This guest post is by Dan Meyers of Your Life, Their Life.
I recently watched Ricky Gervais’ new show on HBO, Talking Funny, with guest comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. These guys are the top of their field and use the show to discuss their strategies.
If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, you know they didn’t get to where they are by luck. They’ve practiced and performed for more hours than we can imagine.
I picked up some important concepts that are relevant to a comedian’s success as well as a blogger’s success.
Comedy is a relationship
Chris Rock says comedy “is like a relationship. Your woman is with you because you assume she loves you. She’s there every day but you still have to work on her liking you for this to work as a relationship. You have to put out effort. You can’t just come home and say hey, I paid the rent, like me.”
The same is obviously true for blogs. You must continually develop the relationship with your readers and put out effort to keep them around. ProBlogger is full of great examples of relationship building, such as showing your readers you care by responding to their comments.
Comedians who don’t have good material won’t be around for long
Louis CK said comedians that don’t have great material get to a place and stay there. They might have one or two hits but they don’t continue building and they won’t sustain over time.
Chris Rock said, “Anyone can have a hot year but who the hell has sustained a career not being funny”?
Bloggers have the same reality. We must sustainably create good material that will keep users coming back.
Jerry Seinfeld said one thing that bothered him about acting was that a lot of people say they can do it and they actually can. He went back to stand-up comedy because there is no faking it. You’re either good or you’re not.
It’s easy for people to start a new blog as is evident by the total number of blogs doubling every six months.
Blogging is a combination of Seinfeld’s assessment of acting and comedy. You can fake blogging for a while, but if you don’t step up and produce over time, you won’t last.
Stand-up comedy is a great responsibility
This group of comedians all agreed that stand-up comedy is a great responsibility. There are multiple reasons, but one of the biggest is they recognize people give up a chunk of their lives to see them perform.
They had to get a babysitter, get dressed up, find a parking spot, and spend their hard earned money. They feel responsible for leaving with them something lasting. According to Seinfeld, really good bits go deep into your head and keep coming back.
In an example Seinfeld uses, Letterman talks about how he would spit toothpaste into the sink, let it dry, and serve it as after dinner mints.
It’s not the best joke I’ve ever heard, but Seinfeld said there’s something in that joke that has made it stick with him ever since. Are your posts going to stick with people?
People also give up their most valuable commodity to view your blog post. They give up their time. You must make it worth their while or they won’t be back.
You must also ensure you’re not putting bad information out as recommendations. Ricky Gervais said he feels a great responsibility not to hurt an innocent person. The same is true for people dispensing information.
In comedy, talk about what they do, not what they are
Chris Rock said one of his most important principles in comedy is to talk about what people do, not what they are. He said some people do some crazy stuff that you can talk about, but if you think they’re actually crazy, you shouldn’t mention that!
To avoid making too many people angry, remember to talk about what they do and not what they are. Don’t say, “You’re poor because you’re an idiot.” Try, “You’re poor because you wasted your paycheck on hookers and alcohol.” Okay, maybe that’s not quote right either!
Take a subject and don’t leave it alone until you’ve totally covered it
The great comedians have a way of going deeper into an everyday situation than you and I could ever imagine possible. Jerry Seinfeld is a genius at doing this.
Chris Rock takes a somewhat different approach because some of his jokes are ‘richer ideas’ and won’t be funny without the full premise of the story. He explains what he’s talking about because he knows if he sets up the premise right, the joke will always work.
The most successful bloggers take something, break it down, break it down again, and then break it down even more. Most of this is finding your niche. For example, Darren has more information on AdSense than the rest of the Internet put together!
What if people discover they can do comedy themselves?
Ricky Gervais asks the question, “What happens if people discover they can do comedy themselves?” The other comedians don’t view this as a threat because they view themselves as professionals with a level of talent much higher than most people.
Louis CK explains that the guys who make money on the Superbowl aren’t concerned by people who play football in the back yard.
This is even more relevant for bloggers. We live in a world where we aren’t cut throat competitors. Sure, we’re competing over products and content, but for the most part we all benefit as more people get involved in blogging.
These are examples from four of the elite comedians. One thing I observed was how they all have different styles. There is no one way to succeed as a comedian. It would be even harder to succeed if you tried to be the next Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock (or Darren Rowse).
The points they make during the interview are very relevant for comedians as they are for bloggers. Do you agree with any of the points? I would love to see your thoughts in the comments.