Does going from city to city telling jokes for a living sound like fun to you? Have you always wanted to be a stand-up comedian? Here are a few tips to get you started on the way to becoming a professional funnyman:
1. Write yourself. The best comics write material that’s near and dear to their hearts. Draw from your personal experience and find the funny in your life. Not only will the comedy seem more natural, it’ll also be branded as your very own. Remember the moments and characters in your life that make you giggle and write them down – that way, you can fine-tune their delivery to maximize their comic effect.
2. Develop a routine. Once you’ve got a decent amount of material going for you, it’s a good idea to combine them into one cohesive set. Find a thread that’ll tie them all together so that you don’t seem like you’re just tossing random jokes to the audience. Work on a theme, or find a concept that will lead one joke into the next, and your audience will be hanging on your every word. People tend to remember longer, more elaborate sets than a series of short, unrelated jokes. Practice your set, and with enough work, you’ll start to be “that guy with the jokes about his momma”.
3. Be spontaneous…but not. Nothing kills a good comedy buzz like someone who seems like he’s spouting out memorized punchlines. Stand-up comedy is not the same as talent night in elementary school. Keep your notes in mind, but make sure you share your material as though you had just thought of it. Faked spontaneity is key to a good performance.
4. Sign up for the show. Now that you’ve got a routine ready, and you’ve rehearsed your delivery to the best of your ability, it’s time to dive in. Most comedy clubs and bars have open mic nights these days. Gather up your courage and sign up for one. The best way to improve in your craft is to be in the trenches constantly. Get out there and perform, perform, perform. Once you get the hang of stand-up, you’ll get a feel for what audiences like and for what comedic style you’re best suited for.
5. Call for backup. It can be pretty nerve-wracking to perform in front of a bunch of total strangers, so get a group of close friends and relatives to be in the crowd to support you. That way, if you start to bomb, you can be sure that there’ll always be someone to laugh at your jokes.
6. Be in Control. Of course, when you do bomb (and you certainly will; everyone bombs), there’s always a chance that you’ll be heckled. It is imperative that you keep your cool and stay in control of the situation. There are two ways to handle it: one is to make fun of yourself (Conan
O’Brien is a master at this) and the other is to take hecklers head on. Think of it as a way to practice your insult comedy, and you’ll do fine.