If you look at movies or read biographies based on the lives of famous entertainers, one thing that stands out is that they all are compelled to perform and are true to who they are. Ray Charles was a good performer when he copied other people’s style. People definitely appreciated his talent, but he didn’t become a worldwide sensation until he found his own voice. Johnny Cash didn’t have a shot until he could sing a song in his own way that made him feel something. I could give endless examples of this: Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Gypsy Rose Lee, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Mozart, Beethoven, Salvatore Dali, Cezanne, Michelangelo, Hemingway, Shakespeare, Martha Graham, Gene Kelly, Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, W.C Fields, Rodney Dangerfield, Jimmy Cagney, Cate Blanchett…. When you look at that list, do you see ANYONE who reminds you of someone else? Or do they stand alone as someone unique? When you hear or see their work, you KNOW it’s theirs and no one else’s.
The only thing I really recommend, if you’re starting out in stand-up is to not try to copy anybody else. You can be influenced by people… but I never tried to be someone else. I always tried to be myself. And the reason people are successful is they’re unique.
There are many good performers out there who have a following and work regularly. There is nothing wrong with being good. In fact, that’s where most of us will end up if we work hard enough. However, if you are striving for greatness, you have to learn how to go with your flow. Why do you dance? How do you most like to do it? What moves you? What gets you in the zone where everything is working like magic? What excites you? What are you trying to express? If you can put your finger on that, you have an idea of how to go with your flow.
Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. ~Judy Garland
When you are in the zone, things feel easy. They feel emotionally satisfying. They feel authentic. Some people tend to understand this intuitively and dance improvisationally and in the moment, but this is not enough. You have to have the skills to make it into something that the audience will appreciate too if your goal is to share it with an audience. While some people are famous for being personalities (like Edie Beale of Grey Gardens), most dancers want to be appreciated for more than their personality.
The moral of the story is, practice your skills. Learn how to dance effectively. When you are able to do that, invest in discovering what makes you tick. When you can share THAT with an audience, you are on your way to greatness.