By Jerry Corley | Founder – The Stand Up Comedy Clinic
I just had a session with one of my private students at my studio. After he ran some of his material, I asked him what happened to some of the other bits he was working on last time we met. He said, “I’m getting bored with it.” Does that sound familiar? It does to me!
I remember writing material, working on it then after doing it on stage once or twice, getting bored with it, despite the fact that it was good and getting laughs. Worse, I would get a showcase for a spot in a club or a television show and I would abandon my trusted material because I thought it would be best if I wrote new material for the showcase.
Problem is when you do that, the material might be fresh, but it’s untested and when it’s untested and you’re in a higher tension situation like an audition, the new material sounds like just that, “new.” Therefore, you sound “new.” It doesn’t sound honed. It doesn’t tight, because you’re still working out the kinks and you don’t quite “own” it.
When you showcase, audition or make an important appearance at a club, you want your act to look effortless. You want it to look like it’s just coming out of your mouth for the first time even though it isn’t and that takes rehearsal, practice and stage time.
Anthony Hopkins reads a script two hundred times before he starts to work on it. That way the material is now a part of who he is. Does his work ever look stale? Does he ever look bored?
My father, Pat Corley, a character actor for almost sixty years said that it takes eight hours of rehearsal to “own” five minutes of material. You can memorize that material in far less time, but owning it, is a completely different story. It has to be a part of you.
Jay Leno said, whenever you’re working on new material, do the “tried and true” up front, slip some new material in the middle and close with the “tried and true.”
Rita Rudner adds a new joke or a new routine every week and in a year she has a whole new act.
Part of being a professional is learning to continue to make the material you’ve been doing sound fresh every night. That’s part of your craft.
I saw Kevin James, (star of “King of Queens, ” a hit show on network T.V. for many seasons), when he did his first showcase in L.A. for network executives. He did material I’d seen him do for years. But the networks guys were seeing for the first time. He killed. It resulted in a sitcom that made him a star.
To build an act, you must have material to build on. That material might be stuff you’ve done enough to get bored with, but the guy in the club drinking a beer, has probably heard it for the first time.