“Once you own your jokes and stand by them, you can relax. Being tentative sours the crowd. They see your fear and then they can’t laugh. They want to have fun, not worry about your next move. If they have to cringe or feel bad for you, their experience is ruined and they are taken completely out of the moment. Like when you fart during sex: sure, you can finish and go through the motions, but something has been lost. Once I figured this all out and wasn’t seeking the audience’s approval anymore, they were free to have a good time, relax, and enjoy.
Even though the road can be brutal, it’s the only way to become a stand-up. In order to get good at it, you must get as much stage time as humanly possible. Sure, you can learn how to kill on a shorter set. Maybe you even have a great fifteen minutes. Or maybe you’re good at local references in your city and can do really well there. But you have to go out on the road and do every different type of show there is: the one for thirty drunk Harley-Davidson guys at a VFW, the ladies’ lunch at the Carlyle, the Christmas party for firemen, the ferry that circles Manhattan, and the comedy festival in Staten Island. You have to do all of it or you will plateau and go nowhere—which is fine if that is what you want to do.
I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s my number one piece of advice to comics who are just starting out when they ask me how to become successful. Get onstage! If there isn’t a comedy room in your town, produce one! Find a place with a stage and a mic and stand in front of people as much as possible. Log as many hours as you can. I still do this. I’m not bullshitting you: the money is good now, but even on my nights off, I am still onstage in shitty little rooms, rock clubs, jazz halls, wherever. Always working hard to get better. I became obsessed a long time ago, and it has never dulled.”
Read the whole chapter in ‘The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo‘ by Amy Schumer, HarperCollins 2016