Social Question

ro_in_motion's avatar

Would you be a great writer or a comedian?

Asked by ro_in_motion (2238 points ) April 10th, 2012

I do both for a living. The number one statement I get from people I meet that aren’t in the business say “I could be a great writer (or comedian) if I wanted to.” I am usually too polite to say what I am thinking about them. Let me turn the question around: “If you could be a great writer or comedian, why aren’t you?”

Note: I am not claiming I am great. At least I don’t say that in public. At least not that often. Rarely for attribution in print. I am the very modern model of humility, me.

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21 Answers

anartist's avatar

Great is in the eye of the market. Great to oneself, doesn’t bring home the bacon.
I know funny people.

I even know someone who should have been a comedian [he only picked accounting because it was the first alphabetical listing in the curse catalog] and when comedy clubs first began to appear I almost persuaded him to do it.

Instead of just freely reeling off hilarious stuff, he started to tape record it [a stifler right there] and then he started to worry about it. Finally he destroyed the tapes in case he should die and his mother should find them.

Even his not being a comedian was funny.

Well, do you make a living at it?

marinelife's avatar

That must be annoying. I cannot imagine saying that to someone who is doing it for a living. You’ll have to think of a funny, edgy comeback.

john65pennington's avatar

I use to write copy for commercial, nationwide products. Apparently, someone thought I had something on the ball. If you are old enough to remember Sealtest Dairy Products. I wrote most of their commericals, especially for their ice cream and checkerboard ice cream in particular.This was in the early 60s.

cookieman's avatar

Aren’t all comedians writers to some degree. Unless you’re strictly ad libbing, aren’t there jokes to be written?

anywho, I digress…

I can’t say if I’d be good at either – particularly as you describe it.

I will say this – when I was sixteen, I worked at a department store. For a while, the had me work as a cashier. I hated the monotony of the job. So, to make it fun for myself, I started ad libbing and riffing off of the customers. I apparently was pretty good at it, because my line of customers were always cracking up. I was told numerous times, “You should be a comedian”. But I never became a comedian.

Similarly, I’ve done a fair amount of writing professionally. But I’m not a “writer”.

I shot photographs for over ten years before I felt comfortable offering that service to my clients. I’m still reluctant to call myself a photographer (mostly because I’m completely self-taught).

We all possess a variety of skills that relate to a number of professions. Perhaps with enough training, passion, and dedication, we could have become a chef (‘cuz your a pretty good cook), or a psychologist (as your a good listener), etc..

Where the problem lies is when someone recognizes that they possess certain skills and therefore concludes that they too could immediately do what you do – despite not having put in the work to become that thing.

I’m a graphic designer. I get this all the time. “I’m pretty creative. I could’a done that.”

Like you, I usually keep my mouth shut, but it does bug me. The process of good design is so important to me, that the presumptuous of some folks almost offends me. I would never assume such things about another person’s profession.

But that’s me. Everyone’s different.

Keep_on_running's avatar

Unlikely, but even if I could be I wouldn’t tell people about it.

Ron_C's avatar

I think it is harder to be a great comedian than a great writer.
I also think that my writing is very good but not great so I would like to be a great comedian.
The test to prove that I have reached comedic greatness is if I can make my wife laugh. She never appreciates my humor and seldom laughs at my jokes. So if I could constantly make her laugh so hard she pees her pants, I will have achieved greatness.

wundayatta's avatar

When I was sick, a few years back, people on fluther would regularly tell me I was a good writer. But since I’ve been well, that’s stopped. Two possibilities. Either I used to be good and now I suck, or they were just telling me that to try to make me feel better.

I would love to be a great writer. I would love to have interesting ideas and express them in a compelling way that would help people see the world in an enlightened way. I think part of that is being funny. People used to tell me I had a sense of humor back when I was sick, but that, too seems to have gone the way of my old tulips.

So, yes. I would. But I don’t have it in me. I used to think I did, but I’ve realized that even if I ever had the talent, I don’t have the work ethic or whatever else it takes to be a writer or comedian. So I’m just boring me—of little account to all but a few people who love me. But I guess that’s the way it normally is, so I should at least be grateful that some people love me.

Or maybe that’s the problem. Back when no one loved me, I tried harder. Now that I feel love, what’s to try for?

Ron_C's avatar

@wundayatta I like your writing whether you are sick or healthy. GA

CWOTUS's avatar

I could be a great writer or comedian… if I weren’t so GD lazy.

janbb's avatar

I could have been a bartender.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@anartist Yes. I was a fulltime performing comedian for a number of years. While I loved performing, just about everything else to do with it sucks. I’ve been a writer my whole life.

@marinelife Here’s an example of me going off the deep end. I was at a friend’s party when someone came up to me and said: “They told me you were a comedian? Tell me a joke!” to which I responded, “They tell me you’re sexy. Blow me.” [absolutely true] {she didn’t}

@wundayatta Back when George RR Martin was just starting out, we could tell whether he was in a happy relationship or not. His best stuff was when he had just broken up with someone. That’s not true anymore but was fairly accurate some 40 years ago.

@john65pennington I do remember those! Good work!!!

@cprevite Yes, I hate when they say ‘I could have done that’ or ‘My sister’s 10 year-old uses Photoshop, maybe I should go to him’. I have an ‘idiot scale’: the dumber you are as a client, the more my rates go up. It pays to be smart. ;)

Coloma's avatar

I’m aspiring towards both right now. I already write, but love humor, comedy, irony and satire.
I have quite a stable of notes and joke topics I’ve been compiling for the last year or so. I think I write well, in the genres I am strongest in, and I have been told I’m very funny. We shall see if I get it together here and actually go for an open mic night.

I’m quick on the ad lib and improv, and think improv is one of my strongest abilities. I’m a veritable quick draw, a 5 shooter that’s always cocked and loaded, ready to fire with a hair trigger. ;-)
Infact, JUST yesterday, I received a very nice hand written comment from an editor of a magazine I made several submissions to a few months ago.
She wrote that she really liked my work although the content of the material was not something they were in need of at this time. It’s rare for editors to give personal feedback and I was very pleased. :-)

I practice my skill, which takes virtually zero effort, with my extroverted and playful personality wherever I go. I had 3 strangers and several wait people cracking up the other night at a chinese restaurant while we were all waiting on our takeout. Practice makes perfect and builds confidence. My Enneagram has me pegged as the #7 “The Enthusiast” with the 6 wing of the entertainer.

Famous comedians that share my personality style are Robin Williams, Jim Carry, Carol Burnett and Goldie Hawn. Completely right on!
The best complement I have yet received was a professional writer/critic that told me my style, like my personality, was ” formidable yet sincere.”
I can live with that! :-)

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma You do know that stand-up is a bipolar club, right? You’re going to have to come out if you want to make it.

Just saying.

Coloma's avatar

@Wundayatta Haha, well a slightly ADD, left handed blonde should blend just fine. Only difference is I don’t cycle through ups & downs, I’m pretty much always up. Is permanent mania a mental illness? ;-)
The only drawback to my desires are the fact that I have no desire to be last on the ticket at 2am somewhere. I need my beauty sleep to be at my personal best. ;-)

wundayatta's avatar

Stand up for the geriatric set. Or maybe for the bariatric set. Gives new meaning to “bust a gut!”

Blondesjon's avatar

Yes. Yes I would.

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Coloma That is wonderful! If I can be of any help, please contact me privately.

Based on who you like, let me recommend you listen to Bill Hicks if you haven’t. He was a comedy god who died wayyyy too early. I doubt you’ll ever find a more honest comedian. He was in the same lineage as Lenny Bruce/Richard Pryor/George Carlin. Also, I can’t recommend Carlin enough.

Although I used to joke that I did improv because I hated to rehearse, improv is the toughest gig in town.

Good luck!

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I know I would not be a great comedian. I do not improvise well on stage. I memorize my lines and sometimes I have to memorize other peoples lines as well when I know in advance they are going to forget them. I can then clue them in on what they are supposed to say.

I like writing poetry very much and have won one award. I have had one scholarly article published. I write a blog that is well received in its niche. I enjoy writing, but I seriously doubt I’ll ever be great at it.

Coloma's avatar

@ro_in_motion Thanks for the Bill Hicks suggestion, never heard of him. ;-)

ro_in_motion's avatar

@Coloma You’re welcome. You will never be the same. :)

anartist's avatar

@john65pennington interesting career change, from ad-man to cop. How did that come about?

BTW if you ever read Jerry Della Femina’s From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor I’d be curious if that was the ad world you saw. If you haven’t, it’s a hilarious read.

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