Imagine you’re a comedian. And you do two live shows a night for a week, without a single laugh.
Would you keep going?
Or slink home never to be seen again…
Comic Bob Newhart decided to keep trying.
Way back when his day job was copywriting, his side hustle comedy bits had gotten him some radio gigs and even a record deal. But kinda like podcasting, there was no instant audience feedback.
So while waiting for his first album to come out, he decided to play local live shows because he worried he was too green for stand-up—and turns out he was right.
Not. A. Single. Laugh.
Then his album was released and became a surprise smash, holding the #1 Billboard chart for 14 weeks and earning two Grammys.
So how come his humor didn’t pop in those early live shows while his record sold like hotcakes? He was at the very beginning of an era change in comedy—from telling a series of rat-a-tat jokes to stories and vignettes.
Local audiences didn’t know what to make of a comic with a stammer and deadpan delivery.
But the people who bought his album helped launch Newhart as an early change agent for the comedy we now consider “normal”.
He had to rise above entrenched perceptions—and get out of his own backyard—to find his audience.
Now let’s talk about you: are you sharing a great idea that’s slow to catch on?
It’s not easy being the first one through the wall. But each one makes it easier for the next.
The trick is to understand if you’re ahead of your time or positioned exactly where you need to be right now.
Does your positioning and message play to your unique strengths and the needs of your ideal audience?
Newhart couldn’t have done the old-style rapid joke delivery even if he wanted to—it wasn’t in his DNA.
How long do you have to discover if you can build (and monetize) an audience?
My guess is that if Newhart’s comedy hadn’t clicked after his first record, he might have tried continuing with radio to see what he could build.
But no one (except trust fund babies) has unlimited time to make their business work—you need a plan for how to experiment and then assess your results.
Who are the early apostles who will help spread the word—and how can you best engage them?
When you’re breaking new ground, it helps to have a squad of people who believe in you enough to spread the word just because they believe in the world you’re trying to build.
Great ideas can take time to root—but you can speed it up when you’re laser-focused on what only you can deliver to transform your ideal (niche) audience.