10 Rules of Stand Up Comedy - Part 1
Stand-up comedy is probably the hardest of all the performing arts.
I once played a gig in which my very first joke fell flatter than egg under an elephants foot.(or is that paw). Actually it made some people turn their backs and they were mostly in the front seats. It took me over 15 minute to get those audience members to turn back. It was one what we call a “hell gig”.
No matter what, your audience is never at fault, the material is just not yet right. In this business, the customer IS always right. You have to make them buy what you are selling. Or it is just not your audience. You can’t please everybody.
So how do you make your first steps into becoming a comedian? Here are the first of ten rules to help you write your own first stand-up comedy routine.
1. The first joke, that first impression, is the most important. The audience is the judge, the jury and the Spanish Inquisition. They must actively show approval by laughing. Anything else is total failure and torture for the want-to-be comedian. “Make me laugh, funny person”, is the unspoken challenge from the audience. If you do not deliver, and fast, then you are blown, dead in the water, in performer’s nightmare. Recovering from a bad start is simply hell.
2. The last joke is the second most important. Most people will only remember your last joke. It will probably be the one they tell other people when they talk about you. Make it one that will make people want to hear the rest.
3. Open strong and close strong and put nothing bad between these two. If you have no more great punchlines, get off stage. Some stand up comedians become famous and successful with little more than an opening and a closing, with sometimes only 3-4 minutes on stage. If people laugh all the time a comedian is on stage, no matter how short, they will want more.
4. Build your middle material carefully by taking an idea and wringing the most out of it as possible. You may have a good imagination for where it goes but if others did they would be comedians. Lead them to the water and let them drink. Don’t leave them in the middle of a desert with an ice cream map.
5. Your facial expression and look is part of your routine. Words are only about 30% of communication. The rest is the tone, volume, the timing, facial expression appearance etc. If you are fat, thin, well dressed, scruffy, black, white, yellow, brown, even your accent when you start to speak will be an important comedy tool for you to use. In fact some of the best comedians try to look the most different and have excellent physical and facial storytelling skills.
These first five of ten rules of comedy will help you begin.
I am a British–Jamaican performer with, so far, ten year as a comedian and more than twenty year on stage. I began as a musician, model and actor. After many years I found the biggest challenge with the biggest reward is comedy.
Come back for the final five secrets.