I’m not a professional performer or artist. I’m not even sure if that’s what I want to be. I mostly just dabble—primarily in the medium of standup comedy. I am not headlining national tours, I have no agent or management, I don’t have a pilot that got picked up or really any extra money to show for my efforts. You’ve definitely never heard of me. In other words, I’m probably not the most qualified person to be giving advice to other performers on how to be successful… but that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Over the last three-and-a-half years of doing comedy in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the standup scene here has grown from a once-a-week open mic that drew sparse crowds of largely indifferent people - I will never forget no matter how hard I try the many brutal nights early on where getting laughs was more of a dream than a reality - to something that now every week brings excited crowds of between 70-100 (or more!) to local venue The Plus for both Tuesday night open mics and also for a newer Thursday night show. Also just this month we put on a free event called “The Standup Getdown” that featured local performers in music and comedy that drew upwards of 350 people, and this past week we had nationally-renowned comic Sean Patton headline a sold-out one-nighter. The growth has been exponential and dramatic.
I’m beyond proud of what we have built here in EC around standup—everythingthat’s happened has been accomplished independently with a DIY approach and tireless work ethic—but I don’t list off these things just to brag about it. I know this could all fizzle out, and that in the grand scheme of show business as a whole we aren’t anything.
Yet here we are, a small group of people who have managed to build something out of nothing. We’re forging a support structure and a fan base, we’re meeting and networking with all kinds of amazing comics from Minneapolis and elsewhere, and we’re looking at booking more national headliners. We’ve gotten to share our thoughts, our jokes, our stories, our art, with hundreds of people—maybe even thousands! We are learning and growing as performers. Sure, we haven’t exactly achieved the kind of success that inspires movie biopics and tell-all books, but everything has to start somewhere—and this is our beginning!
Here’s the thing, though: none of this would’ve happened if we as a small group of amateur standups had been more competitive than close-knit. There's no EC standup scene, no Thursday night show or Standup Getdown, no national headliners coming to town, if we hadn’t worked together and became a group instead of just disparate individuals who all just happened to do standup in the same city. Whatever success and opportunities we now have are all thanks to our unified front and genuine affection for one another.
I truly think that all of this would’ve been nullified if we had gone about it any differently; if we had been focused more on individual successes and feeding our egos, I just don’t see how any of the good things I listed above happen for us.
So here it is, my only real advice for anyone trying to be a performer or artist (or anything, really) is this: friendship gets you farther.
Yeah, I know that sounds like a slogan that would appear on one of those motivational posters hanging up in some antiseptic office somewhere, but I believe in those four words with all my heart. Maybe that sounds naïve—maybe it is naïve—but it’s the way I and the rest of the Clear Water Comedy team plan to conduct ourselves for however long we continue being involved with comedy. We will always endeavor to treat one another well, to treat the outside comics we work with well, to treat our audience and supporters well. So far it’s worked for us, and it’s worked for me. And whatever develops for any of us career-wise we will always have a reservoir of great memories and lasting friendships, and that’s more important than fame and fortune anyways, right?
Yeah, ok, so maybe I don’t fully buy that last sentence—I mean, I totally wanna drink really expensive scotch on a yacht with Judd Apatow and shit—but hey! At least if none of that happens I won’t be a lonely, embittered monster.
Friendship gets you farther. Seriously, think about it. I think it holds up. I think it’s a good way to live. I think it’s the best path. Find people to love, build each other up, be there for one another, and work together to make cool things happen.
And hey, if you don’t want to take the word of some no-name from the middle of Wisconsin, maybe the words of Conan O’Brien will hold more sway? I’ll close this pile of starry-eyed nonsense with the words he shared on his last night as host of The Tonight Show:
“…please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism, for the record, it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
by Jordan James Duroe
Need a laugh? We here at Life As A Dagger would strongly encourage anyone in the great Eau Claire area to take advantage of the laughter and good times made available weekly by local comedians like Jordan. You can swing down to The Plus on Barstow Street in downtown Eau Claire every Thursday night. The good times get rolling at 9:00 PM. Think you're funny? Reach out to the great people at Clear Water Comedy and see if you've got what it takes to make us laugh.