Photo: Mindy Tucker
You could argue that when it comes to doing comedy — or any art form you can only perfect by doing it live, in front of others, over and over — that all lessons are learned the hard way. After all, there’s only so much that mentors, managers, or friends can prepare you for when the final product is you, onstage, alone, killing or bombing, or something in between. But some lessons are more memorable than others.


At Austin’s annual SXSW, comedy has become a mainstay portion of the interactive film and music festival, where comedians gather around local comedy establishment Esther’s Follies to recharge between shows. It’s here that photographer Mindy Tucker has spent the last five years setting up a makeshift portrait studio to capture comedians in their element, many of them traveling from New York or L.A. every March. This year, the comedians she photographed were asked to answer one simple (or not so simple) question: What’s a lesson about comedy that you learned the hard way?


As you’ll read below, the answers were all as varied as the comics who provided them. There are certainly themes, like being smart about your earnings, setting rules for yourself, and knowing when to say, “Enough.” Some of the advice can apply to any profession: “Know your audience.” “Trust your instincts.” “Know what you’re making after taxes.” But there are some things that only seasoned comedians can tell you, and here are just a few of them.


Todd Glass

Don’t drink the night before you do radio. I did that once, had to get up at 6 a.m., and was vomiting outside the car. And don’t overdrink onstage. You feel shitty in the morning and you have really bad shows. I’m not talking about three or four drinks. That can even help. But no more than five.


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