I watched the 2002 documentary Comedian last night, which mostly centers around Seinfeld’s return to the standup world after his show ended. From that perspective, I found it fascinating to watch a renowned comedian start really from nothing and slowly (over 6 or 8 months) build up an hour of material that he can take on tour.
The beginning is downright painful. Seinfeld starts with just 5 minutes and some really awful performances where he just plain forgets what he’s even talking about.
As a counterpoint, the documentary also follows a younger comedian Orny Adams who is struggling to make it and maybe even struggling to understand what that means.
Overall, I found this fascinating and inspiring. I’ve been ramping up my public presenting this year and I see a lot of parallels in developing the material and the skills. In fact, the fantastic Presentation Zen just today had a great post about Comedian, including some clips if you’re interested.