My name is Jared Volle. Since 2008, I’ve been working with comedians from all levels of the industry. My philosophy hasn’t changed from day 1:
Stand-up comedy, above all, is a creative art-form. Success in comedy isn’t a result of putting your head down and writing more jokes or getting more stage time. It’s about becoming meaningfully different from other comedians. It’s about standing out of the crowd and giving audience members a reason to remember you long after the show.
My Journey As a Comedian
Before I realized this, my career was a nightmare. In spite of diligently writing, performing, and studying comedy, I was unable to break out of performing endless open mics. I faced constant writer's block and massive performance anxiety.
Even when I was getting laughs on stage... it didn't feel "authentic." I felt like I was playing the part of a comedian... not engaging audiences with my own, natural sense of humor.
In short... I was miserable. There were too many techniques and formulas and not nearly enough of my own voice on stage.
After struggling to break out of open mics for 3 years, I finally had enough! I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I could never break away from the crowd by using the same techniques that every other comedian was using... even if I worked hard and excelled at those techniques.
I realized excellence isn't simply hard work or natural talent. I requires high levels of creativity.
Originally, I thought "being a comedian" implied that I was being creative... until I began studying creativity in depth. I soon learned that there are two main forms of creativity: being creative within the rules and being creative by bending and breaking some rules.
I'd excelled at the first type. Years of analyzing stand-up comedians had taught me every rule in the book. Ironically, the better I became at applying comedy techniques the worse my comedy seemed to get.
It didn't take long to notice two patterns in the comedy industry today:
- Open mics comedians often excel at applying "comedy rules."
- Great comedians ALWAYS excel at both types of creativity. They have a deep understanding of how comedy works, but they also don't hide behind those rules and formulas.
The Curious Path of Great Comedians
I began reading every comedian biography I could find and soon confirmed this. It was startling. Every comedian biography seemed to reflect the same pattern:
- Early in their career they attempt to "out-compete" other comedians by applying the rules better than anyone else. A few future-great comedians managed to find some success within the rules... but most failed miserably.
- Next was a period of crisis. Some made dramatic exits from comedy, like Pryor famously stopping mid-sentence on stage and saying "What the hell am I doing?" Others had panic attacks and went through a period of deep self-reflection like Steve Martin.
- Next came a "silent period." Countless comedians described a "slow hunch" ... A feeling that there was something more that they were missing.
- Finally, the comedian reemerged and took the comedy world by storm: Pryor gained a cult-like following and Carlin got his first standing ovation.
I made it my mission to figure out exactly how these comedians made the leap from struggling mentally, emotionally, and financially to creating an extraordinary level of financial and artistic success.
I came to a fork in the road:
- I could double-down on the "best practice" advice of comedy teachers.
- Or I could rebel against the rules and embrace the uncertainty of a new approach.
I struggled with the decision for over a month... "If I don't tell 'jokes' on stage... what the hell am I gunna do?!"
Looking back, I find it odd that I was so fearful. Every sign pointed to a change:
- I was miserable writing or performing formulaic-sounding comedy. No matter how "well-structured" the joke was, it'd never be anything more than "a joke." It wasn't me... and it never could be. Every attempt at using a formula or technique diminished my authentic sense of humor. Ironically, the harder I tried the more my personality was stripped away.
- I'd never be able build the strong connection necessary for audience members to become my fans if I embraced the rules. I could either be authentic or I could have the safety of formulas... There's no way to have both.
- I knew that it'd never result in the kind of artistic (and therefore, financial) success I wanted so badly. To this day, I've never found a single example of a highly (or even moderately) successful comedian who wrote and performed formulaic comedy after 1960!
My final decision was "If I crash-and-burn... I'm going to do it MY way!"
I threw out all my material and started again. The only comfort I had at the time was knowing that great comedians had done this and found success after reinventing themselves. I didn't know if it'd make me successful... but I did know it was my only shot at becoming the type of comedian that I always wanted to be.
My first performance with the new material made me feel like a newbie again... I had absolutely NO idea what was going to happen.
Here's what happened...
... and bombing never felt so good. Where there should have been self-doubt and panic, there was total peace and renewed confidence in my comedy career.
I was relieved because it was the first stand-up comedy performance of my life that “felt right.” It felt like it was really me on stage. I felt completely authentic. I understood that I could always figure out how to get the audiences laughing again. Quality can always be improved through rewrites.
The results speak for themselves ...
- Within a month I'd surpassed my "all-time best." (I've always analyzed my shows to measure laughter). I couldn't believe how quickly the quality skyrocketed.
- Within 3 months I started headlining showcases (a modest 15 minute set).
- Within a year, I was an opener for Kyle Cease's Wake Up College Tour. We're talking 1400+ audience members! And this was a time when I still considered 100-200 to be a large audience! 1400 seemed inconceivable.
Why Did I Start CreativeStandUp?
I realized that comedy training had not evolved with the times. The comedy formulas and techniques taught today have been taught since the 1960's!
I decided to apply the creativity strategies of great comedians to teaching comedy. Just like I rebelled against the "rules" of comedy in my career, I'd rebel against the status-quo of comedy training.
I built Faster & Funnier from the ground up to completely align with what great comedians do at each stage of their career... not just what works to get a laugh on an open mic.
I stripped away all the surface-level advice to find principles of comedy that are truly timeless. I rebelled against "outside-in" training in which comedy teachers explain standardized ways of writing and performing and then ask those comedians to somehow figure out how to be unique and memorable. Instead, Faster & Funnier takes the opposite approach: It emphasizes core principles of comedy, such as effective storytelling and engaging the audience, and then builds outward to create completely authentic stories that are expertly crafted for maximizing laughter.
Continuing My Pursuit of Creativity
Today, I enjoy a life filled with many passions: I teach and perform stand-up comedy; coach CEO's, college professors, and artists from all walks of life on how to incorporate humor into presentations and create strong rapport with their audiences; and I teach businesses how they can use principles of creative psychology to innovate and remain competitive in their industries.