Part 8 in the continuing saga where I ask the same five awesome questions of awesome people who do awesome things awesomely!
John Crist is a very funny and award-winning comedian from Denver, CO. He’s remarkably successful, having performed all around the U.S. including an opening stint for Louie Anderson in Vegas. John and I used to play in a band together, back when he was 15 and I was 19. One time, after playing out of town, we ended up staying with this stranger who proceeded to show us his knife collection right before we fell asleep. This is the kind of adolescence that leads to stand-up comedy.
At what point did you consider yourself a success?
I think there are moments along the journey that are milestone’s of sort that help point you in the direction of success. For example, the first time we won a contest I felt very successful. The first time we received a check from a comedy club I felt successful. If you’re going to pursue your dream, YOU have to decide what success is and go after that. People will try to judge your career based on their idea of success and that can be frustrating if you’re not focused.
How long did it take you to get there?
Years in the profession is one way to gauge it, but standup comedy, in many ways, is like skiing. When you ask someone how long they’ve been a skier, they could say 3 years. But if they’ve only skied three times in three years, they’re not technically lying to you, but its not the truth either. An actor could have an agent for three years but only done one job. Technically, they’ve been an ‘actor’ for three years, but they’re an amateur. I’ve taken the stage as a standup comedian 298 times.
Who do you look at in the comedy industry as someone you respect, that is “doing it right?”
Oh man, that depends on the perspective. I’ve always said my favorite comic is Katt Williams. He’s had some personal troubles and his act is crass at times but he speaks from the heart and I admire that a lot. I look up to Adam Carolla a lot too. Again, he can be very unsettling and dirty at times but he speaks from a place of passion and I love that. There’s a comic named Tim Hawkins that I really really like too. I also really respect the work of some of my fellow Denver comics: Sam Tallent, Ben Roy and Matt Baca.
What’s the biggest surprise for how you expected life to be at your level vs. how it actually is?
Great question. I have a quote from best selling author Jon Acuff on my wall. It reads
“Pursuing your dream is a grand insult to those who haven’t pursued theirs.”
I thought everyone would be supportive of my taking a risk and pursuing my dream. Turns out, not at all. When I left my job, one co-worker said, “I bet you’ll be begging for your job back in two months.” Every time I hear something like that, I write it down and use it at motivation. Whenever someone makes a choice to pursue greatness, it calls average people’s lives into question. I watch this short YouTube clip every Monday morning:
What advice would you give to someone wanting to break in to stand-up comedy?
Just do it. Over and over and over and over again. Just do it.