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Beware the tricks of the trade
Learn the trade before you learn the tricks of the trade.
I started doing stand-up comedy in 2004. This was at a time when online content wasn’t anywhere as big as it is now. As a new comic in London, you got a 5-minute slot. Then you moved to a 7, a 10, and finally to a 20-minute slot. You got paid when you started doing 20s.
This could take anywhere from 2-5 years and just because one club started giving you 20s, that didn’t mean another would. You’d have to earn your stripes individually with each promoter. Word of your talent got around through word-of-mouth and it would be a few years before you established your reputation as a credible act.
Nowadays a new comic can have a very polished 5-minute set, which they upload online, get millions of views, and become instantly famous. This puts the comic in a position to sell out large theatres and pull hundreds of people in for a show.
The challenge however is that a polished 5-minute set does not teach you how to engage and entertain an audience for an hour or more. In fact, a 60-minute show is also very different from putting twelve 5-minute sets together. The flow, pacing, energy, delivery, and more, are all very different.
The takeaway really is that it’s important to learn the trade before you learn the tricks of the trade. Sure, the tricks will help. But they don’t compensate for not knowing the trade.
Eventually, you’ll get caught out, your reputation and brand will take a hit, and it might be a while before your audiences or customers give you an opportunity or their trust again. So focus on building a strong foundation of the basics, just like you would do when learning a dance form, and once you’ve got that in place, then show off your styling!
What are the shortcuts or ‘tricks’ in your profession?
How have you seen them applied and what has been the result?
What tricks have you seen that work quite well?
And when have you seen someone try and pull something off and find themselves completely out of their depth?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
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