How to get started in Stand up

I get asked this question a lot so I thought I would share a basic How To Get Started guide along with some helpful  written resources at the end.

Generic Start Workflow:

1. Write 5mins of original comedy material.

2. Go to an open mike and perform the material.

Boom, you are started!!! If you enjoyed the process and the stage experience here are the addition steps to follow: 

3. Revise the material.

4. Perform the material again.

5. Repeat steps 3&4 until you are satisfied with your material.

6. Write more original material.

7. Repeat steps 1-6

It really is that simple! 

Yes, this sounds a little over simplified, but it isn't meant to be cheeky. The rest of the post goes in slice a deeper to touch on the steps in further detail.

1. Write 5mins of original comedy material.

HOW DO I DO THAT????????

 

This is actually the whole question of stand up, and you'll need to figure that out for yourself. Methods that work for me may not work for you, figuring it out is the fun part. Try different methods, try different styles, but in general write what you think is funny as opposed what you preconceive the audience will react to.

 

Don't stress about your material too much for your first set. Most people get too stressed and build up a level anxiety around the performance and talk themselves out of performing. Set a date for a show, and gather your material, and do your show.

 

2. Go to an open mike and perform the material.

HOW DO I DO THAT??????????

Every show has a different way to get on. Do your research, contact the producer of the show, and figure how to get booked. It also helps to watch one or two shows first just so you have an idea of how the show runs.

Try not to get caught up watching too many shows as research for an extended amount of time. The longer you take to get on stage, the less likely it is you will ever get on stage.

No open mikes into your town? Either drive to one or create one. Those are your options. I'm not a virtual comedy show fan, but if that floats your boat go for it. Just do it.

3. Revise the material.

HOW DO I DO THAT??????????

Record your set. At the very least on your phone of audio, best is video. Keep the parts that get laughs and change the parts that don't. It sounds simple, but it's actually the hardest part. Rewording, rewriting, changing setups, changing deliveries are just some of the things you have to think about. The big questions you need to ask is: why it didn't get a laugh.

A lot of newcomers will try write an entire new 5min each time they go up. You do you, but it is much easier on yourself if you tune up your sets then burning every set you ever do.

5. Repeat steps 3&4 until you are satisfied with your material.

The constant revision will give you new tasks to practice each set so you aren't just reciting the old material and should keep it fun and interesting.

6. Write more original material.

It's hard when to keep honing old material AND gather new ideas to work with down the road. Find this balance, so when you have honed material you'll be able to jump into the next idea faster.

7. Repeat steps 1-6

In a nut shell this stand up comedy

Stand-up Resources

Here are some books that might be helpful with developing material. Comedy is always changing but these are some glimpses into what has worked for many people and can help you if you have funny ideas and don't know how to say them yet.

Be cautious not everything is going to work for you or still be relevant try to find the core concepts. Example The Comedy Bible drills that stories aren't stand-up, but it is because when most newcomers tell stories there are no punchlines and tend to be 'had to be there' situational humour.

Step by Step to Stand-Up Comedy - Greg Dean

-basic joke structure

The Serious Guide to Joke Writing - Holloway, Sally

-Basic joke structure

The Comedy Bible From Stand-up to Sitcom - Judy Carter

-This touches on everything from writing, performing, how to get gigs
 

Poking a Dead Frog Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers -Mike Sacks

-Adds perspective

 

Truth in Comedy - Charna Halpern, Del Close, Kim Howard

- Improv focussed but can glean for performing stand up


The Hidden Tools of Comedy -Steve Kaplan 

-Bigger picture of what comedy is 

One last resource is.......ME!!!!! A lot of comics generously gave me their time early on and I would be more than happy to return the favour! Feel free to toss me an email. I will offer you the help that I can. Most likely a phone call or an in person coffee chat if I can fit it in.

Just remember give your 110% and you will get the results.

Believe in yourself, eat pizza, and be charming.