It’s 28 pages. color print. english. 14,8 x 21cm.12 Euro including shipping. It’s full of fun, jokes, stories, comics and other pool related stuff. I even drew my own advertisement in it and you can check out two personality tests.
I also made this video to show the work in progress.
What is the future of stand-up comedy? Is it zoom shows? Is it live shows and 2m in between every audience member? Or is it this: Joke2Go?
Last week, I put a stage outside our comedy club Mad Monkey Room at Helmholtzkiez, Prenzlauer Berg Berlin. I told unsolicited jokes to people passing by. It was pure joy.
The neighbors could choose from my joke menu. Heckling was also an option, which one woman made use of. She said „I don’t have time to hear a joke“ so I went, well just pretend you just heard one and didn’t like it and yell booo. She did and it was the loveliest heckle I ever had. It was a fun and easygoing way to do publicity for the comedyclub, get some stand-up spirit back and have heartfelt, real human contact.
But. As a Hobby-Germanologist it is striking how the German speaking pedestrians are the most reluctant to receive free comedy. „It’s free, it’s fun, it’s artsy. She’s not gonna get us with her fun. Lets walk by fast, cuz evil lurks everywhere“ is the vibe I got from some people.
My past performances all happened at festivals. People already had a „festival mind“ and were prepared for fun things to happen. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a festival mind always? Then again, I know I am too negative myself. I was walking home in the warm sun and felt light drops on me. Probably someone watering their balcony plants. Yet my FIRST thought was OMG someone is spraying me with ACID. When is live comedy coming back so I can say that onstage?
I illustrated the year in review, or as we say it in German: Jahresrückblick. Do you recognize yourself in any of them? I wished I was all of them but I have a chance next year. Last year’s failed Jahresrückblick becomes next year’s resolution. Have a good one everybody!
It’s almost funny: Comedians write comedy but all they read is hate. Though it’s a problem theoretically easy to solve: Don’t write hate comments. Don’t read hate comments. But the problem with online hate for comedians lies deeper, beyond the comedian’s ego.
This week, I performed at a comedy show that is streamed online on youtube. From previous experiences the comments are brutal, so I’ve heard. Especially, and this shouldn’t be a surprise, for female comedians. But: more comments, more clicks. Right before I went onstage, one colleague read to me out loud the mean comments people wrote during his performance just minutes before. I wondered why he did that.
Because I don’t care if someone presses thumbs down on my videos. I don’t care if some dude leaves an expert comment like „unfunny cunt“. If you don’t like me, you’re probably not my target audience. Case closed. For me.
What I do care about is that hate online propagates hate in real life. It radicalizes, moves boundaries of what’s considered acceptable, away from empathy to apathy. Simply put, words matter. They change how we think and thoughts change how we behave.
People who write hate comments live among us like normal people. They don’t wear an asshole badge on their forehead. We sit on the same bus, work together, we might have matched on Tinder. Somewhere some guy, who insults me online, might go on a date. If she’s lucky, he shows his hate as bluntly as online. Worst case, he slowly dribbles his misogyny on a women, who might not have a hard-boiled fuck off attitude like me. I cannot protect these women and that makes me sick. My only hope: if you meet someone who lets your asshole radar ping: run, block, repeat! You’re better off alone.
Comedians often say they’re dead inside. In fact, I still feel something: pity – for those who tragically think their poisonous opinion online matters. Who waste their time hating instead of looking for something they love. Or have you ever seen jazz enthusiasts heckle a rap concert? I want to hug them, give them the attention they so badly need. Face to face. I want to show them love, listen to them, talk to them about what they find funny. What scares them, what do they feel threatened by? I want to look them into their eyes while we talk about hate. Marina Abramovic style. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for all of them.
So I can only say: Do not indulge in hate, but dare to show love.
Should I take this job*? A common question among creatives. Whether it’s an internship, a long-term project or a one-night gig, here’s my advice if you need help to decide.
A creative job can have three key factors: fun, experience, money. Your job should at least have two factors. Three is perfect, one is not enough.
If you take a job, that is fun and gets you money, boom, you’re a lucky one. Do it! But after a while of enjoyment and spending that cash, can you find a task you can even learn from, devote yourself, generate something productive and gain in depth experience?
Blessed are those, whose job gives them experience (or exposure) and money. Congratulations, in a world of eternal interns, you are being paid to learn! Take that money and experience, hang in there, and eventually run to a job that will also bring you joy.
I used to be a dj. From the start it was fun, instructive and lucrative. Eventually, I was booked so much, that I didn’t learn anything more, which was fine. It was a professional comfort, I worked hard for. At some point I djed so much, I lost the initial spark of joy. So I stopped djing and looked for another task. Saying no to a job you don’t like anymore is deliberating.
If you get a job, that is fun and instructional, great. Just keep an eye on that bank account while you gather your experience cuz you can’t buy a sandwich with just that. And once you got enough expertise let people pay you for your skill. Do not underprize yourself once you are at a certain level. Do not support companies that make you work like a dog and pay you like a puppy intern. If you don’t know what to charge, the internet delivers lots of comparable wage charts.
It’s a running joke in Germany that Berlin Comedians don’t make money. We do have many unpaid shows. But we also have the most innovative comedy scene in Germany. And that’s interrelated. By having so many for-free-shows a creative potential could develop – a petri dish independent from money interests. We’ll start charging soon so come watch us now while we’re still affordable ha!
I get it, sometimes you just gotta pay a bill. And there’s nothing wrong with taking a money job, set fun and experience aside and save up for the future. In general, there is nothing wrong with just choosing one of the key factors – for a while. But getting no money for your art ever is not idealism, it’s exploitation. Loosing yourself in not having fun results in misery. And not getting experience becomes chronic boredom. Those are the three negative factors on the other side of that job coin, the opportunity costs of your creative lifetime. Remember why your are creative in the first place and what you initially wanted to achieve. Then do just that.
Do you have any comments on that? Is this helpful or common sense duh?
*(This is strictly for creative freelancers and artists, who sometimes have a hard time deciding what job to take. Of course, this is no in depth economic analysis, just common sense: often it’s the clarity and simplicity of a problem that helps us decide. We struggle, but we’re also in a privileged position being able to apply our talents. I know there are many hard working people out there, who face different job difficulties. I know there are many people, who would have wanted a creative career but didn’t have parents to support that tenth unpaid internship. So this really is just for creative freelancers and if it helps you as well, that makes me happy. Let me know, if you agree or disagree or if you have another advice to share.)
How to deal with artistic rejection is the topic of my newest comedy bit since my favorite comedy is rooted in truth and sadness. In my bit I exaggerate and make fun of rejection, whereas in real life it is sometimes hard to do just that. As long as you make art, you will be rejected. The only way for no one to hate you is to leave the paper blank. How can you keep on making art with all the scars rejection has given you? I made these guidelines and posted them on my instagram stories some weeks ago. I got lots of feedback for it so I’m posting them on here too. They’re a hybrid of personal insights, all those self-help books I once read and good conversations with artist friends. Thanks for that.
Don’t let it break you. Keep on doing what you love! Remember why you’re creative in the first place. Don’t stop.
Don’t change your art for people that don’t matter. Let’s say a certain institution rejects you. Ask yourself, why do you want them to accept you so badly? Do you really fit in there? Would you have to change the core of your work for them to like you? That’s the artsy equivalent to angsty teenagers doing shit to be friends with shitty people. Don’t do that. Find a way to get appraisal from the right institutions.
Rejection means: people see you and your work. Just keep it up until the right people see it. Seek people that like you and not just tolerate you.
Keep praise from friends and fanmail in a feel good folder. Go through it when you think everyone hates you. Because that is never true!
Not everyone will love your art. And that’s good. If you really want to appeal to everyone, you’ll eventually water down your art and it will be printed on cheap postcards at tourist shops. The more specific your art the more specific is your target audience. Finding that is hard, as I can tell you gladly with my three fans.
Feel the pain somatically. Can you turn it into creative energy? Like make a sculpture with a buzz saw, draw a watercolor with tears and mascara, go on a gun rampage with a paintball gun, write a funny diss track? What do you feel? Anger? Anger can paint great paintings, write deep jokes and beautiful songs. I don’t glorify pain, but often today’s tears become tomorrow’s soil.
Remember your work is not you. This is especially hard to acknowledge as a stand-up comedian. When the audience hates you, they hate your essence. Still, I try to separate Ingrid from stage Ingrid, an even more brazen, ballsy, callous version of me. Keeps me sane.
Many others get rejected, too. You’re not the only one experiencing it. Don’t feel special, ha! Read biographies of famous artists. Which hardship they went through to follow their dreams. (I don’t know if this is just the urban legend of Arles, but apparently, Van Gogh has never sold one paining in his lifetime). By sharing your own story you can connect with others, who feel the same. Just don’t get dragged into an unproductive, downward spiral of lamentation and self-pity. Lament and then get back to work. These jokes don’t write themselves.
Spoil you inner child. Remember what makes you happy. Now do that! That chocolate cake, a warm bath, a visit to the circus? Do it!
Can you learn anything from it? Maybe there was some tiny truth in that rejection mail from that art school afterall? Maybe there is something I can actually do better? We can often improve either our art or our attitude, after we wiped away those tears.
Now, focus on your next steps, what’s ahead, the future, new goals, good people that matter!
None of the above tips work for you? Well, there is one last, tiny truth, that hurts the most about rejection:
People do not get hired based on quality. Booking is arbitrary. No matter how much in control you are about your work, at some point you run into industry walls. It is merely up to you and your personal capacity to endure pain: you either jump over that wall, turn your back at it or smash your head against it.
Steve Martin’s famous quote „be so good they can’t ignore you“ is a myth. If you are that good, you will not need them anymore.
Institutions reject good artists. That’s a common industry practice, so their own prima donnas won’t get scratched. If a music label builds up the next star, they buy up all similar artists to eliminate competition. German has a beautiful word for this: Karteileiche („card file corpse“ – a sleeping member, no one intends to wake up). Besides that, institutions send out harsh rejections to keep up a climate of fear to hold on to a respect and artistic relevance they have lost long ago.
So here’s my last advice: Surround yourself with good people to stay sane. Develop and take care of meaningful friendships. Painter Rose Wylie says „unsuccessfulness gives you freedom.“ Stay independent. Find a source of happiness outside of your art. Be good to yourself. <3
I’m always on the look out for funny and wise books about comedy and art. And sharing books is sharing love. So here are some picks, that I read this or last year:
Bridget Christie. A Book For Her. 2016.
Funny and wise words about being a woman in comedy and how to talk about topics that matter. Thanks Martin Niemeyer for recommending!
Stewart Lee. How I Escaped My Certain Fate –
The Life and Deaths of a Stand-up Comedian. 2011.
The best book about stand-up as a craft and artistic integrity. I underlined stuff on every single page as if I prepared for the stand-up college finals. I also love the way he disses himself in the footnotes.
Julia Cameron. The Artist‘s Way. 1992.
All time classic and the only self-help book I am willing to read. Healing steps for artistic creative recovery. I don’t know anyone who disliked it. (Who the hell borrowed this from me, though?)
Kit White. 101 Things to Learn in Art School. 2011.
The quick art rules in this little book can be applied 1:1 to stand-up. The short rules have the perfect length for my limited attention span. And, as a multiple art school reject, it gave me some piece of mind.
Austin Kleon. Show Your Work. 2014.
If you, like me, distrust social media and yet want to use it wisely as an artist. He also has a good blog for creatives: austinkleon.com
Scott McCloud. Understanding Comics – The Invisible Art. 1994.
For anyone interested in storytelling and visual art. Enchanting edutainment.
Dying Laughing. 2016.
No book, but a movie and must-see for comedians and congeners. I think I cried.
Charms Halpern, Del Close, Kim H. Johnson. Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation. 1994.
In this short manual improv pioneers examine the core of humor: truth. (Sorry Regina that I „borrowed“ it so long and tried to sneak it in your shelf as if I never had it.)
Ton Kurstjens. The Clown, from Heart to Heart. 2011.
Recommended by my clown teacher Ulrike Henseler. It includes games to find your inner clown and truly connect with people, heart to heart. I know some stand-ups who hate and want nothing to do with the concept of clowning. But finding your inner clown is core to finding your voice on stage and this book can help.
Brigitte Peter et al. Das Sprachbastelbuch. 1975.
Working in comedy means to connect to your inner child and use words. This brilliant Austrian language book for kids contains creative games for both. Inklusive Schimpfwort-ABC! Thank you again Regina!
On my current reading list are „The Subtle Art of how to not Give a F*ck (Manson)“, „Über das Geistige in der Kunst (Kandinsky)“ and „Bicycle Diaries (Byrne)“.
I’m always happy for new recommendations for wise and funny non-fiction!