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Charles Darwin is my comedy coach

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin

In comedy and in life timing can’t be beat. I ran across a few famous quotations this week that just hit the right spot of reference for the life matters I was storming through. What I mean is as I was trying to figure aspects of change in both life and comedy, some meaningful wisdom came across my bow.

I’d call that good timing.

My professional dilemma (leaving out the not-so-interesting life drama) is that many a new thought (i.e. new material) I’ve heartily (not “hardly”) worked through with trusted associates (aka other comics who find me sometimes amusing). Bits that I have tried out on various audiences—with some real disappointing results—have somewhat rocked my confidence in both performing and writing.

I mean darn it all, my bits, no matter where I put ‘em, how I do ‘em, or who I do ‘em to,  are just not working in a coherent consistent manner I envisioned, that others told me they envisioned. Now I’m at the point that when I’m about to deliver the new material, I hedge a little. It’s almost like approaching the girl you barely talk to in class (but find quite fetching) and screw up your courage to ask her to the Prom.

The idea is good, the approach is rehearsed, the words are right, but suddenly there’s a little “hitch in your giddy-up.” A pause in the wrong place or a slight hesitation can be a real confidence buster.  It doesn’t matter if you’re standing in front of the girl you want to take to the big dance or the audience you want to send into gales of laughter.

My safety net of self assurance, was re-stitched to sustain my ego weight when I came across a wonderfully concise thought attributed to Charles Darwin:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Wow. Powerful. I wish all my thoughts had such clarity and conciseness. My takeaway:  My new bits do not have to be the strongest in my set to survive. All I have to do is figure how best to adapt them, (a better way of saying “make them adapt…”).

And I am adaptable!  I have options, whether it’s placement in the set or not swallowing my tongue as if I’m whispering “this is a stick-up” to a bank teller, or embarking on the dreaded full-tilt rewrite of my material. I’ll pick an option and try again.

Of course, there’s the chance that I’m completely wrong, my comedy pals are wrong and the too-few laughers in the audience are even more wrong, and that the new material just isn’t as good as I hoped during my honing process.

But for now, I’ll say a quick thanks to Darwin and second thanks to “timing.”