To be a comedian, you gotta jokesmith, there’s no way around it. – John Leguizamo
A comedian on stage can deliver a fluid, effortless performance – one that makes you wonder what it takes to be so naturally funny.
The show you see, however, is not the one they started with. If you listen to comedians talk about how they developed their material you’ll hear stories about how they tried out jokes in small venues and pubs, refining and reworking their material and keeping the best stuff in – the stuff that you saw in the show.
I attended an academic conference in person for the first time since the pandemic and realised that they offer the same kind of experience to a researcher.
These are places where you can go and try out your material on a community of peers – smart, sharp people with opinions and expertise who will ask questions that test your understanding of your material. It gives you a taste of the feedback you’ll get when you try and get your paper accepted by an editor of a journal.
In my last post I wrote about the importance of rewriting. The conference experience taught me about the importance of feedback – showing your work to people who will give you their honest opinion and reaction.
It can be tough to hear, especially if it’s work that you’ve spent a lot of time developing. But you need to hear it – you want to see what reaction your work gets.
The worst thing is to be ignored. A reaction, good or bad, is information you can work with.
An idea that falls flat, just like a joke, is one you need to rework, retry, or abandon and move on.
The ones you are left with will be all the more powerful as a result.