Stand-up comedy is a great way to make people laugh. If you want to try your hand at being a comedian, all you need to do is write jokes from your point of view. Once you have your material, you need to practice your set before you step on stage. While it takes time to find the right jokes and perfect your technique, you can create a tight routine that’s bound to make your audience laugh!
Brainstorm topics that you find humorous. You can write jokes based on anything you want as long as you can make it funny. Think about the things that you find funny and jot them down on a sheet of paper. Choose a personal story from your life, an out-of-the-ordinary experience you’ve had, or a topic that many people can relate to. Write down all of your ideas so you can come back to them later on.
For example, common stand-up comedy topics include dating, marriage, and children.
Carry a notebook with you wherever you go so you can write down ideas as you get them.
Stay current with the news so you can use topical humor in your jokes.
Don’t tell yourself any ideas are too stupid or not funny enough while you’re brainstorming since they may be funny when you try them out with an audience. You may also get new ideas that built on the topic you don’t think is funny.
Make a list of ideas that are related to your concept. Choose one of your topics to elaborate on further. Write the topic at the top of a sheet of paper and start listing why you think the topic is funny. Include any unique thoughts you have on the subject to give your jokes an original point of view.
For example, if you want to write a joke about internet dating, you may include jokes about how you’re constantly changing your personal information because it never feels good enough.
Include any and all the ideas you get while you make your list. You don’t know if an idea is bad until you try it out.
Keep your set-up concise to draw audiences in. The set-up consists of an introduction to your topic and a few smaller jokes that build up to your punchline. Start writing a few sentences about your topic without providing too much backstory. Pick your words carefully so your joke sounds funny when you read it and so an audience understands the point you’re trying to make.
For example, if your topic is about going to the movies, your set-up may be, “I love seeing movies in the theater, but I hate people going to the movies…besides me.”
Write a few different set-ups for your jokes to see what works and what doesn’t.
String related topics together. If your main joke is about going to a movie, you may start with smaller jokes about getting concessions or annoying people in the theater to build up to your punchline.
Make the punchline your funniest moment. The punchline is the final part of your joke and should get the biggest laughs from your audience. Keep your punchline related to the rest of the joke you’ve already written so your audience doesn’t get confused, but surprising enough that the audience doesn’t expect it. Try different punchlines with your set-up to explore your options.
At the end of your punchline, your joke should only be about 250 words.
Try writing one-liners to practice set-up and punchline in the same sentence. An example of a one-liner could be, “I probably won’t eat soup when I live in Arizona, unless it’s a little chili.”
EditDeveloping and Practicing a Routine
Organize your jokes into a setlist. Aim to include 2-3 longer jokes for your first setlist, and arrange them so they flow well from one another. Save the joke you think is the funniest for last to end your set on the biggest laugh. Try to incorporate topics that are similar to one another so your setlist feels cohesive. Create an outline for your setlist to help you remember and memorize your jokes.
For example, you may tell a joke about an experience you had with a ghost and then your next joke could be about ghost-hunting TV shows.
Mix up the order of your jokes to see what other options you can try.
Try including a one-liner in between jokes that you can use to transition between topics.
Record the audio and time your set to see how it sounds. Use your phone or a recording device while you perform your stand-up routine out loud. Try to keep your set under 5 minutes since this is usually how much time you’ll have to perform at an open mic night. Listen to your jokes to see how they sound or if there’s any material that sounds confusing, and make note of the jokes you need to keep working on.
Pretend there’s an audience in the room while you record so you present as if you were on stage.
Revise the flow of your jokes by eliminating unneeded words. Listen to your recording and look for areas that are going on too long or don’t feel as funny. Try to find other shorter words or cut the section entirely. Make sure the joke still makes sense to your audience after you make your edits.
Each joke should last between 90 seconds to 2 minutes long, but there are no official guidelines on how your jokes are structured.
Try writing your joke in 250 words, and then edit it down to 100 words. Keep editing it down until it only uses 50 words. This can help you filter your joke to the bare essentials.
Try changing your tone and inflection with each joke. You won’t sound as funny if you read your jokes in a monotone voice. Try enunciating words differently, getting excited or serious throughout your joke, or giving emphasis to a single word. This helps keep the audience interested in your jokes and makes you seem more invested in your material.
Listen to how other comedians tell their jokes to get an idea of how to structure your sentence.
Think of writing a joke like writing a song by developing a rhythm for your material. Pay attention to how the words flow together to determine whether it sounds too abrupt.
Practice in front of friends and family. Once you’re satisfied with your material, ask friends and family to listen to you perform. Stand in the front of the room and start your routine. When you’re finished, ask them for their feedback to see what worked and what didn’t.
Record your performance to see where your friends and family laughed and where they didn’t. Make edits to your material to try and make it more humorous.
Practicing a few times in front of people you know can help you overcome stage fright when performing in front of your audience.
EditPerforming Your Material
Look for open mic nights where you can perform your routine. Check with local comedy clubs or venues like cafes to see if they host open mic nights. Sign up for as many open mics as you can so you can keep working and practicing your material. Check the guidelines for the open mic night to see what type of material you can perform since some events may not allow offensive humor.
Find a comedy club that’s near you that has a good crowd and frequent open mic nights to establish as a “home base” where you can try out material regularly. You may need to try out a few different clubs to find one that works for you.
Record your set when you perform. You can either record the set yourself on your phone or ask a friend to record it for you. Whenever you perform your stand-up, make sure to record it so you can listen to see what material worked and what didn’t.
Record the audio and video if you can so you can also watch your stage presence.
Speak slowly and confidently to avoid talking too fast. When you’re performing, avoid speaking too fast or else the audience could get lost and they’ll be able to tell that you’re nervous. If you feel yourself rushing during your performance, take a deep breath and continue in a slower voice.
Don’t be afraid to laugh at your own jokes a little when you tell them.
Aim to speak at around 100 words per minute to stay engaging and tell your joke clearly.
Continue your set even if it’s not going as well as you want. Audiences usually don’t laugh if they don’t realize you said the punchline. If there are awkward pauses in your set, keep going with your jokes to see if something will land. Keep smiling and working toward your other jokes and punchlines if a certain joke doesn’t work for the audience.
Never insult audience members or else you may come across as mean and unappreciative.
Thank the audience and say your name at the end of your set. When you’re finished with your material, thank the audience no matter how your set went. Before you put the mic down and leave the stage, say your name so people will remember you.
For example, you could say, “I’m John Smith and thank you! You’ve been a great audience!”
Keep testing material at future open mic events. Try to bring at least 1-2 new jokes every time you perform to keep your material fresh. As you write and workshop new jokes, sign up for other open mic events so you can keep working on your jokes. Continue workshopping past and present material until it gets the laughs you want.
Don’t get discouraged if your routine doesn’t do as well as you thought it would. Keep working on material and trying more events to hone your skills.
Listen to your favorite comedians to see how they structure their jokes.
Try to meet other comedians during open mic nights so you can network and bounce jokes off of one another.
Don’t engage or insult anybody that heckles you or interrupts your set. Instead, continue with your material.
Never steal material from another comedian.
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