Things I Learned from Stand-Up Comedy

5 years ago by

People always want to take me out for coffee so they can pick my brain and see what it takes to do stand-up. I’m always like, I can make coffee myself so why don’t you worry about getting funny first? I’m a big figure-it-out-on-your-own kinda person and don’t bother someone. But now that I’ve done stand-up for a wonderful and woke 17 years, I’m proud of what I’ve learned and earned. So here it is…

1. Words have power.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Whether it’s in person or online. We can all take a moment to actually think about what we want to convey. How we’d like to come across. How that would make someone feel.

When I first started comedy a lot of my material was self-deprecating, I cussed a lot (hell, I still do) and I didn’t realize that I was presenting myself in a negative light. I thought I was edgy. When you first start comedy most of your material is negative or sexual, I mean you’ve just won this license to say whatever you would like in public and that’s usually where we go. But there’s so much power in lifting yourself up, and not constantly apologizing for having an opinion.

2. Treat people how you want to be treated.

This sounds old school vintage Catholic school pride, but it’s so damn true. Chant it at a rally. You want equal rights? You treat people fairly. I attended three high-schools and two colleges, so if I didn’t walk into a room and introduce myself with a smile, no one was talking to me unless they were a teacher. I still use this method at parties and events as well. And if you walk into room full of people you don’t know and wonder why no one has come up to you to greet you, maybe they’re just as shy as you. Take the lead like you’re Jake Tapper on CNN! Also it doesn’t matter what level you’re at, we’re all little snowflakes that want to be accepted. Be nice to everyone. Today’s assistant is tomorrow’s executive, honey.

3. Always be in competition with yourself. 

In the green room of any comedy club you’ll hear someone complain about what someone else has. I’m not sure how other careers work but my mother always says, “the grass is greener when you’re standing in shit.” When up and coming comedians ask me, “how can I start making money?” “How can I be seen?” I want to say, “be a better you!”

You know when the spin class teacher is like, add resistance to your bike, and if you’re not doing it the only person you’re cheating is you? Yeah, that’s what life really is. Hate to make it that cliche but put it on a magnet and sell it at Ricky’s. If you get into a phase where you’re like, “how did they book that? They’re awful, I’m so much better.” Well, keep thinking that, but let it motivate you. Shut up about it, be cool and keep it moving. Never doubt the slow simmer of it all. You’ll pop when you’re good and ready. (Ew, that sounds like I’m talking about a zit but whatever.)

4. Be honest with yourself.

When D.L. Hughley was on my podcast, Late Night Whenever, an audience member asked him for advice about her love life. He replied, “you know the answer.” Deep down we always know the answer. If a joke isn’t working, let it go. If I’m working with a producer or agent and they’re not getting me, they probably just don’t get me. It’s time to move on and find someone that will. It’s low key easier to stay in a work relationship (or any other one for that matter) when it’s not working. Sure, you can put the blame on them for things not going your way and not take responsibility, but then you’re stuck like Chuck. Be honest, and keep it moving.

5. Learn how to deal with rejection.

People often think when they see someone on camera that they just magically walked into a room and someone said, “You! You should be on television!” Girl. Bye. Even the mediocre talent has been at it for a hot minute (#lol #shade). Once you realize it’s not personal, you can move on to the next project you’ll probably be rejected for. But that’s okay.

When I first started I sent a different headshot and VHS tape (#old #vintage) to this agency every month for a year. When the year was up they sent back all my material with a rejection letter. I didn’t even think twice about it. I thought, dope. Now I have all this material back I can send somewhere else. Don’t tell yourself no before someone else does. Whether it’s a job or relationship, I came up with a mantra early on that has carried me through: If they don’t wanna hear from them, they’re gonna hear about me. Happy Kwanzaa – you can use it.

Want more Michelle? We’ve featured her before, here and here. And check out her podcast here!


Add yours
  • Great post ! I have always been told by friends that I’m the funniest person they know . I have always dreamed of trying stand-up . However much like other things I procrastinate, in this case the fear of failure is huge.
    I’m saving this post to read over and when I take my plunge , I’ll report back !
    Dress The Part

  • Jorge Alexandre Teixeira September, 21 2018, 7:40 / Reply


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