All The Wisdom I Can Assemble: Here’s what I learned from being in a sketch comedy group. PT2

Photo by Lauren Hill

Photo by Lauren Hill

By Mac Blake

GROUP DYNAMICS OR HOW TO NOT KILL EACH OTHER

5. BE A FAN OF FEEDBACK

If you don’t want to hear other people’s opinions of your work, then you probably shouldn’t be in a group. Feedback, critique, notes are all necessary steps of creative process. You don’t always have to incorporate the notes, but you’d be dumb not to listen to them.

STAG never worked with a director and we probably should have. We did occasionally invite a trusted observer to our rehearsals. Worse case scenario: if we didn’t find their notes useful, we’d ignore them. But every time, their notes made the work better. Don’t take notes personally. “Get better, not bitter.” If you don’t feel like your group is open to notes, talk it over with them. If they’re still not into it, leave the group.

By the way, the most common notes we got were “cut the not-as-funny parts, and leave the super funny parts” and “shorten it.”

6. PICK YOUR BATTLES

This is the flipside to feedback and something I was slow to learn: it is possible to over-note somebody. Pretty easy to do in fact. Know when to back off.  You’re bound to have disagreements and moments where your tastes diverge, but you have to leave room for collaboration and artistic choice. If you gave someone a note, they considered it but went another way that is their right as an creative person, so shut-up, Mac!

When we shot this, I really didn’t get why we had to do it all in one take. It seemed needlessly difficult and I bugged David Jara (who wrote the sketch and played Clem) about it for 30 minutes. Well, it turned out great. The uninterrupted take added to the madness of the piece and I wish I would have just shut my big mouth and trusted my friend.

7. DO YOUR PART

There can be a lot of not-comedy work to doing comedy. Divide this up as best you can, especially show promotion.

Marketing sucks, but help out, huh? I didn't get into comedy to do marketing, but here I am entering my events into calendar sites, scheduling social media posts, etc. But, don’t make one person hang up all the show posters, okay?

Side bar: if all you’re doing is posting on your Facebook again and again, you’re not reaching new people. (The worst is when comedians post about their shows in comedian-only Facebook groups. Beggars…. begging from beggars!)

See how non-comedy events market themselves and copy that. Where do people in your town find lists of things to do? Make sure your event is in all those places.

8. RESPOND TO THE FUCKING EMAILS

Coordinating the schedules between everyone in a group can be very annoying. Try to make it easier by actually responding to emails and keeping the channels of communication open.

This is the golden rule of projects: if someone suggest a meeting time and/or place, and it doesn’t work for you, suggest a new time/place. Every time someone has to send a separate email just to ask “okay, when can you make it?” a kitten gets tossed into a blender.

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Mac Blake comes from the bearded streets of Austin, Texas. where he hosts the monthly comedy showcase Waterbed, and performs with the improv group Movie Riot most Fridays at ColdTowne Theater. Mac served on the Austin Sketch Fest producer team from 2012 - 2016.