I've been fortunate during my time in stand-up to meet some very cool, funny, and talented people. Comics that I grew up watching like Marc Maron and Ted Alexandro as well as other comics that were at the phase of their careers that I'm at now.
But two comedians in particular stand out to me and the advice they handed down has been incredibly valuable. The first bit of advice I got was after my first showcase six months in at the Comedy Club on State in Madison.
I more or less camped out at the bar at the comedy club when I started. I watched every feature's set and every headliner's set, taking mental notes on how they handled the crowd or a particular situation. It was study of the craft in the flesh. I loved it, applying what I was learning at mics the following week.
My first showcase, the headliner was Dave Landau and the feature was Andy Sandford. I had a good set only because my delusions of grandeur were way too big for me to bomb. I had just gotten done introducing Landau to the stage and met Sandford back at the bar. I had learned the jargon and the questions to ask a comic to get the conversation moving because I still felt like an outsider.
Where did you just come from?
Where you headed next?
Where did you start? What's the scene like there?
Then for some reason I asked Andy Sandford the following: Do you have any advice for the business?
Andy said, "Yeah, just don't be a dick."
"Don't be a dick?" I clarified.
"Yeah, there is already too many and we don't need anymore."
I didn't laugh though I found it funny how Andy said it so matter of fact. It was good advice in general but five years into this business and a few thousand miles traveled I've learned Andy was right. From club owners and managers to bookers and even other comedians, a lot of raving egos littered with dicks. Just don't be a dick. Hey! Just don't be a dick. Very easy.
The other valuable piece of advice I got was from a comic named Amaru Lewis. He was middling at the club and I was camped out grabbing as many guest sets as I could. I had been hanging out all weekend. I hadn't gotten a chance to go up but I started up conversations and had gotten to know Amaru a little bit.
Before the late show on Saturday, Amaru asked if I was going to do a guest set. I told him I didn't know yet. I said that the manager knows if I'm here, I want to go on. Amaru asked why I just didn't go ask if I could do a set. I told him they'd throw me on if they had time. I didn't like asking, I would, this particular night, I just didn't. Amaru smiled, shook his head, stood up and walked over to the manager. The two had a quick conversation and Amaru walked back over and informed me I had a seven minute guest set.
I thanked Amaru for doing that though I told him it wasn't necessary. His response was one that will stay with me forever. Amaru leaned back in his chair and said, "Nick, you're the only one chasing your dream. Don't expect help from these people because they aren't thinking about you at all."
These two snipits of advice are usually what I tell comics just starting out who for whatever reason ask me for advice. I usually take a deep breath and say, "You're the only one chasing your dream, so don't be a dick."
Oh, and P.S.
Marc Maron's advice was "Get the fuck out of Madison."
I didn't ask him for advice.
Thank you Amaru and Andy.