“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” –Julie Andrews

Acting is a tough game; it’s extremely competitive and tremendously subjective. What one person thinks is a performance for the ages, another considers it to be a 7-percent on the Rotten Tomatoes scale. It’s maddening. But there’s another game that just might be tougher than acting, and that’s comedy. Consciously trying to make someone laugh is an activity fraught with anguish and danger, and some would say that it’s merely a fool’s errand. However, when a comedian makes you laugh until Bud Light shoots out your nostrils, it’s like no other pleasure in the world. And masters of the comedy routine often make it look easy. However, it appears from the attached YouTube clips, the art of comedy is anything but easy. It takes hard work, determination, and above all, perseverance.

Consider Bill Burr–a comedy legend by anyone’s standards. In an interview with Howard Stern, Bill talks about plying his trade for twelve years and having nothing to show for it! No agent, no manager, no money, no prospects. And the anxiety of having to look for a normal job after being on the comedy circuit for over a decade filled him with such anxiety, he says he had a panic attack. So how did Bill make it through this dark time in his life? Well, it seems he just kept at it; he kept going.”I kept doing it, I kept doing it, I kept doing it,” he says.

Tom Papa is a stand-up comedian, actor, writer, producer, and radio personality. In an interview with Sam Jones on the Off Camera Show, Tom talks about the importance of hard work and due diligence as it concerns success in the highly-competitive field of comedy. The legendary Jerry Seinfeld took Papa under his wing when Tom was struggling, and encouraged him to keep moving forward with his career. Along the way, Tom realized that the great Jerry Seinfeld actually worked very hard at burnishing his material and adjusting his stage performance. This style of work and attention to detail made sense to the up-and-coming comedian, and Tom got down to the task at hand. “I didn’t have to get all liquored up, I didn’t have to smoke and be cool. I could just go to work and keep writing, and keep writing, and there would be something good that came out of writing.”

Jerry Seinfeld himself is an absolutely singular figure in the world of comedy. He created, along with Larry David, the sitcom Seinfeld, which turned out to be one of the most successful television programs in history. But before all of that success, Jerry was a hardworking stand-up comic. In the attached New York Times interview, Jerry lays out the anatomy of writing a Pop Tarts joke, which took him two years! That seems like a long time to write a fairly simple joke, but you get the feeling Jerry would burn five years on a gag if that’s what it took! When hearing of his process, it’s clear that Jerry is a very determined and perspicacious craftsman who’s instinct is to embrace the work rather than avoid or gripe about it.

Vince Lombardi once said, “The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” So, it behooves you to keep climbing! Keep climbing! Or else you won’t get the view!

 

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