Scientists & Lab Rats

Scientists & Lab Rats

Good comedians are scientists. Bad comedians are lab rats. 

The scientists engage in a process of hypothesis, experimentation and refinement to achieve their goals. 

The lab rats are often the subjects of the experiment, not the conductors. Handing authority over to the audience, assigning them the role of the scientist. 

Instead of actively refining their craft based on audience feedback, they find themselves repeating the same mistakes without understanding how to improve. 

But the one key different between a comedy stage and a laboratory is that the lab rats can become scientists through introspection and a willingness to learn from their environment. 

Quick sidebar: Don't get lost in the analogy. You could nitpick and say the difference is good scientists and bad scientists but the assertion here is that bad comedy doesn't engage in the process but shifts the power to the environment where they are simply running on cues and not discovery. 

Comedy comes down to who's in control. 

From Lab Rat to Scientist, the Process: 

  • Experiment: View each performance as an experiment, not just a chance to perform but to learn.Try new material regularly, noting what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t.
  • Collect Data: Pay close attention to audience reactions. Laughter, silence, and engagement levels are your data points. Record your performances. Watching yourself can reveal patterns you might miss in the moment.
  • Analyze Feedback: Seek constructive criticism from peers, mentors, and even audience members when appropriate. Use social media and online platforms to gauge reactions to your material from a wider audience.
  • Hypothesize: Based on feedback, develop theories on why certain jokes work or fail. Consider the context of your material—timing, cultural relevance, audience demographics.
  • Iterate: Refine your act based on your hypotheses and the data collected. Don’t be afraid to cut or significantly alter jokes that consistently fail to land.
  • Study: Analyze the work of successful comedians. Note how they structure their material, handle audience interactions, and evolve their style. Understand the history of comedy and its various styles to better find your voice. See what resonates.
  • Understand Your Audience: Tailor your material to your audience while staying true to your voice. A scientist knows their research field; a comedian must know their audience. Be adaptable. Read the room and be prepared to change course if your material isn’t landing.
  • Practice Discipline: Dedicate time to writing, rehearsing, and performing. Mastery requires consistent effort. Approach comedy with curiosity and a willingness to learn from every performance.
  • Innovate: Don’t be afraid to try completely new approaches or styles. Innovation is key to finding your niche and most importantly, defining your voice. A good thing to keep in mind — groundbreaking scientists didn’t follow the crowd; they explored uncharted territories.
  • Maintain Resilience: Accept that failure is part of the process. Each "failed experiment" is a step towards the success you're looking for. Keep a positive, growth-oriented mindset. Comedy is a journey of discovery.

You have two options: 

  1. Become the Scientist 
  2. Stay the Lab Rat 

Everything else is science. 

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