One of the best things about comedy is that almost anything goes, especially the truth.
My comedy students ask me: “what do I do when they’re not laughing?” My first response is, “Write better jokes!” But when the joke or idea is pretty good and they’re still not laughing what do you do to get through the set? Your best bet is honesty: and when I say “honesty,” I mean honesty about exactly how you feel at that moment.
You know what? It almost never fails!
I’ve been teaching this little gem in my comedy classes from the beginning and only the best implement it. But when they do, it works. One of my students was having a trying set at the Comedy Store. He’s a natural so he didn’t think he needed to prepare thoroughly. He thought he could basically get on stage and “riff” it.
After the first couple of jokes didn’t resonate the way he hoped, you could actually see him go right into his head. He started to sweat. Then something snapped and he said to himself, “fuck it.”
He let out a sigh and said to the audience. “Man, this stuff was getting laughs in my head when I rehearsed it.” The audience let out a strong laugh. It was a laugh that came from release. The release of tension of them empathizing for a comedian who was bombing.
Then he said, “The last place I want to be right now is right here on this stage.” The audience laughed harder and then applauded. They applauded out of the fact that someone, anyone in their lives was being purely honest. This comedian, whom they didn’t know, just bared his soul in front of them. They rewarded him with applause.
After that, he was able to recover, get out of his head and finish his set.
Seventeen comedians and two drinks later a couple approached him after the show. They said, “You were our favorite.” He was like, “Why?” They said, “because you were so REAL.”
So the next time you feel the jokes aren’t clicking: Tell the truth!