I think that for a comedian it is almost better to be an unknown in a sea full of big fish, than to be a shark (or sea lion, or whale, or other medium to large-sized sea creature of your choosing) in a pond with few fish. That’s my situation right now. As much respect and appreciation as I have for the comedians and comedy scenes that exist here in Utah there is so much more to see out there. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that I’m the best comic here or even that I’m a “big fish”. However I will readily say that I’ve reached a point where performing in this market isn’t helping my career as much as it used to, and might even be hurting it in some ways.
During my first year in comedy I mostly performed on campus, and I loved it. After a while though, I started to realize that people would laugh at jokes I told no matter the quality. I even found myself writing FOR them at times;
“Hey guys, what’s the deal with that crazy thing that happened on campus the other day? I’m gonna talk about it for a few minutes and it’s gonna be hilarious, but only to you because you know about it. This joke is in no way universally funny!”
I’m glad that I was quickly able to realize what was happening. That realization, combined with my love of stand-up led me to start going to comedy clubs. I still did well there, but not nearly as well as I did on campus, I had to work harder and be more relatable to a wider audience.
Now I feel like I’ve reached the point where Utah as a whole has become the equivalent of those campus experiences that I used to have. I’ve performed in other states, but the majority of my performing has been here. There aren’t nearly as many opportunities to get on stage here as I would like, and I think that it is important for a comic to work different types of audiences.
Someone can hit a ceiling in any occupation. A high school basketball star would likely get lit up if he stepped on the court with a bunch of mediocre NBA players (guys like Lebron and Kobe are the rare exceptions to this statement). I’m not saying that where I live now is the minor leagues, but it might be. In fact, anywhere that anyone lives is the minor leagues in a sense, because familiarity can kill your sense of reality.
Comedians that live anywhere outside of New York, LA, and maybe a couple other cities may not really have a sense of how good (or not good) they are. Those cities are saturated with comedy, and with audiences that have heard a lot of comedy. I went to New York this summer to check out the comedy scene, it was eye opening in a lot of ways. Also, Comedians who have only performed in New York and LA might not know how well their act would work (or not work) on the road.
One of my main goals right now is to find out where I am really at, and to use that knowledge to get better. Not just here in the middle of America, but other places. If that means driving three hours to Vegas (or x number of hours somewhere else) to do a low paying (or not paying) gig somewhere then so be it. I’m in this for the long haul, not the short term, so I see this as an investment. I’ll let you know how it goes. =)