Unexpected Lessons from Average Art

I’ve been consuming a lot of sketch or sketch-adjacent comedy lately. I’m a big fan of the genre and I hope to make a career out of it in the near future. But I’ve noticed some common threads across these shows or platforms that I could learn a lot from. So, I’ve put together three lessons I’ve learned from good (and bad) comedy bits.

1. Your art doesn’t always have to be ‘good’

Some of the skits just aren’t funny– and this is coming from someone who is generous with her laughter. Some of the ideas just don’t hit the mark, some jokes don’t land. But, that’s it. The world didn’t explode because these 3 dudes made a mediocre skit. The ground didn’t swallow them whole, they didn’t stop making skits and they didn’t give up on comedy forever.

(From another angle, some things you create just for yourself. For example, there are some songs I’m never going to release, but I got so much value from writing. Allow yourself to make things that will be just for you without the added pressure of needing them to be appreciated by others)

2. What you make doesn’t have to be for everyone

I first started grappling with this on another creative project that I had to leave. The partner wanted to keep adjusting the content based on what they thought would do well or make the most money– I wanted to keep it authentic and address topics that were on my heart. It was that experience that reinforced something I’d learned from a book I’d read. The author, Steven Pressfield, describes how staying authentic to his seemingly-uninteresting idea worked out well for him.

I trusted what I wanted, not what I thought would work. I did what I myself thought was interesting, and left its reception to the gods.

Pressfield, The War of Art (p. 153). Black Irish Entertainment LLC. Kindle Edition.
‘I Think You Should Leave’ with Tim Robinson (Netflix)

I didn’t get many of the jokes or skits in episode 4 of ‘I Think You Should Leave,’ but man, the entire episode 3 was fantastic. But the episode I didn’t get, someone else would, and there was still value in the show’s existence. My job as a creator isn’t to create art that will please everyone, it’s to create. Someone will get and appreciate my work.

3. Adopt that mediocre-white-man confidence

‘Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun’ (Netflix)

There is a lot of pressure on members of minority groups to be excellent. I feel that– I’m a woman, I’m black; I feel like every comedy skit I make has to be the best thing ever made just to rise above stereotypes. It feels like I’m fighting against the general expectations of me and… for what? Why put that extra pressure on yourself?

Dare to be average, Dare to fail and continue thinking you’re a fantastic creator or entrepreneur. Yeah, the world has some catching up to do, but allow yourself to make mediocre things and still think you’re pretty cool. We still trust men to make films after ‘Batman v Superman,’ we can trust ourselves to make amazing stuff after a little blip in great work.

No middle-aged white man with his own late-night comedy show hits the mark every time. Some of the jokes are fine. But, Hollywood still gives them endless chances– and you should do the same for yourself. ✨

IJN amen

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