Some years before, I’d had the good fortune to have a joke stolen from me and performed on TV by a comic I knew. I was upset at first, but then I realized that- poor etiquette aside- the guy was funny and he would’ve been on TV with or without my joke. I also realized that if I couldn’t immediately write several more jokes to replace it, then I wasn’t funny, and I had no business calling myself a comedian. So I forced myself to make a mental adjustment and I decided that the guy had done me a giant favor. And he had. I became much less precious about material. Of course I’d be “proud” of a good joke, but i knew that i just had to continue producing material […] My goal as a comedian was to become a Delta Force operator of humor who you could throw into an empty room with nothing, and he’d make something funny, and then kill people with it. That remains my goal today. –Rob Delaney, Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage
I thoroughly enjoyed Rob Delaney’s book- as the Comedy Central proclaimed “funniest man on Twitter,” I was interested to see how he was in a venue that’s clearly a little larger. But in addition to being absolutely hilarious (I haven’t audibly laughed that loud, that often, in a while), and incredibly honest and forthright (more on that in a later post, I promise), he’s just smart. This doesn’t surprise me, for the best comedy is generally smart, but it did surprise me how many of his words drove into my heart, and forced an audible “Oh, yes!”
There is a quote circulating on Pinterest and likely Twitter as well that I often see and think about in the moment before moving on: “There is no limit to the amount of good that you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Intuitively, it makes sense. When trying to get things done, something we all fight to do in a world that bombards and overwhelms us, it shouldn’t matter where the potentially successful idea came from if it is executed and it works. But this isn’t always the case.
Ego gets in the way. Emotions get in the way. Our desire to be appreciated, recognized and celebrated gets in the way. But Rob has a really interesting way of looking at this. When the people who may take to the stage with your idea are competent, do a good job with it, and ultimately succeed, that takes little away from either party involved.
More often than not, the person who took the stage and the credit is competent enough to create his or her own ideas. But maybe something in yours stirred something amazing in them, guiding them to a place where they yearned to execute it. If that’s the case, shouldn’t the theft be a compliment?
And for your part, you’re not spent. I’ve learned a lot from the reading on creativity I’ve been doing: the following is my wording on an idea that keeps surfacing. Creativity is a renewable resource. Your latest good idea is not your last one. I won’t even qualify that with a “maybe” or “probably.” It just isn’t. If the last one was good enough to be taken by an admirer, you’ve got more as good or better. So get yourself in your ideal creative space, find your favorite thinky fuel (mine is mint tea and peach rings), and go Delta Force on the world. Strive to kill with your brilliance.
Just commit yourself to moving beyond ego and start creating them. Make them big. Make them ambitious. And if you can, make them funny. Want some inspiration? Read Rob’s book. It’s good for a laugh, a little bit of a cry, and a whole lot of inspiration.