A lot of comedians consider stand up comedy to be an art form. Other comics scoff at the term “art form.” I am pretty ambivalent about the whole thing myself. Seems like semantics to me. I don’t think it is that important that the general public consider stand up to be lumped in with “art” because a lot of the arts take themselves way too seriously. Also, it seems like many comics who consider themselves artists approach stand up with a vague sort of anti-analysis, let-the-jokes-grow-organically mantra. I can’t get on board with the idea that you can get really good at something by only thinking about it while you’re doing it.
I don’t want to come off wrong here: I am not some kind of comedy-by-numbers guy, but I am a huge proponent of using your time off-stage to make your time on stage more productive.
From what i can tell, newer comics like to take the term “writing on stage” too literally. It is a waste of time to make yourself pull a premise out of your ass in the hopes that the pressure to say *something* will somehow bring out the comedic genius in you. It can happen, but usually doesn’t. Having only a topic in mind and no angle will most likely lead to a pedestrian premise. Obviously if you are thinking out loud, then the first thing you say will be the first thing you thought of, which is probably the first thing most people would think of. You don’t need an audience to decide what you’re trying to say. Writing on stage is kinda pointless without a blueprint. If you are on your back from the get-go, trying to make a point that you yourself just realized you’re making; then you are going to be far from concise and the audience will be struggling to understand you as much as you’re struggling to be understood. Lazy comics convince themselves that their creative process doesn’t involve anything stressful.
One lazy mindset that a ton of comics fall into is this notion that joke writing should never be “forced.” they don’t “sit down and write at a certain time,” and instead, “write it down when it comes to them.” People hate hearing that this is bullshit. I understand it is easy to believe this is a process, because even if you don’t really put in an effort, something will hit you over the head every so often. But acting like that is your “process” is like a swimmer training for the olympics by treading water here and there. Writing is a muscle, it has to be worked out often. If you only write when something comes to you, you can only make it as good as your flabby writing muscle allows. Sitting down to write does not mean writing jokes about things that don’t matter to you. When you sit yourself down for a good hour and really mine your brain for premises, or go over premises you’ve jotted down and figure out what angles you can take; you realize you’ve just been skimming the curd and neglecting the cheese.
I realize this could come off as me criticizing the way other people approach stand up just because it isn’t my way; that’s not my intention. I’m just pointing out the path of least resistance doesn’t go very far. It took me a couple years to realize i needed to make myself sit down every day and vet everything I can. It helped me immensely, and i don’t think I’m unique in that regard.