Action is a powerful word in Hollywood. We’ve all heard directors shout it and it means “Let’s get things started.” Sooner or later, every goal of every sort requires some sort of action. You must get things started. I use a silly anecdote to show how essential this is:
As a youngster, probably under 10, I lived in a row home. I dreamed of becoming a famous singer. Actually, I dreamed of any career in show business, but singing seemed the most reasonable. I would sit on my step alone and sing to myself. However, I was so timid that if you stood maybe 5 or 6 steps away from me, you couldn’t hear me at all. Nevertheless, I fantasized that some record producer, would walk down my street, hear my vocalizing, stop in his tracks and offer me a lucrative career as a recording artist. Strangely enough, that never happened. I have no idea why not.
Obviously, my dreams were silly. Especially so because I expected them to self-generate. Other than sitting on my step mumbling, I took no action. I did nothing to entice record promoters to walk down my street. I took no lessons to teach myself how to sing. I sent out no letters or promotional material to inform people that I would be performing in front of my house at such-and-such a time on such-and-such a day. I merely sat there and mumbled tunes to myself.
It’s a cute little tale about a naïve young lad. However, it does contain a solid lesson for anyone who is interested in show business—it requires action, action, action. Just like the typical director with the megaphone, we must holler into own mind, “Action!” Let’s get things started.
This was one of the original goals when we began ROUND TABLE in 1981. Our staff wanted to educate aspiring writers and performers, and to inspire them to begin and to progress in whatever field of comedy they were interested in. From the very beginning we’ve emphasized action. We still do today with programs such as the following:
Reading about your craft is an excellent way to learn how to take action to practice that profession. It helps to learn what is expected, what to do, when to do it. It helps also to read about those who mastered the craft. You learn the steps they took to further their careers.
Reading is not only beneficial for the aspiring writer or performing, but for the more experienced as well. You notice in lawyers’ offices and doctor’s offices there are always shelves and shelves of books. There’s always something to learn.
With exercises, one learns by doing. A person can read all they want about making a golf swing. They can know all there is to know about the “takeaway,” the “downswing,” the “approach angle,” the “follow-through” and whatever other fine points there are that contribute to a correct swing. Nevertheless, they won’t become golfers until they take this knowledge out to the driving range or the course and learn by doing.
I heard one comedy coach say that exercises were a waste of time. The only thing that counted was when the comic was on the stage. One wonders then why ballplayers take batting practice and fielding practice. Why catchers work on drills to help them block errant pitches. Why field goal kickers practice booting the ball through the uprights. Why don’t they all just wait until the game begins before using those skills? The reason is that it’s what you do during practice that determines how well you do once the game begins.
Exercises are also valuable experience. You can get better and better at your craft even if you’re not currently employed.
ROUND TABLE has invited subscribers to submit gags to our joke page at www.jokecrafters.com. This affords the writer an opportunity to learn what it’s like to submit material for publication. Not everything that’s submitted is accepted, but that, in itself, is an education. A writer should be able to read what is printed and learn what the editors expect.
We pay a small fee for each gag accepted and published. As my agent used to say, “It won’t make it possible for you to buy the house next door,” but it is earning money from your writing.
Another benefit of being published in HUMOR FILES is the exposure you receive. It’s impressive if one name keeps popping up in several editions. Exposure to the marketplace is a large part of progressing in the comedy writing business. People buy credentials. The more you can show, the more valuable you are to the buyers.
ROUND TABLE periodically holds contests for writers and performers. There are cash prizes, so it’s a chance to make a chunk of change. It’s also an indication of how well you fare against other writers. Not everyone wins, of course, but there are generally at least three winning slots along with several honorable mentions. Again, this can add to your joke-writing credentials.
Right now, ROUND TABLE is featuring a contest that, along with the cash prizes, offers a tempting reward to the winner. It is a guaranteed spot on the bill in Wendy Liebman’s “Locally Grown Comedy.” Details available at www.comedywritersroom.com. Each month Wendy presents a show at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s that features many of the well-known comics from around the nation. A spot on that show is a learning experience, a powerful showcase, and another credential to add to your resume.
However, again, you can’t be the prize winner unless you enter the contest. You won’t win the top spot by sitting on the step (like I did as a youngster) and mumble your funny routines to yourself.
We would like to see fierce competition in this and in all of our contests. We enjoy reading and hearing your material, and are enormously proud of our winners, and in fact, proud of all of the participants.
We urge you to take part in all of our “take action” schemes.
Gene’s New Book: How To Do What You Want To Do If Want You Want To Do Ain’t What You’re Doing
If you are thinking about changing careers, this is the book for you. In these pages, Gene provides a “practical guide to beginning a new career” that he used to go from electrical engineer to comedy writer to producer to speaker to author.
Master Course in
A 12-week email class that covers the basics of comedy writing. Features lessons and feedback.
Master Course in
A 9-step program that takes the writer through the process of developing a monologue. You will work on a topic of your own choosing.