I remember a stand-up comedian once saying the worst thing he could do for his career was try to make everyone laugh. And while that may seem counter-intuitive with regard to the whole comedy thing, it makes complete sense if you emphasize the right word.
If he played it safe and told jokes that never offended anyone… If his material was inclusive and didn’t leave anyone out… If he went for the widest possible audience with the lowest common denominator… He’d doom himself to mediocrity. An average three out of five stars.
Threes get you nowhere.
Here it’s worth mentioning there are two ways of getting a three-star average: Either everyone gives you threes, or everyone gives you an equal mix of ones and fives. If you’re going to make it as a comedian, you want ones and fives. You want people to hate you or love you. Because even though the ones and threes may not come back, the fives will seek you out and talk you up. Fives are gold.
Congratulations. You’ve found your audience.
I think that’s key for any art, be it comedy, acting, architecture, landscape, dancing, music, painting, or writing. To be clear, I don’t mean “key” as in enjoying the experience, or getting something out of it on a personal level. That’s reason enough to invest in art alone. But career-wise, I-want-this-to-be-my-day-job-wise… Chances are, if you’re not garnering haters, your not garnering followers. Fame is a package deal. Just ask Taylor Swift.
Or ask Rian Johnson, director of The Last Jedi, the most divisive Star Wars movie to-date. For some, it was a travesty. For others, the best in the series. Why? He took chances, stayed true to his vision. Very few people came out of the theater thinking, “Meh.”
Interestingly enough, the lowest-rated episode of Breaking Bad was directed by Rian Johnson. The highest-rated episode of Breaking Bad? Also Rian Johnson.
Dude’s doing something right.
I try to keep this in mind as I revise my second Alan Blades novel, cutting, adding, changing, enhancing. I try to remember I can’t please everybody. I try to remember I shouldn’t try to. Just like my first book in the series, I imagine some people will hate it while others will love it. Some will call it juvenile while others will think it’s hilarious. Some will claim it’s amateur while others will deem it postmodern.
I hope it lands me some haters. Because that would mean I’m doing something right.