In an earlier article for Cybervent, I mentioned our Comedy Discussion Group. It would be a good idea to now discuss with you just what that is, how it works, and what the benefits are. Our group is simply an informal gathering of folks who are interested in the business of comedy. Some are former colleagues who worked with me in television comedy writing. Others are current performers, aspiring writers, some actors, even a few who were writers and are now interested in getting involved in performing stand-up. There are no rules or regulations for this group and there is no agenda, homework, lectures, or other requirements. One person handles all the logistics and contacts the others by email when our next gathering will be. Those who can make it, make it; those who can’t make it, don’t show up. It’s very informal and yet it has turned out to be extremely productive. So productive, in fact, and so much fun, that with this column I’m going to recommend that you start a similar group in your area.
I didn’t organize this group, but I have participated in every get together they’ve had for the past several years. And frankly, I’ve been astounded at how beneficial these meetings have been. Here are a few of my ideas on why a simple chat session periodically can generate such rewards for the participants.
First of all, they’re fun. We get together and discuss things we’re interested in. The discussion is not strictly limited to the comedy profession. We discuss families, vacations, and what not. However, we do spend quite a bit of conversational time talking about the humor profession. We also get to meet new friends because person A will invite person B. None of us have ever met him or her before, but we introduce ourselves and suddenly our group has a new member.
An offshoot of that is that we form valuable contacts in the business. The writers may mention different clients they have and that may lead some of the other members to begin selling material to that client. One stand-up performer may have a contact in a certain club or with some people who run an open-mike and may introduce another member to that venue. It’s amazing how the webs intertwine.
It’s also apparent that just getting together to chat occasionally renew interest in the profession. Some of the attendees have begun working on projects that they started years ago but are now restarting with renewed vigor. For some reason just talking about their goals rejuvenates their interest in them. Several folks have opted to try new endeavors. Folks who have written comedy are now interested in getting on stage and trying out some of their material in a club.
Valid ideas are exchanged during the conversations. Each person has tried different avenues. Other people in the group may never have been aware of such avenues but now are eager to explore them. Some may work out for them; others may not. People may have certain useful techniques in their writing that others have never been aware of. Hearing of them, though, can make them eager to try them out. Again, some may work for them; others may not. But there is definitely an educational undertone at each gathering.
There’s inspiration in discussing the profession with others, too. Some of the members may be eager to share their success stories with the group. Their blessings may inspire others to get off their creative butts and start exploring new endeavors. The idea is “If so and so can do it, I can surely do it.” In fact, some of it may even be attributed to envy. “How come she can get lucky and I haven’t yet. Well, I’ll change that.” They might be goaded on to seek some of the success that they were forced to watch others achieve.
There’s a good bit of advice passed around among members, too. Someone may be working on a pilot show and they’re having trouble with it. Others may offer suggestions, and who knows, one of them may be what the author was searching for. Comedy performers may be developing a character that is not quite working. Others may toss out a few ideas and one of them may be the breakthrough this person was reaching for.
Aside from the camaraderie, professional partnerships may form. People may decide to work together on a project. Two performers may decide to do a two-person act, or they may create a routine that they can perform from time to time as a duo.
In short, it’s just a device for people who are interested in a comedy activity get together once in awhile to chat about it. Who knows what can happen. I can tell you from experience that many good things happen. I can guarantee that many fun things happen. Give it a try and see what happens for you.
Learn more from Gene Perret with his books, classes, and newsletter. Information available at www.comedywritersroom.com/shop. Gene also has a free joke service,Perrets’ Humor Files, featuring original lines. Take a look at www.jokecrafters.com. You can email Gene at RTComedy@cwo.com.
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