When aspiring performers ask Steve Martin for advice, he tells them, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Martin elaborates – “If somebody’s thinking, ‘How can I be really good?’ people are going to come to you.”
Is that your mindset as a performer? As we go through classes, we’re taught how to improvise. We get different perspectives from different teachers. And we think, “If I just do it the way they say, I’ll be great.” It takes more than that.
Why should an audience watch you? Because you’re really good at doing that thing they told you to do? Or should they watch you because you do something in a way no one else does?
You’re unique. As a performer, it takes a while to find your “voice.” But that’s the real quest you’re on. What’s the difference between Bob Newhart and George Carlin and Sarah Silverman and Bill Cosby and Mitch Hedberg? Yes, their material varies. But it’s more how they deliver it that stamps it as unique.
The improvisers you love also have a signature style. Maybe they’re really physical. Maybe they’re great actors. Maybe they do stellar object work. Maybe they’re a great “team” player. But if you love them – if they stand out – it’s because they’re so good you can’t ignore them.
This blog gives further advice on finding your artistic voice. Just remember, Picasso went through his “blue period” of (somewhat) classical painting before his breakthrough in cubism. Every performer you ever loved once just copied someone else. But when you let go of your self-imposed restrictions, you’ll find the performer you were meant to be.
Don’t try to be the next Chris Farley or Tina Fey or Steve Martin. Be the first and only you.
And be so good at being you, they can’t ignore you.