Is Stage Time the “Only Way” to Learn Comedy?

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.

Weekend Comedy Seminar in Vegas in 2 Days!

Comedy Seminar - Las VegasSo here’s your chance to get the best information available regarding joke writing, performance technique, act-shaping and how to know when your jokes are funny before you hit the stage. Even if you’re not into the performing part of comedy, this seminar is for you!

Jerry Corley, the pre-eminent comedy teacher in Los Angeles who spent 26 years on the road, wrote for The Tonight With Jay Leno for 8 years and who has been called a “genius” by his competitors, is coming to Las Vegas to teach a weekend comedy intensive.

Bring your notebooks and your digital voice recorders because this is the real deal. You will learn more in the two days you spend with Jerry than you’ll learn toiling on the road for years. You’ll cut to the chase and find out:

  • What triggers human laughter.
  • How to master the writing techniques to pull that trigger.
  • How to get multiple laughs out of one joke.
  • How to heighten your act to build applause breaks.
  • How to finesse your act to make it sound effortless.
  • How to write jokes about anything, even when you don’t feel funny.
  • What techniques to use to develop relationships and get work.

Find out why Jerry’s comedy students win competitions. Jerry’s student, J.C. Morgan, just won L.A.’s Funniest Comic award, (for the category of performers with less than 2 years experience).

So come down and check it out.

Alexis Park Resort Hotel 375 East Harmon Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89169  (702) 796-3322
WHEN: Saturday &  Sunday April 9-10. 9am-5pm

It’s gonna be a blast and you’ll be so excited about what you learned you’ll want to get right to work writing your new material. Guaranteed!

It’s National Humor Month!

Written by Jerry Corley – Founder of the Stand Up Comedy Clinic

That’s right! April is National Humor Month and it’s about time too, because I was just recovering from March, which is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Who doesn’t need a laugh after having your prostate checked–daily, mind you! It was my choice. I happen to have a very hot female internist as my regular doctor, so really, who’s the victim?

So how do we celebrate National Humor Month? I’m going to celebrate by making sure to have a laugh every day. In addition, I’m going to write 10 new jokes a day. Yeah, that’s it!. And I’m going to present that challenge to everyone, professional and amateur comedians alike. Challenge yourself to write 10 per day. Here’s the catch. It’s humor, not stress, so if you only come up with one, that’s fine! Here are the rules: No topic is off limits and you have to have fun doing it. Once it stops being fun and you find yourself stressing, go to YouTube, look up your favorite comedian and spend the next 10 minutes laughing and forget about it. Nobody can be a failure during National Humor Month…well, except Kirstie Alley. I have a feeling she’s going to wind up being the butt of many of the jokes–speaking of butt, have you seen the way Kirstie is moving her butt on Dancing With The Stars? Last Monday night’s episode she shook it so hard it wound up in the first 10 minutes of “House.”

I encourage everyone reading–which should be about 3 of you–to try to write some jokes. Read my blog called JOKES 1-2-3 (You can find it by looking in the search window), to give you some ideas on how to come up with ideas and get started, because everyone should laugh. Then add the joke to the comment box.

Did you know the number one quality men and women look for in a partner is a “sense of humor?” So not only is laughter the best medicine, it could also get you laid! Can I count that as my first joke?

Jerry Corley is the founder of the Stand Up Comedy Clinic, a 8-week comedy course taught at his studio in Burbank, CA.

Don’t Miss Hindsight News!

by Jerry Corley – Founder of The Stand Up Comedy Clinic

There’s been so much online content created by people lately that it’s hard to find the good stuff. Whether it’s dancing kittens or smoking Indonesian toddlers, the stuff isn’t usually anything that warrants a click of your mouse, much less a minute of your viewing time…until now! Welcome to Hindsight News! A new online program created and developed by Producer-Directors Robert Narholz and David Conolly…who happen to be students at The Stand Up Comedy Clinic, Jerry Corley’s comedy class based in the Los Angeles area.

“Hindsight News!” is a spoof news program that premiered today online at and on YouTube. It really deserves a look. Like I said, it’s not often you come across something like this that is fresh, intelligent and funny. The production quality is better than good, the acting is terrific and the graphics, editing and score really help to move the presentation along. It views like a “Tosh 2.0” meets “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Maybe that feel comes from comedian and host, David Conolly, an English ex-pat, who has all the likeability and zany comic appeal of a Michael Palin or Eric Idle from the Monty Python troupe. 

The sketches are funny and play out in a “news-story” way, which is what helps carry the comedy. “Hindsight News!” runs contrary to most of these programs designed for the web in that it’s not so much “in your face,” but delivered in a fun, fresh way. The acting is not bad either. All the actors came from The Stand Up Comedy Clinic and I am happy to report that they did a fantastic job. A lot of young comedians mug or seem drastically uncomfortable in front of the camera. But not these guys…they did and exellent job with the material and the sketches. The actors included clinic students Patrick Kanehann, Brian Zuanich, John Hamm, David Conolly Robert Narholz and the lovely and always funny, Annie Girard.

I think these guys are on to something! If you want to kill 8 minutes and really enjoy it. Check out Hindsight News! It’s really a great time!

Writing Jokes 1-2-3

Writing Jokes 1-2-3
by Jerry Corley founder of The Stand Up Comedy Clinic

One of the most common concerns I hear from humor writers and comedians is that they have days and sometimes weeks where they “can’t think of anything funny.” I thought to myself that I’m never without something to write or make jokes about. There’s always something there, it seems. So I thought about how my mind comes up with stuff.

I broke it down into steps and I’m going to give you that process right now. I’m calling it “1-2-3 JOKES.”

Start with stuff that is close to you. Look around you, think about your surroundings, situations, behaviors and ask yourself 3 questions:

1. What is new?
2. What has changed?
3. What have I acquired?

What’s new? Every day is a new day. With all the holidays and special occasion days we celebrate in this country and worldwide, almost everyday of every week gives us something to joke about. Did you know March 1st is National Pancake Day? Of course, it is immediately followed by National Maple Syrup Day.

As you ask yourself these questions, don’t leave anything out! Write it all down! Just looking in the mailbox, I’m sure everyone has acquired a cell phone bill, heating bill, water bill, cable bill, etc. You have a new pair of sneakers, let’s talk about them!

Too many comedians and humor writers stop too soon. They think, “there’s nothing funny there. They don’t take the time to write out everything about their sneakers and use their imagination to develop material. Every comedian and humor writer should be able to take any logical grouping of words and make it funny. But it takes dedication and work.

Okay, let’s get back to 1-2-3 JOKES.

Let’s look at a situation that happened to me recently. I asked “What have I acquired?” I just got a new video poker app for my Smartphone.

So now we have a premise: Video Poker App. How do we even start writing a joke for it?
Most jokes are a convergence of two or more clearly defined ideas. So let’s go to work.

Let’s utilize the oldest tool known to writers and investigators. It’s the Maxim of the 5 W’s. Let’s ask:
Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?

Okay so it’s 5 W’s and an “H.” No investigation is considered complete unless all of those questions have been answered. So if we go back to the Video Poker App premise and ask those questions we might come up with something like:

Who plays the video poker app? Me
What is it? Video Poker or What happens when I play? I can upset my wife sometimes.
Where do I play? I play at the airport, in line at the bank, on a plane, in the bathroom…
Why do I play? To have some mental downtime, to get away from work. To have something to occupy me while I’m in the bathroom.
When? Whenever I have nothing else to do.
How? On my phone, by myself, with my thumbs.

With this information we have all we need to develop material for the premise “video poker app.” If you’ve read my blog or have taken my classes you know the science of why people laugh. Two prime reasons (especially with regard to commercially acceptable humor), are surprise and embarrassment. So let’s ask ourselves how we can utilize a set up line that might present surprise or embarrassment. The first thing that comes to me is “bathroom.”

So, if I look at the entirety of the material I’ve collected I can put together a set up line that might go something like this:

I just got a new video poker app for my Droid. I love playing it in the bathroom.

Now we have two or more clearly defined ideas: Video-poker App and bathroom. If we were to use the listing technique that I teach in my seminars we could easily come up with phrases that we could easily combine to make a joke. The first one I came up with was:

I just got a new video poker app for my Droid. I love playing it in the bathroom.
My wife’s feelings are mixed on that. She says she loves the fact that I found a new way to play with myself, but she gets a little irritated when I’m on the toilet and she hears me yell, “Full House!”

If we really took the time and flushed out all the possible plays we have with those two ideas, we could come up with an easy 10, 20 or 30 jokes on just the video-poker app premise, alone 20-30 jokes!

And just think we started the day thinking, “I can’t think of anything funny…”

Jerry Corley is a professional comedian with over 25 years of experience and a former writer for Jay Leno and The Tonight Show. He teaches a comedy writing and performance at the Stand Up Comedy Clinic. Visit