[EXCLUSIVE] Behind The Mic: JR Berard
This is a blog I wrote for the actress, Elizabeth Banks and her website about six months ago. She’s since moved her website and none of the blogs went with it. She’s started fresh with a ton of new content. I put a lot into it and it was actually picked up by Businessinsider.com after going live on Banks’s site. Anywho, here goes nothing…
The first question people ask when I tell them that I’m a comedian is, “What does bombing feel like?”… Here’s the best I can explain it; imagine a room full of every girl who ever denied you a date (and you ASKED the hell outta them, like flowers and stuff, you even wore a bow tie cause you’re a moron). It’s freezing cold, they’re all wearing parkas, and you’re naked on stage in front of them. Oh, and now you have to RE-ask them all out at the same time. Sucks, huh? It’s a lot worse when you’re new and don’t know how to handle it yet. In reality, its just people you’ll never see again.
BUT if you’ve lasted long enough that bombing doesn’t affect you anymore, then Congratulations! You might have figured out how this works. (If not, quit immediately, because this is how sociopaths are made)
April 17th, 2007 my friend, Brian Hurley, got me on stage for the first time. He’s since left the comedy world to pursue a more ‘domesticated lifestyle’ with a home, dog and a beautiful wife. But it wasn’t before teaching me the most valuable lesson about writing. “The stuff that makes you laugh out loud when you’re alone, that’s what you should be doing on stage.” Nothing else I’ve learned in six years, has proven more true.
I’m constantly writing new jokes, Comedians write everything down. The younger I was, the more the idea seemed to be, “this joke, is going to REVOLUTIONIZE comedy… I don’t even think people are going to write jokes after this joke.” It’s so easy to convince yourself that people’s heads are going to explode with laughter when they hear your observations on dating and relationships. But then something happens – your joke, the one you wrote with your clever brain, the audience hated it. Back to the drawing board.
But it’s art and if you want to be great; you need to dedicate yourself to it.
“J.R., I’ve been meaning to ask, are you a funny comedian now?” Thank you curious reader, I’ll get to that. Getting consistent laughs took thousands of hours on stage, trial and error. Whatever I thought was funny, poured out of my face and into a microphone. When I really began to engulf myself in comedy I was also working at Home Depot. This meant, to get stage time, I would either: 1. Leave on lunch breaks and haul ass to/from clubs, OR 2. Go straight from work, find a 24hr fitness to shower, then get on stage somewhere. A lot of the time I would have plan ahead which nights I would get to sleep – around my traveling schedule of shows. But I was dedicated to this. This is what I wanted my job to be, making people laugh.
The truth is… once you begin to find your voice as a comedian, are consistently booked and like your material, it rocks. Hard. There are few other jobs that you could clock in, work for 25 minutes and have the people around you think you’re the coolest person they’ve ever met, and their faces might melt off if they don’t buy your next round. That’s not always the case. In any line of work, you have bad days.
Starting out as a comedian is a lot like going to college: you meet people who will become your best friends, you’ll drink a lot and lose countless hours of sleep doing what seems to be, “a great idea at the time.” Your classroom is bars, clubs and restaurants. Anywhere with a sound system and at least one person who thought comedy there would be a good idea. Sometimes customers hate you because they’re actually having dinner. Try to win them over. It’s fun! Those are the nights I learned the most; being put in an environment where people didn’t want comedy, and telling them jokes. I’ve performed for the back of so many heads.
When you’re young and hungry for it, you’ll perform anywhere. If we comics were booked at a funeral, we’d tell jokes there. “Oh we’re not getting paid? But there’s food at the wake, right?” You have to have bad nights to appreciate the good ones.
Not that I ever did it for his approval, very much the opposite, but about four years into this ride, my Dad told me he was proud of me for sticking with something. Such a great moment. Lo and behold, he’s always bragged about his “comedian” son. “Yeah, we’re not gonna be able to make the party Saturday, my kid’s got this thing opening for Tom Green.”
Keep in mind, I’m six years in and have a ways to go and many goals to accomplish. It’s also REALLY important to note, most young comedians don’t get a chance to post their work in the forum of an A-List Celebrity, let alone someone you actually admire and respect for their work. That being said, EB, you’re the coolest and I very much appreciate this, hopefully I don’t let you down like my 8th grade math teacher.