I was skimming through the Kvetch Boards (the forums of The Comedy Studio in Cambridge, MA) and I read a very thoughtful thread by Shawn Donovan about comedy contests and festivals. Here’s a quote from comedian Ira Proctor, a regular at the club that I work. I think he makes a great point.
“Comedy contests are fine if you go in with the right attitude. Obtaining the right attitude is the hard part. There is going to be some disappointment/anger when you represent yourself well and don’t advance (you should take pride in what you do, and shouldn’t be happy with a “loss”) But the facts are that after a loss in a contest you are in the exact same position as before you did it, and you must keep reminding yourself that going in. I think it’s very rare someone loses work by eating it in a contest. So, other than shame, there is no risk of anything bad coming from doing a contest… but the up side can be be high. The fact that people that don’t deserve to advance do, has nothing to do with you. You must learn to forget that noise and just do your best, then remember the world didn’t end and you’ll wake up in the same bed tomorrow as you today, losing, for whatever reason, changes nothing for the worse… but winning, or even just doing well could change things very much for the better.
Yes the judges suck, the industry is loaded with morons, but the only way to avoid being let down by comedy is to not do it. This town is loaded with guys that took no chances and avoided anything that might make them look bad or let down them down… lots of those same comics don’t seem very happy. You lose your chance for anything amazing happening when you get too jaded to throw your hat in the ring. The whole biz is unfair, but it doesn’t have to be fair, no one promised it would make sense or be handled by people we respect and who always make great decisions. Once you embrace that, and let go of the fear/anger of looking stupid because someone else thinks it matters that you didn’t advance, or because the judges get it wrong, there is nothing bad that can happen in a contest. I admit it took me all of ten plus years to get to that point, but that’s just it, if you keep at it you can get to a really cool place with how you approach comedy/contests/auditions/life.”