comedy Paul Clemente

Paul Clemente: Local Comedian? Part 3: Paying Dues

9:30:00 AMPaul

Photo by Jake Truax

Look at this goddamn idiot. That's me; Paul Clemente local ... comedian?

I'm finding myself jumping around in the natural progression of being a comedian but this whole series has turned into writing what has flared up in my brain. Recently, I've noticed this ugly trend in comedy poignantly coined as "Paying Dues."

The two questions I have grown to not enjoy as a comedian is "oh, yeah? tell me a joke!" and "how long have you been doing this?"

"Tell me a joke," is a passive aggressive qualifier to validate yourself to someone that can be easily laughed off or met with another joke. I -personally - use "No thanks, I'm trying to quit." It's not funny (at all) but it usually gets a chuckle and the conversation moves on.

The second question "how long have you been doing this" is trickier.

I haven't been doing stand-up long. I started in April of 2017. That's it. I've done other things involving entertainment but I haven't been doing this for long. However, this -stand-up comedy - is what I want to do. I have tons to learn, I have tons to write, I have tons of experiences that I have to live through. I've experienced a small fraction of the whole equation in this business.

I've always understood the concept of "paying dues" as working hard, staying humble, learning from your environment, and striving to get better.  I feel that I've been incredibly lucky to have to opportunities I've had. I still do open mics, I encourage others around me, and I'm constantly writing/editing/writing/editing/writing/editing.

However, there are comedians who will tell you that, you aren't even funny until you are 10 years in, you shouldn't take a mic off a stand until you're 5 years in, you shouldn't put together a show until you're 3.66 years in. These are real things that comedians say to other comedians! In my limited career as a comedian, I've never heard a compliment of the work I'm doing instead I'm hearing of all the opportunities I don't deserve.

I've been formally doing stand-up for 10 months. That's it. I've organized 10 shows, been to 50 + open mics, and was lucky enough to have an open mic night given to me by a nice place called the Labyrinth.  I didn't wait until someone else thought I was ready. I decided I was ready. I didn't wait at a lonely bar table and have some veteran anoint me as "ready". That's not how anything successful works.

I still consider myself as "paying dues". I'm still doing shows an hour away for free drinks, I'm still writing new material, I'm still not where I'd like to be. I am not going to wait for my opportunity, I am going to create my own. Yes, I'll make mistakes but I can't wait for a handout.

Bill: Ted, while I agree that, in time, our band will be most triumphant. The truth is, Wyld Stallyns will never be a super band until we have Eddie Van Halen on guitar.
Ted: Yes, Bill. But, I do not believe we will get Eddie Van Halen until we have a triumphant video.
Bill: Ted, it's pointless to have a triumphant video before we even have decent instruments.
Ted: Well, how can we have decent instruments when we don't really even know how to play?
Bill: That is why we NEED Eddie Van Halen!
Ted: And THAT is why we need a triumphant video.

The people who have been in comedy for years are very quick to point out how long they've been doing it and they measure what they think you've earned to do. The simple fact is you're funny or you're not. Your job as a comedian is to entertain an audience. There is a lot of puppet strings to pull to make it happen, but if you're funny you're doing your job. A couple who got a babysitter, took money out of their savings, and decided to watch you do not care about your credentials. They don't care that you did an hour at a Staples office party or a tour on cruise ship, they came to laugh.

There is validity to experience, practice, and humility but you don't have to sit and wait for permission. The true measure of right or wrong in this dumb business is laughter and nothing else. There is no equation, no timeline, and you don't need permission to be successful. Be funny; the end.

The only constants I've seen are practicing, writing, and being a good human being. If you do all of those everything else is easy.

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