Matt Ruby on Why Standup Comedians Need a Short and Long Game
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In Chapter 18 of 18 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, standup comedian Matt Ruby answers "Why is It Important Standup Comedians Develop Both a Short Game and a Long Game?" Ruby notes how the two approaches differ. Short games get comedians into festivals, contests, and late night programs. It is essential standup comedians have a short game, however does not necessarily mean they are great comedians. Ruby is a standup comedian based in New York City.


Erik: Why is it important that standup comedians develop both a short game and a long game? Matt: Short game to me is, you know, like a TV friendly, you know, five to seven minute set is the sort of thing that will get you on TV say like a late night show, sort of thing you’ll do at comedy contests or auditions a lot of times for festivals or things like that. And those are, you know, invaluable because that’s sort of like – it’s almost like your audition thing. That’s like, you know, people make up their minds in five minutes so you need to have that sort of quick, quick hit, sort of here is what I do and who I am in a short form way. Being good at that doesn’t always mean that you're a great comedian though, you know. I know some people who I think are great, you know, like long form, I guess would be more like someone who does, you know, 45 minutes or a half hour set or something like that, and being good at that is a very different animal, you know, and in my mind a lot of times more interesting, you know and sometimes people who are great at that aren’t good at the five minute, you know, contest type set. Ideally you can do both but, I mean, there’s also people I know who’ve had sort of jokes just for their short form, short game set, that are kinda like good for, you know, knocking it out to the park in that setting and then as soon as they – they use that as a springboard to get somewhere in their career where they can be doing more long game stuff and then they throw that stuff out, you know. Like they would never – the things that they did to get to where they’re at now they would never do because it was just a means to an end. But I do think when you're starting out that short game is what you need to get together. You can’t get the long game together in a substantial way unless you’re really willing to put in the time until you have that short game. So, I think it’s a challenge but it’s a healthy one to try to – you’re trying to condense whoever you are as a performer into this like, tight chunk. It’s tough if you're sort of like, if you're more of like a novelist and someone’s like, alright now you have to write an amazing story. And then you’re like, well, but I write novels and they’re like, well, no one’s gonna publish your novel until you write a great short story and then it’s like, okay you better learn how to write a great short story.