Stand Up Comedy

I’m a fan of Jerry Seinfeld. I like the way he approaches creative work. I like his philosophies on it. One thing that always sticks with me is “The audience is all the feedback you need.” He talks about comedy being “self-correcting” in this regard. If it’s not funny, crosses a line, or makes people mad, the joke certainly won’t be in the next show. There is a strong feedback loop in that industry.

So many of us, myself often included, naturally pull back from that feedback loop. Someone may tell us something that bruises our ego. Then our skills, something that we are so proud of, will feel diminished. Of course, the reality is different. The reality is that feedback improves our skills, since the goal is to make work that people enjoy.

It’s important to seek these feedback loops out, though in stand up comedy, it’s built right in. You may even have to create your own system.

Let’s think about a writer. They produce books for a living, but they also have a blog and a twitter following. How would you produce this feedback loop?

Well on Twitter you could type short tweets that are basically introductory statements to things you will be using in your writings. The ones that get massive engagement are likely better to go into the book than the ones that don’t. Taking those winners, you could expand them into multiple different blog posts to further delve into the idea. If it gets good engagement or likes there, it likely makes the book. Of not, rework it until it does.

Once you have a large list of liked topics and writings, stringing them together with a theme makes sense. So you can take those stories and put together a presentation (think TEDTalk) and then share that with an audience. If it doesn’t seem to resonate, change the story or theme that ties it together and try again. Eventually, you’ll land on something.

Now you have a unifying/theme, a set of well-written articles that pull people in and get read. All you have to do is bundle it all up, package it, and go promote it.

This method is likely to produce a best-seller, at least much better odds than an average sample. Why? Because it was literally testing what people engage with and like at every step of the way. Notice that there was no timeframes listed here. A book can be powered through in 2 weeks or less if it’s just about the number of words on the page, but that likely won’t be interesting to many people. The methodology outlined here could take years, but here is the secret, just like you know Jerry Seinfeld, but haven’t heard of the guy who writes jokes at home, but doesn’t get feedback in front of audiences and on tour, the same is true in this case. The audience determines which of our works is great. When you use them to pair out the lesser quality of your work, you end up with a portfolio of gold and that great quality works brings in outsized returns.

Would you rather work 4 years producing one book that sells millions of copies, or would you rather produce 200 books in that timespan that each sell 200 copies?

Engaging in a way to get feedback is important, and I know I certainly don’t do enough of it. Most of us don’t. It’s time to rethink that.