Yes I’ve noticed it too.
If you’ve looked at the videos on my website, you may notice that I’ve been using certain material quite a bit for a long time. By itself this isn’t a bad thing – even Carlin had bits that he used for years – but I realized I’m using it for the wrong reason. I don’t do it because it’s edgy (it’s not). I don’t do it because I think it’s the best I can do (I don’t).
I do it because, more often than not, it’s successful. Yes, I tweak it every now and then and yes, I try to put something different into each set, but the bottom line is that I’m playing it safe on stage. When I do a scheduled show (or an open mic out of town for that matter), I feel some pressure to make a good impression and often fall back on the same tried-and-true material.
I spend a fair about of time putting together each show, because I don’t want to do exactly the same thing twice. Still, I’m at a point in my comedy career where I can do a decent 10 minute set with no warning if asked. I might be able to do 12 or 15 at last minute and be “OK”, but if I try to stretch much beyond that, I’m digging for bits with only one punchline or setups that are too long for the payoff. That’s not good enough to move beyond the “hobby” stage of stand-up. The material I’ve been doing won’t get me a 20 minute opener spot.
So after the San Diego’s Funniest Person contest tomorrow, I’m going to allow myself to fail. I’ll do more open mics and fewer scheduled shows. I will keep the scheduled shows polished, but at the open mics, I’m going try some material that still needs to be forged in the fire of audience reaction. A big fear of mine is getting on stage with nothing prepared, so I will summon the courage to try no material, i.e. just chatting with the audience and seeing what I come up with on the spot
And I will fail. I expect to have some epic “why did I bother to get on stage” moments. But I hope to learn from those moments how to create new successes.
So please bear with me. I’m failing now so I can succeed later.