2nd podcast live post corona times, still experimenting with the set up. This podcast was recorded in Zürich at Ben’s day job with take away coffee from ViCAFE.
Ben is a stand-up comedian. He comes from Paris, traveled a lot and has called Zürich home for a decade now.
How it all started:
At a very young age! He used to find a lot of comfort listening to comedians.
His inspirations as a kid: Pierre Desproges, The plays of Molière, Les Inconnus.
He went to see Au secours tout va mieux from les Inconnus with his Mum when he was 10 years old. It was his first show. He recorded the whole show and used to play the tape every single night for 2 years before going to sleep. He knew it by heart and shows us on the Podcast! I became funnier after that, he says. He knew what to say at the right time.
He had a production with his brother and sister and they were performing every Sunday lunch but he was the only one taking it seriously.
He then, as a teenager, learnt English and more about humor by watching Seinfeld.
His first stage as an adult was when he was living in Boston at 22 years old. It went really well just like the 3 that followed. That’s when he thought he was gonna become the next comedy superstar and it took that thought to ruin it all, he says, from there I started bombing. But he kept going and did comedy in France for 3 years. Twice a week he had his hour at the theater La Loge in Paris. At the time everybody was making fun of him but now it’s the cool place.
Then he stopped for a while and came back to it 4 years ago in Zürich.
He tried many things in between like writing novels and producing videos but he loved the immediacy of being on stage. I don’t enjoy the solitude of writing cause you are on your own for such a long time until you can get an audience feedback. During those times he still wrote and published a children’s book Sacha and the Witch with no friends.
What he learned along the way:
- He would keep the jokes that didn’t work so well for too long. He was focusing too much on the way of delivering a joke so he would do it in 25 different ways but looking back it just wasn’t that funny so just replace it! You need a joke that works 9 times out of 10.
- When he was 20, he would usually write 5 min for a 5 min set. But now he realized that: it’s part of work to produce a lot of shit. He produces a lot and doesn’t hesitate to kill a joke. The job is to produce a lot and pick the best then show it in front of an audience and weed out even more.
- I wish I would not have beaten myself up so much for a ‘failed’ writing session like having no inspiration. Even now when I have a ‘failed’ writing session it still hurts but I don’t let it become : well you are not Seinfeld so better give up. More on his writing process and his mindset shift, below.
Fixed mindset versus growth mindset:
I had a very fixed mindset when it comes to comedy and everything else.
A fixed mindset: people are what they are and either you have a talent or you don’t
A French mindset basically 😉
The french system set me up for mediocrity and for beating myself up for never being good enough!
Now when he thinks that what he writes is shit, he can take himself out of that way of thinking easily and quickly thanks to the growth mindset.
The growth mindset is believing you have certain ability at this point but you can get better at what you do and it’s not because you had a fail show that you cannot get better at it. People in this mindset achieve more.
The growth mindset has helped me think ‘okay it’s not gonna be great but go for it!’. It was hard to go online. You got good at standup and don’t want to go back to the bombing that happened 3 years ago. Now it’s becoming more pleasurable but at the beginning it was really painful to think that what we did was not that good.
Live comedy vs online comedy:
Some people have fun on their own and some need the feedback and that’s why online comedy is hard cause you don’t get the instant feedback. When performing for the camera, you dump all your insecurities on that lens who hasn’t done anything!
Right now is the best time to put out shitty content (corona times when everything went online). Even if it’s not a pandemic you should still go ahead and do it. Every comic has gone online during corona.
I have to prepare more and believe in the joke more because I get only one shot behind the camera that’s streaming live.
Inspiration & creativity:
By getting in front of my writing every day, inspiration shows up sometimes. What helps me is to be in silence and alone in a room. The morning works better. Showing up is key. My only goal: writing 450 words per day. If I didn’t have a full time job it would be more.
I used to make inspiration my goal. And that made me miserable.
It’s me doing my own therapy.
Creativity only works when I free myself from imagining the future or the success. It comes from a part of you that you cannot access consciously. It does have this element of divine cause it’s very mysterious.
There is inspiration when writing but there is also inspiration on stage, like: when to pause, how to talk, move, something is telling me what to do next but sometimes I have no clue. The best way to ‘channel’ is to show up. I push myself to get up on stage, to do as many shows as possible.
You also need a focus.
Every time he has an idea he sends himself an email and then in his morning sessions he checks his emails and sees if what he wrote still inspires him.
He says things on stage that got him emotionally excited somehow.
Humor has been life saving from a very young age. First it was a distraction > there is a reality that’s not so fun and I can escape from it with laughter.
Humor It has a deep function in society. When the pain is not solvable > the only option that you have is to laugh about it.
In Russia the comedians are the only ones who are allowed to joke about Poutine
The laughter is not open to interpretation
People want to laugh even if it’s for free. They don’t want to waist 1 hour of their precious time. You don’t call a plumber thinking there is a 50 % chance he will do his job right, it’s the same for comedians.
His goal although he doesn’t want to set goals for comedy:
I wanna have 5 min, 10 min, 20min that works really well. But it’s not a Netflix show persue or a financial goal.
Today I pursue funny for funny’s sake!
The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
Carol Dweck: a Summary of Growth and Fixed Mindsets
Where to find him online:
IG : @bencomedian
Youtube: The online comedy show