Earlier this month, I did six shows in one weekend. We filmed both Friday shows, which were, in my opinion, the two weakest ones of the run.
I was initially upset because I thought that had we shot any other show, my footage would have been so much better–more laughs, stronger reactions, smoother audience interaction. There was a moment I was dying to edit out, where a participant made a passive aggressive remark that I didn’t think would look good on video. And another where a participant seemed legitimately upset about being called on stage.
I thought all of that before I actually saw the video. And once I did, I realized I had severely misjudged the performance. The audience reactions were actually excellent–but from my vantage point on stage, I wasn’t able to see them. The passive aggressive remark…wasn’t passive aggressive at all. In fact, I think she really enjoyed the trick. And the person who seemed like he didn’t want to be on stage was clearly being sarcastic, and the video is actually funny.
In the moment, it seemed rough, but that moment was also a high pressure situation. I was on stage in front of 100 people, focusing on bringing the show to a successful conclusion. Our memories are fallible, and it takes another perspective–from a person or video–to remind you that your perception is very frequently wrong.
I hate the idea of the self-made man for this reason, because to improve anything, you require feedback. In fact, I’d argue that the people who are most successful–in all industries–are the best at parsing through feedback to continually make their work better. We’re simply too deluded by our own thoughts to do anything alone. Comedy is a great example of something that appears solo, but in fact is fundamentally based on being attuned to one’s audience, watching footage, and improving.
For me, all it took was a video to prove that I wasn’t thinking right–quite literally another angle on my act.
This isn’t to say that you should integrate every opinion you hear. That’s as useless as asking for no feedback at all. Artistic vision and intention must be maintained. Which is why it’s important for me to only seek feedback when a trick or act is on its feet.
I know I’m at a point where I can ask for feedback when my rehearsal starts to stagnate. Specifically, when my script has taken shape and I can pull off the tricks, it’s then time to get someone else’s opinion. Otherwise, I simply won’t know what to change.
This performance was an excellent reminder that I am wrong, all the time. It’s not bad to be wrong–it’s a vital step in the creative process that should be embraced and enjoyed.
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