Standup comics are always getting advice from people who attend shows. It isn’t just at comedy clubs where this happens, either. Andrew Norelli, who plays both clubs and corporate gigs, get this a lot — especially at the latter.
“It's still interesting to me,” Norelli says. “You get a lot of people saying, ‘Oh, I heard this joke’ or ‘This happened to me.’ And then they say, ‘You can use that.’ They don’t realize that if it’s a joke they didn’t write, you can’t use it. If it’s a joke they did write or thought of, you wouldn’t want to use it, because you want to write your own jokes. That’s part of being a comedian.”
At corporate gigs, comedians often get advice before they even take the stage.
“What happens at a lot of corporate gigs is they’ll say something like, ‘You should go after Frank and make fun of the fact that he’s got diabetes,'" he explains. "And in your head you're like, ‘No way! That’s the worst advice I’ve ever heard. I will absolutely not make fun of Frank and his diabetes, that will ruin my show.’”
While today’s comedy audiences are quite savvy, Norelli feels some may be laboring under a few misunderstandings about the craft.
“They think people like Jon Stewart and Carson Daly write an hour’s worth of content per show, per night, which would be physically impossible," he says. "You couldn’t do enough meth to give you the amount of stamina to be able to write an entire late night talk show every night.”
Norelli reckons the hosts suggest ideas, but are far too busy with other aspects of their show to contribute actual jokes. “People forget how labor-intensive writing jokes is, that’s my point.”
“Writing is one of those thankless parts of lots of careers, where the writers or the writing aspect doesn’t get enough credit," he continues. "It happens in music all the time.” Songwriters often get overlooked. “They create these brilliant pieces of music that are executed by someone who is either better looking or a better dancer or had a better voice.”
Songwriters occasionally have it a little easier at least in terms of creating the work, though. “It’s sometimes a collaborative effort, where as joke writing is often a solo affair, so it makes it even harder. You’re doing it completely alone.”
Writing jokes also involves making tough decisions. “Is this new joke I just tried worth investing weeks and possibly months to finish?” It’s a dilemma Norelli faces often. “You’re constantly making that decision. It’s so much time and work investment, and you could be using that time to write a different joke that’s going to be much better in the end.”
IF YOU GO:
Rick Bronson's House of Comedy
408 East Broadway, Bloomington, Mall of America; 952-858-8558
18+; 21+ later shows
$13-$22; $26-$46 New Year's Eve (buffet option available)
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Friday; 7 and 10 p.m. Thursday; 9:45 p.m. Friday; 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday