By Jerry Corley | Founder – The Stand Up Comedy Clinic
Strange title for a blog you say? Well, wait for my follow-up, “How I flushed 50-Bucks On The Way To Vegas, Just To Warm Up!”
I write this blog entry as a follow-up for my previous entry, which was “Shut Up and Write!” It was written to inspire and light a fire under the backsides of all of us—including myself—who get lazy and don’t write. I don’t know why we do it.
Some people say there’s no motivation to write when there’s no money. Well money shouldn’t be the only motivation. It’s nice to make a living in comedy; I’ve been doing it for over 20 years and I have to tell you that the feeling just can’t be fully quantified, to get paid what what you love doing.
I always write because I love it. Sometimes there’s money, but that’s not why I do it, but you never know. Hence, this story:
I was just sitting on the toilet the other day. I usually take my Droid in with me. I can check emails and respond to texts…My sister sends me a text:
“Two guys wearing ‘Children’s Musical Theatre Summer Camp’ shirts walk into a European Wax Center…(you finish the joke).”
I quickly texted these:
…One of them asks the clerk: “how much to remove the hair from my asshole?” The clerk looks at one of them then looks back at the one who spoke and says, “We would first need his permission.”
…One guy asks, “what makes this a European Wax Center?” The clerk says, “we wax you until you call America to bail you out again.”
…One guy says, “What makes this a European Wax Center?” The clerk says, “We wax everything; your arms, your legs, your back, your chest…everything. But we don’t touch your precious area…your armpits.”
…they each pay 300 dollars to get ‘the works.’ Upon leaving, one of them turns to the other and says, “So you think NOW we can pass as one of the children?”
…They both walk out of the wax center red and in pain. One says to the other, “That’s the last time I volunteer to do a rendition of “HAIR” on “Opposite” Day.
My sister then said, she was “wiped.” And I quickly texted, “What did one turd say to the other?” “Whew! I’m wiped!”
Viola! It was then that I realized that I had a client who loves to do adolescent shit humor. So I quickly texted that stupid turd joke to him. He loved it and deposited 50 bucks in my PayPal account. NO KIDDING!
So write for the fun, write for the passion. The money might just a happen as a result!
It would be wrong and inappropriate to button this with …and remember sometimes shit happens…okay, see? I told you it was wrong!
By Jerry Corley | Founder – The Stand Up Comedy Clinic
I just had a session with one of my private students at my studio. After he ran some of his material, I asked him what happened to some of the other bits he was working on last time we met. He said, “I’m getting bored with it.” Does that sound familiar? It does to me!
I remember writing material, working on it then after doing it on stage once or twice, getting bored with it, despite the fact that it was good and getting laughs. Worse, I would get a showcase for a spot in a club or a television show and I would abandon my trusted material because I thought it would be best if I wrote new material for the showcase.
Problem is when you do that, the material might be fresh, but it’s untested and when it’s untested and you’re in a higher tension situation like an audition, the new material sounds like just that, “new.” Therefore, you sound “new.” It doesn’t sound honed. It doesn’t tight, because you’re still working out the kinks and you don’t quite “own” it.
When you showcase, audition or make an important appearance at a club, you want your act to look effortless. You want it to look like it’s just coming out of your mouth for the first time even though it isn’t and that takes rehearsal, practice and stage time.
Anthony Hopkins reads a script two hundred times before he starts to work on it. That way the material is now a part of who he is. Does his work ever look stale? Does he ever look bored?
My father, Pat Corley, a character actor for almost sixty years said that it takes eight hours of rehearsal to “own” five minutes of material. You can memorize that material in far less time, but owning it, is a completely different story. It has to be a part of you.
Jay Leno said, whenever you’re working on new material, do the “tried and true” up front, slip some new material in the middle and close with the “tried and true.”
Rita Rudner adds a new joke or a new routine every week and in a year she has a whole new act.
Part of being a professional is learning to continue to make the material you’ve been doing sound fresh every night. That’s part of your craft.
I saw Kevin James, (star of “King of Queens, ” a hit show on network T.V. for many seasons), when he did his first showcase in L.A. for network executives. He did material I’d seen him do for years. But the networks guys were seeing for the first time. He killed. It resulted in a sitcom that made him a star.
To build an act, you must have material to build on. That material might be stuff you’ve done enough to get bored with, but the guy in the club drinking a beer, has probably heard it for the first time.
By Jerry Corley – Founder of the Stand Up Comedy Clinic
I just got an email from someone who said, “The only way to learn stand up comedy is stage time.” That’s a common response, but is it really well thought out? I would have to say, “No.” If the comedian is like a surgeon and the audience are his patients, this comedian must have the stench of death following close behind.
Is it fair to make that comparison? After all, medicine is not comedy.
Think about it this way. It you were to compare being a comedian to piloting an airplane, how many of you would want to fly “Open-Mic Airlines?”
Comedy is an art form and stand up comedy is a performing art, as is music, acting, dancing, singing and magic. Sorry mimes, if I left you out. However, what some people forget is that the comedian, unless he’s just buying jokes or stealing them—why, Carlos Mencia, has your name has become synonymous with that theme?—then the comedian is also a writer.
Every single one of those art forms has a learning learning curve. Comedy, in its form, is most like magic. As magic is about misdirection and surprise, so is comedy. In fact, scientifically, the number one element that triggers human laughter is surprise. When the magician takes the ball into his hand waves the wand over it and says, “abracadabra, ” “presto-chango, ” “expelliarmus, ” (or whatever magicians are saying these days) and the magician opens his hand and the ball is gone, we smile, we giggle, because we have been surprised. But if a magician doesn’t learn the formula, if the ball doesn’t disappear and reappear or worse, if we see where the ball is going, then there is no surprise and there is no magic and the smiles and giggles will be replaced by groans and boos and hisses. Misdirection and surprise are part of the comedian’s fundamentals as well and must be learned before getting “stagetime, ” otherwise those same groans, boos and hisses—and worse, will follow the comedian.
Structurally, comedy is also about story telling and music. Most of us know that a good story and a good piece of music has a beginning, middle and end. Unfortunately, most comedians don’t know this or don’t know to put it in their acts…certainly they need this over at SNL. When you do build this in, you stand out. Audiences love resolution and they respond with applause. It’s as simple as a musical scale, if you sing: DO-RE-MI-FA-SO-LA-TI-, the audience is going to feel unresolved. They will feel like something is missing. However, if you sing, DO-RE-MI-FA-SO-LA-TI-DO, the audience will feel compelled to raise their hands in applause. Learn your fundamentals, your scales, your rudiments, then can you make beautiful music.
It’s the same thing in comedy. Stagetime is definitely the way to hone your skills of performing comedy, but if you learn what makes people laugh and you learn to identify surprise, irony, incongruity and recognition, then apply that to your performance before you get your “stagetime, ” you probably would’ve saved the audiences you’ve encountered a lot of misery you unwittingly injected into their hearts, their memories and their olfactories, because the potency of the stench of death you most certainly left behind would’ve been a lot less significant.
by Jerry Corley – Founder of The Stand Up Comedy Clinic
That’s right. The students at the clinic are getting work! Tommy Otis who plays “Itchy” on “Car Warriors,” (Wednesday nights @9pm on the Speed network), is great on ”Car Warriors.” I’ve been working with Tommy in the comedy class and doing private coaching with him for about a year now and his ability on and off camera has really blossomed. He’s a naturally funny guy and he’s taking his comedy and his career to new levels.
Tommy’s one of those people who is out there doing the work. Like many comedy students, he’s a little undisciplined, but that also give him the ability to remain unfiltered and just say what’s on his mind.
Car Warriors is an extreme 72-hour custom car build-off where a team of car “all-stars” competes against a team of locals from various shops around the country. In just 3 days they have to build and customize a car. Who would’ve thought there would be so much drama in car customization. These guys can get upset. During an episode, one guy actually starts to choke Tommy. I wasn’t too surprised. Hell, I’ve wanted to choke Tommy!
I’m used to just seeing cars in guys garages as they slowly re-do and re-build. I’ve re-built two engines in my life in my friend’s dad’s custom transmission shop. And I say two engines, because the first time, we screwed it up and had to rebuild it. It took us two months. There was no choking, there wasn’t even a gag. But I guess when you add to the mix 72 hours and competition against a rival team of customizers and you’ve got a show. A show that one of my students is in and that’s cool!
Tommy is an award winning pinstriper, so he had the skills, but add in that he’s working on his comedy skills at the Stand Up Comedy Clinic and he became someone who was a great candidate for the show. Great work Tommy!