People talk all the time about how difficult being an opera singer is. It is. It is difficult, but everytime I watch a stand-up routine, especially by one of the greats like George Carlin, Bill Burr, or Jerry Seinfeld, I am blown away.
It is easy to not recognize the skill and craft you are seeing onstage during a good set because you are lost in enjoyment and laughter. But behind their seemingly improvised rants are hundreds of hours of planning, writing, testing, bombing, re-writing, re-bombing, re-writing, and perfecting. All for that reaction and crowd involvement. That is the point. That is what they go after all the time. Audience engagement. If an audience is not engaged and laughing, it is not working.
The OTHER thing, and this is the most daunting and mind-blowing, is that comedy seems to either work, or NOT work. It is a Binary system. Yes or no. On or off. It worked or it didn’t work. It is either funny, or not. I have been to PLENTY of operas where it worked, but wasn’t great. Where the singing, sets, costumes, etc. were all just ok… fine… serviceable… and I still enjoyed myself. I was satisfied. But I have NEVER seen a comedy set that was ok… fine… serviceable… and been satisfied. Never. When I only laugh a little bit, I am disappointed, and that applies to my long time favorite comics the same as it does to a comic I am hearing/seeing for the first time. The standards and expectations are so EXTREMELY HIGH. I don’t know how they deal with it.
I would say it is unfair for an audience member to have such high expectations, but it is just nature. You can’t help it, and comics know it. I love listening to comics talk about what they do, and one thing that is totally clear, is that they know what is expected of them, that the audience is right in their high expectations, and that the burden is on THEIR shoulders.
I have mad respect for comedians.