Long ago my Dad shared this with me. I found it profoundly applicable in life and suitably fitting in the comedy realm; it’s called “Sunshine’s Law.”

He heard it from one of his college professors, who, in-turn, heard it from a homeless man who was simply named, “Sunshine.”

He said, “Two percent of the people excel at their specialty: eighteen percent are average or just above—and happy being there:

the rest of the EIGHTY PERCENT are on a declining scale of incompetence.”

Think about this little formula.

It’s profound in it’s simplicity and if you truly think about it, it’s not far from the truth.

We see mediocrity everywhere.

How many times have you said to yourself—or to others, “Man, there’s no customer service anymore!”  It seems that it’s a rare occurrence when we actually get good service or kindness or someone going out of their way to make something happen.

Is it because they are in the “eighty percent” category? Maybe so.

I do find that the 2-percent of people who excel in their specialty, drops to 1-percent in the business of comedy. It’s simply because most people see comedy as frivolity and they treat their careers frivolously.

A lot of us got into stand-up because we just didn’t seem to fit in the “normal” world. We wanted to beat the system and what a better way than to make people laugh for a living. Problem is most comedians don’t make a living or make a mediocre living.

Why? Two Reasons:

  • Laziness or
  • Ignorance

Comedy is a business just like any other business and if you learn to treat it as a business, that’s when most of us see successful gains—not only in our bank accounts—but also in our reputations.

How seriously do you take your comedy?

Do you:

  • Set Goals?
  • Write every day?
  • Map out your writing time (at least 1.5 hours 3-4 hours if you’re serious), and adhere to it?
  • Spend a portion of everyday making at least 10 phone calls per day for comedy? (Not just emails:phone calls).
  • Diagram the various ways you can earn money and game plan how to break into that market?
  • Do you have a PROCESS for your writing and your business?
  • Do you have a press kit ready to go NOW? Right NOW?
  • Do you go to mics at least 3 times a week and exchange numbers with other comedians and audience members?
  • Do you never take “NO” for an answer and are you politely persistent?

If you don’t do these things daily or weekly, then you’re not in the 2-percent… and why not? What’s stopping you?

Nothing now, because above is a list of things that I did when I was on the road 38-43 weeks out of each year.

Every day you should have a “To-Do” list of things you’re going to do for your career.  In it’s simplest form it should look like this:

  1. Write 3-10 new jokes (minimum)
  2. Call at least 10 people that could get me work (and ALWAYS, ALWAYS leave a message).
  3. Do a mic or find another open mic
  4. Add another club or booker to your contact or call list.

The list could be longer, but since most comics don’t wake up until at least noon, (if you’re on the West Coast, it’s already 3pm on the East Coast), and your opportunity is shrinking.

But if you did at least 3 of these things daily, then you’ll see your opportunities start to increase week-to-week.

So stop bitching that there’s “no work” and get to work!

Start by setting your goals… Goal number one: “Get myself into the 2-percent!”

What do you do to keep yourself going?

Jerry Corley
Jerry Corley

Jerry Corley is a professional comedian of nearly 30 years, working nearly every venue imaginable. Writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Creator an Co-Writer for the movie "Stretch," starring Chris Pine, Patrick Wilson, Ray Liotta, Jessica Alba and Ed Helms, and founder of The Stand Up Comedy Clinic a full-time, self-owned comedy studio dedicated to beginning and professional comedian who want to have a place to improve their comedy writing and performance skills.

    12 replies to "A Homeless Man’s Guide to Success"

    • Mike Hanson

      Also, is there a reliable way to find open mics? The vast majority of lists I’ve found have entries that are outdated and omit a good 85% of clubs that have open mics. I live north of Atlanta, by the by.

    • Don Barnhart

      Great post Jerry! As for Mike’s comment. Sometimes you have to create your own!

    • Jc Morgan

      Other comics are your best resource for open mic locations.

    • Don Frost

      Thank you, I feel that treating comedy not as job but a calling for a purpose in life. It helps to find inner motivation to drain the ink from as many pens as possible.

    • Jerry Corley

      Hey Mike! Great question. Problem is there’s not a great amount of reliability in open mics. Record keeping is always changing. I would try badslava.com as a resource. But you have to call or email the ones listed first!

      Sometimes they just stop and although a producer of a mic is excited to get the word out about a new mic, they’re not as excited to follow up and take it down when it’s no longer going.

      Here’s what I did and still do:
      1. Check your local rags (independent newspapers) also check online.
      2. Make a contact sheet for each open mic in your area.
      3. Put them in a calendar.
      4. Attend each one to find the one’s you like best.
      5. Become a regular at those “good” ones.
      6. Build relationships with the other comics. Find more “good” ones.
      7. Keep writing and keep going out. I got my first paid gig after 6 months of regular appearances at a local mic.
      8. Never give up!

      Good luck and stay safe out there!

    • Jerry Corley

      Yes!!! Comics often overlook the power of starting your own mic or event. You build fast relationships and it often leads to other work! Great suggestion, Don! Anyone in the #LasVegas area? Take a class with Don. He was and still is a mentor to me… Rock on, Don!

    • Jerry Corley

      No doubt. Build relationships. You live by example JC! Constantly building relationships…many of them result in more work. You Get it!

    • Jerry Corley

      Totally agree! It is my life. Which is probably why I had two major relationships fail–well, that and I was a shitty husband and/or boyfriend, but how can you be there for them when you’re constantly touring right? Comedy is my one true love. Rock on!

    • Don Barnhart

      Thanks Jerry!~ Loved your ebook. Hope your going to publish a hard copy as it’s the new
      “must have” book on comedy writing!

    • Gil Martinez

      At one part of your book ” Breaking Comedy’s DNA you said writing comedy is like Magic in some ways. I agree with you 100%, I have been involved in magic for many years, understanding how the trick works is easy, presenting it is where the time and practice makes the difference. When I sit down to write a joke or a skit it appears to me that this could be good comedy, but when I write again it gets a little better, again, again and again I write it and then I really start to see the magic happen. The psychology of good comedy is the psychology of good magic! See you in Las Vegas -September.

    • Mike Hanson

      I’ve done exactly that, though I live an hour from the closest metropolitan area (Atlanta), so it’s tough on gas. I’m also friends with a handful of comics. The toughest thing is getting stage time. There are plenty of places to go to, but most can only have you up once every 2 or 3 weeks, so Youtube videos are slow coming.

      Great advice, though, and I appreciate your time. 🙂

    • Richard Allan Jones

      Does anybody have a closed mike night? Maybe in small clubs where you can shout to be heard.

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