Job Dreams: Comedian
Include this article in your Skills Builder Journal. It could help you develop...
As part of our Job Dreams series, we speak to professionals from different careers and share their advice with you. Last month, we learned what it's like to be a personal trainer. And this month we met Josh who told us what it’s like to be a comedian…
What do you do?
I’m a comedian. I used to be a musician.
Can you tell us what your day-to-day is like?
I tend to always be thinking about jokes - whatever the format is - whether it’s writing for a radio show, a script, a treatment, stand-up or content for my Instagram. I kind of just wake up thinking about it. Then I try and focus on a few things every day and spend a few hours developing and honing each thing. Jokes, like anything require refining - you train for a marathon,you study for a degree - so to me getting funnier and funnier is something I see as training.
What do you love most about your job?
Performing live. A laugh is involuntary. When you stand on a stage with just a microphone and you extract a laugh from someone it’s the best feeling in the world.
What do you find most challenging?
Being persistently funny. And staying focused. I have ADHD, so I tend to sit down to write and five minutes later I’m googling how many Home Alone movies there were, or something like that, for no reason whatsoever. So staying focused is always a challenge.
What did you see yourself doing when you were a kid?
I was a musician for 12 years. I was signed to Universal when I was 22, so for a long time that was my job, and it was my childhood dream. No one ever told me that comedy could be a job, it just never occurred to me. But in the back of my mind, it was there, prodding me. Making people laugh always brought me so much joy,but until I realised that I was a musician. I moved to London when I was 19, gigged loads, toured with a bunch of bands, then got signed, then made a record, then got dropped. Then I worked in a toy shop for four years. Then I started a punk band and we got lucky and toured the world for a few years, but it never really connected with an audience. In all honesty it probably wasn’t good enough. It took quite a dent in my pride to quit my childhood dream and start pursuing comedy as a career, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
What challenges did you face in reaching where you are today?
Touring really took its toll on my body and it’s very mentally and physically tiring. But I see those challenges as strengthening. I’m road-hardened, I’ve spent years touring in dirty vans, playing in toilet venues, and sharing dressing rooms with smelly punks. And being dropped by record labels and managers etc. All of it has made me stronger. I think people see failure as, well, failure. but it’s not. It’s the first step to success. No one is good straight away. Micheal Jackson’s first three albums suck! My race has also always been tough when on the road - there’s a lot of racism out there. But I see all of it as character building, and ultimately now I feel a lot stronger because of those challenges.
If you weren’t working in this field, what do you think you’d be?
Trying to make Jurassic Park real.
Where do you see yourself going next?
More comedy. More writing. More stand-up. Hopefully my own specials and films in the future.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first left school?
I don’t know if I’d say anything. It took a lot of failing to get me on the right track, but all of it was for the best.
What advice would you give to someone interested in joining your industry?
Gig. Gig a lot. Gig all the time. Be nice to people and be good. It’s not about followers, it’s not about appearing established, it’s about being good. And don’t be a t**t to people!
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given?
Neal Brennan (creator of the Chappelle Show) told me ‘the only thing separating the best of all time from all the rest is that they wrote their asses off’. Also Amy Winehouse called me a t**t not once, but twice. It wasn’t advice, but it still makes me laugh.
What quote do you live by?
‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’ - Steve Martin
‘If you’re too big for the small things, you’ll be too small for the big things’
‘Keep your head on the prize, not on the competition’