Monday, December 22, 2008

The Man Who Gets Right to the Point

Stand-up comic Nolan Gilbride left town today. He's returning to Nebraska.

I've been in the comedy business in one way or another since 1984. I've been a comic, a booking agent, a comedy writer, a comedy instructor, and a club manager. I've seen and advised a lot of comics over the years.

For 99% of comics, my main advice is "cut out at least 20% of the words." A successful stand-up comic gets to the punchline as quickly as possible. If you edit out some of the words, you get there quicker.

(Of course, the advice I try NOT to give is "be funnier." That's not particularly helpful, even though it's true for most new comics.)

Nolan Gilbride was among the 1% of comics who did NOT have to cut out words. He'd already learned that lesson. In fact, I advised him to ADD a few words, to provide a segue or two. I hoped he might be more successful if the audience had more time to digest his succinct, pithy jokes.

So Nolan was unique among local comics. He was trying for a particular type of absurdist comedy, unlike anyone else currently working in the Philadelphia area. It's the sort of comedy that Steven Wright does. And it's one of the hardest types of comedy to pull off.

In the two or three years Nolan was around, I'm not sure I ever gave him a paid gig. When I sent him to other comedy clubs, the managers usually gave him a mediocre report.

Still, at least he was trying something different. I wish I could have helped him be more successful.

He didn't have much in the way of credits. So, to have something to write about him on the Comedy Cabaret website, I named him "The Man Who Gets Right to the Point." (Grammatically, that should be "The Man Whom," but advertising should be colloquial.)

But now he's gone. And the Philadelphia comedy scene just got a little less interesting.

The Man Who Gets Right to the Point left town today. If he continues in comedy, I hope he finds success back in Nebraska.

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