I received great writing advice a couple months back from a fellow comedian. He said “When you write new content, reject your first 5 thought, because if you can think of it — so can everybody else”. Now, Some of the early thoughts are really funny. But it can also be someone else’s first thought. To explain why I’m writing this article, lets go back to a night at the standup comedy open mike in Bangalore. It was a packed room at a Monday comedy night at Take5 Pub and I had some new material. Like most new jokes a comedian writes, it sounded hilarious… in my head! I got on stage and the jokes worked like a charm (phew!). With a stupid smirk on my face, and sense of “oh yeah!” I stepped off at the end of my 10 minutes. Who knew the excitement was short lived. Another comedian walked up to me and said the words that every comic dread to hear (apart from ‘expect delay in payment’). “Dude, i’ve heard another comedian do a joke with the same premise!”. I had not copied the joke of course, I wasn’t even aware that someone else is doing it. It was as an observation I thought of, just not quick enough. Like my buddy Siddharth says: “Comedy is about timing, who gets to a joke first!”
That got me thinking, Is any observation ever original? All of us are humans, we live very similar lives and observe the same things around us. It is only human tendency to end up having overlapping thought. Take an example of driving in your car — all of us see the same things like traffic, signals, rule breaking, abusing, women drivers who happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time (Aww!) etc. But it depends on how you put across this thought. An observation will merely make sense if its relatable. If you tell people “What’s the deal with these two legged pony’s in the middle of the Sahara” — people will think you are a moron.
Like my talented friend Vamsi told me “Every observation we make is done by someone… at some time… at some place… just not chronicled yet.”
I might talk too much about jokes and comical observations. But this fact is true with any situation. If you can pick up an existing idea and take it one step ahead, you are not stupid — you are a freaking genius!
To give you perspective, Think of the guys who created Quora. This great social media revolution would have never happened if one of his friends told him they are just coping Yahoo Answers. Yes! Quora is just Yahoo answers that went to college and put on better cloths. The fact these guys could take an existing idea and make it this huge just proves my point. Another classic example would be Facebook. Before Facebook came in all of us were on Hi5/Orkut/ Myspace. But this man did not give up on his idea just because his idea lacked originality.
This can also swing the other way, for example: GooglePlus. G+ came in at a time when Facebook was the comfortable option and it could not catch up to the standards Facebook already set and thus did not make it big. I almost felt like Google plus is the most disappointing work of google yet.
Coming back to the point — Don’t let the lack of originally in your idea come in the way of you putting yourself out there. If you believe that you can put a personal twist to anything, it will work! This does not mean that you clearly rip off an existing concept or idea because then — you are just proving your lack of creative talent. There is a thin line and true talent is finding that line. At the end of the day, even the Beatles advocated revision of originality when they said “Hey Jude…Don’t make it bad… take a sad song and make it better!”