Stand-up comedy is a fun, creative hobby, that can help you gain confidence, performance skills, and new friends. It can be intimidating though...how do you get up on stage for the first time without freaking out? How do you start generating material? This article will answer those questions and more.
1. Watch, write. Repeat.
One of the best ways to get inspiration as a comedian is to watch other comedians. It's a critical part of the process. Don't just watch the greats on TV (although you should definitely do that!) go to open mics and local shows as well. See what kind of material does well...what is getting laughs, what seems to need work? It is all helpful when it comes to writing and performing your own set. Remember though...when it comes down to it, this is all just inspiration- stealing jokes is a HUGE no-no. Write down the things you find funny and the jokes or ideas that come naturally to you...you have a unique and hilarious voice that is just waiting to be used!
When you feel ready to make the leap up on stage, don't do it alone! Invite your friends and family to the open mic you're doing, or your class performance. Practice your set beforehand by yourself and with others. Memorize it if possible (although it is fine to have a notebook up there with you...you just don't want to have your face buried in it!). And don't worry too much- no one is perfect their first time, and no one expects you to be. Let the host know that it is your first stand-up performance (they might tell the audience, or you can), and then do your thing! Chances are, even if you bomb, the people you've invited will love whatever you do, and be super impressed that you had the guts to start stand-up comedy! The comics in the audience will probably either like your stuff or not really care. Afterwards, celebrate your success. You just a very difficult thing, that many people are too scared to do. Pro-tip: Don't race away after your set is done...stick around to watch the other comics, and introduce yourself to them!
3. Treat other comics with respect.
It's smart to make a strong first impression when you're doing comedy. But try to make that impression by presenting well-crafted jokes, a unique onstage persona and an open, friendly demeanor offstage- not by being rude, dismissive, or insensitive to your fellow comedians. Generally, comics will not be impressed by a person who walks into an open-mic for the first time and acts like they own the place. Everyone in that room has been putting in work and honing their craft. They want to see that you are doing the same- not that you think you are better than them. Think of this as a new job- you wouldn’t want to start your first day by alienating all of your co-workers, so don’t do it here. Don't offer unsolicited advice. Don't talk behind people's backs. Be kind!
4. Ask all the questions!
Without a doubt, the best way to break into any stand-up scene is to talk to the people who have already done it! They will know the best local open mics, the most informative classes and/ or workshops, and the hottest shows to check out. Never be afraid to talk to your fellow comedians, no matter how good they are! Who knows: if you play your cards right and work hard, you might be on a bill with the people you've been admiring one day soon!
5. Don't give up!
Stand-up is not for the faint of heart. If you do it for long enough, you will face unwelcome criticism, rooms full of drunk, distracted people and rooms full of silent people. It’s all part of the fun! Learn to grow from your (and other peoples’) mistakes. And remember: there are always going to be people who want to tear you down…see it as a sign that you are doing something right, and then turn to the people who want you to succeed instead. They are out there, I promise! Don't be afraid to ask for support!
Hopefully, you feel a little better equipped to start stand-up comedy after reading this article. Now go break a leg!