At about midday, my heart starts to gives an occasional, unfamiliar flutter. As the day continues, the butterflies in my stomach build. I’m not consciously focused on the fact that I’m performing tonight yet, but somehow my body is more aware of it than my mind.
I give in to it and start to practice, first to myself in my head, then out loud in the shower, and once more when I’m dressed and made up in front of a mirror. I’m ready. I think.
I arrive early at the venue and exchange hugs and banter with the other comedians. I’ve heard the scene can be quite cut-throat for those trying to launch into comedy careers, but for someone like me who is pursuing it purely as a hobby, it’s been a great way to make friends.
I take to the stage. I can feel the adrenaline pumping now. Some nights it goes well. My punchlines land, everyone laughs – it’s an exhilarating feeling. Some nights I die up there and want the ground to open up and swallow me whole – I go home and lick my wounds.
As a professional content creator, it’s been an educational experience. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
Spending time with creators makes you creative
Naturally I’ve met lots of comedians on this journey, but many of them have a host of other strings to their bows; they are actors and musicians, spoken word poets and playwrights, podcasters (is that a word?) and promoters.
Spending time around people who are passionate about what they do is inspiring, and being exposed to their various different talents has given me a greater appreciation for their respective art forms, and reminded me to hone my own creativity as a content creator.
Persistence, determination and hard work
I started gigging in Dublin a little over a year ago, and I’ve performed 12-15 times since. Others, who started around the same time but with the goal of making a career of it are gigging 3-4 times a week. They’re taking courses run by more established comics, travelling to Galway and Cork (and even Mullingar) for gigs, and they’re setting up their own comedy nights.
Most of the time these are unpaid – and in fact cost them money. The dedication these young people are putting into gaining experience and developing their craft challenges every stereotype I’ve ever heard about millennials and Gen Z. They’re hungry for success and they’re willing to work for it. That’s the attitude I try to bring to my career as a content creator every day.
“Tough Crowd”: It’s never the audience’s fault
There are few things more cringe-worthy at a gig than seeing a comic turn on an audience who are not responding to their material. It’s tough when material that went down really well last week isn’t working the next time you perform. I had that experience recently, I put together 10 minutes of material for an International Women’s Day show in March and it was great – I performed the same ten-minute set the following week to a crowd of mostly guys and it didn’t resonate with them in the same way. The laughs were few and far between.
A more experienced comic might have been able to look out there, see what was going on and change things up on the spot – but I’m not there yet. It’s the same thing with content though, if you’ve written what you think is a great piece, it can be tempting to continue believing it was even if it kind of flopped. If it did flop, you’re not meeting your audience where they are and it’s not their fault.
Getting out of your comfort zone is crucial
Moments before my first proper performance, a comedy promoter I’d been chatting to the bar asked me if I was a comedian. “I’m up next” I told him “So I’ll tell you in about ten minutes”.
“With all due respect” he replied, “I’ll know by then”. And with that I swallowed a lump in my throat and took to the stage.
Getting out of my comfort zone with stand-up has given me the confidence to try other things I didn’t think I’d have the courage to do, both professionally and personally. I’m trying new and different hobbies I would never have dreamed of, and expanding my business. It’s not all down to my experience with stand-up, but it has certainly given me a new perspective.
ABOUT KATIE HARRINGTON
Katie Harrington is a Communications and Content Creator based in Dublin, Ireland. Her e-book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Accenture, EY, Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as in the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat.