If you don’t know by now (and haven’t read the last article on this site), James Hesky is this year’s winner of the Philly’s Phunniest person comedy competition. A summer-long, elimination-round styled competition that takes place at Helium comedy club. A lot of comedians enter the competition, but in the end a group of judges decides who is the winner of a cash prize and a contract to work at Helium.
This is a great accomplishment for a Philly comic, and after all was said and done, James was nice enough to send me an article on his thoughts on comedy competitions.
The following is that article. Enjoy!
Comedy Contests are Overrated
Okay, I’m not going to tell you that it wasn’t awesome to win Philly’s Phunniest Contest this year. It was beyond amazing. The love and support from other comedians and friends, the validation tat I’m not just wasting my time chasing this dream, and the paycheck with the promise of getting to host/headline the contest next year and get a chance to work on a half hour set are all great perks. I’m still completely blown away by all of this. However, the contest itself isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.
Winning this contest proves that I was able to put together a solid five-minute set that worked with those judges on that day. While it’s definitely important in comedy to have a great five minutes ready to go at any time, the most important thing is putting in the day-to-day work: Going to open mics, learning to do 20 minutes at a bar where the show starts off by the crowd being mad at you for interrupting the Phillies game, and beginning to find a voice that fits your style. That’s really how you prove yourself and how you network with other comedians so you can get even more shows.
I didn’t need to win a contest to start a podcast with Darryl Charles or to get my own monthly show at PHIT. The guys at Bird Text were making hilarious videos way before Tommy [Pope, 2011 winner] won Philly’s Phunniest. Chip Chantry has a hilarious hour-plus long CD and is now touring with Josh Gondelman. That’s how comedy really works. It’s about the day-in and day-out work that you put in.
I’m not saying that comedians shouldn’t participate in competitions. There can be advantages to doing well. It can help you get on a club’s radar if you weren’t before, or give them a better chance to look at you if they haven’t been watching you for a while. Plus, winning is definitely the bees knees. However, you can’t let a contest define your comedy career.
Winning this contest doesn’t really changes things for me. I’m still going to be out at open mics, running my podcast and monthly show, and yelling at my manslave for minor infractions.. So if there’s a contest coming up, go for it. But think of it as an opportunity to get a great 5 minute tape and a chance to show your face somewhere, not as your free pass to stardom.
If you see me at an open and you want to talk with me about it, feel free to do so. Just don’t look at me in the eye when you do it. You haven’t earned the right yet.