By Nancy Goldman, Ed.D.
Comedy means different things to different people. To me, it is an art and a craft, a business and a career. I am among those who believe that because something is comical does not mean that it’s trivial. Making people laugh is important work and I take it very seriously. Although, I don’t do it myself. I wish I could. Instead, I do what I can… that is, I support laugh makers by providing them with career advice, encouragement, connections to like-minded others, information and, every once in a while, a motivational kick in the pants.
For this, my first entry, I thought it wise to start at a beginning: setting goals. So I interviewed three very different comedians to learn how they go about creating and realizing their intentions.
Like most people, comedians often go about setting goals by having a long-term vision for where they want to be, or what they want to achieve. For some, this is actually a picture in their heads that they can see. Jeff Lawrence is one such comic. Jeff envisions having a community center where comics go to work on their craft and network. “So many comics come from out of town and they don’t know where to start.” Jeff intends to provide a single hub where they can take classes, perform, and meet fellow comics to share resources. His vision is so specific that he can see where the door will be situated and where the flat screen television will be placed.
Having a big aspiration gets Jeff out of bed every morning, but it might feel daunting to others. That’s why some comedians break their vision down into smaller chunks, which make more readily attainable targets. According to timethoughts.com, “Dreams can be big and seem unrealistic at first glance…Dreams are your ultimate destination, while goals are the intermediate stops along the way. Dreams represent what you want and why, while goals represent your plan to get you there.”
Gabe Pacheco is a comedian who approaches goal-setting this way, “I create goals that are manageable, bite-sized and make me do something new. My goal is never to just continue doing what I’m doing – then I’d feel like I was in a rut.” For example, one of Gabe’s goals is to start a comedy school for children. He accomplished that this year by creating a curriculum, starting a class and graduating his first group of students, Gabe said, “Checking my goals off of my list is how I measure success.”
However, Gabe is wary about attaching too much importance to end results. Instead he focuses on that which he can control. Gabe cautioned, “My goals are based on what I can do, like make a tape, get a new headshot, submit to casting directors. I have to let go of the outcome.”
Tim Washer, a comedian who performs at corporate events, has had to strike a fine balance between taking control of his career and also relinquishing it. Some of the biggest breakthroughs he had were unplanned. He advises, “Head in a direction but don’t be so committed to that direction that you don’t allow opportunities to come up.”
In most businesses uncertainty is a beast to be tamed. But comedy is a creative process where uncertainty is the norm and can even be the source for inspiration. As Tim said, “Part of the creative process is discovering new things along the way.” Depending on your outlook, this can make setting goals more challenging or more enjoyable. For these three comedians, it’s the latter. As Lawrence said, “I don’t fear uncertainty. Most comics are desperate and they don’t enjoy it. I’ve been an entertainer for 25 years so I know there are ups and downs. I know the fun is in the journey.”
Nancy loves coaching entertainment industry professionals to help them develop the skills they need to build the careers they desire. Former VP of Development at Montel Williams’ production company, she is currently the Job Developer at The “Made in New York” Production Assistant Training Program, where she trains eager New Yorkers how to thrive in the film and television industry. Nancy is a professionally trained coach and has a Doctorate Degree in Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Her dissertation examined how comedians learn to use humor to raise awareness and consciousness of social and political issues. (www.nancygoldman.com)