Comedy Classes | Video: The Art Of Stand Up – Pt. 1

The Art of Stand Up
As part of my Comedy Classes series, I am including a post that was shared with me from another student. This is a segment from the BBC’s series on The Art of Stand Up (also available on YouTube and the BBC website). It features interviews with many popular comedians from the U.K. and the U.S.

One of the things I highly recommend is to listen to other successful comedians as much as possible. There’s so much to learn and their experiences can help us learn to avoid the mistakes they may have made and to be inspired by their commitment to the craft. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have.

My favorite quote from this video: “It actually is like being able to fly…” Awesome!

What’s your favorite comedy quote?

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Comedy Class | Don’t Use ‘I’ or ‘Me’?

commercial_4Got an email from someone and I thought it would be best addressed in my comedy-blog. Read on:

"I have a question which has been messing with me when writing my premise or setup. i find myself trying to produce material before wednesday which are the best nights in florida for open mics. my issue is not coming up with an idea its just getting it across so before i saw your blogs i went and got a book on comedy " The Comedy Bible" which states when writing your premise you need to have a topic + attitude which i understand that concept but it also states that when starting out a joke or building the premise you never want to use I or me. i saw your blog for the 1-2-3-joke about your poker app and in your premise you start off with I. i just want to know is that a myth as well? should i throw away that idea of when writing my premise not to include I or me?"

Great question! First of all, let me get this straight: there are rarely definitives in life like "never" and "always."

Maybe some exceptions could be

  • "Never perform fire eating tricks after drinking One-Fifty-One."
  • "Never joke about bombs in the security line at the airport and expect to board your flight," or
  • "Never use the "N-word" as a white comedian while performing at a fund-raising benefit for Malcom X."

Those might be a few things that could fit in the "never" category. But when it comes to comedy theory there are few "nevers."

I’ve never heard the rule "never use ‘I’ or ‘me’," however. And I’m glad I haven’t because I do it all the time. My comedy is about my life and it would be hard to discuss my life without using those pronouns. There are no rules to that effect as far as I’m concerned.

In fact, if you watch Louis C.K., he talks about ‘I’ and ‘me’ quite often. Same with Lewis Black, John Stewart, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby… the list goes on.

I don’t know what Judy Carter was thinking or maybe she meant something different. But remember she named the book The Comedy Bible. It was named after a book that is so filled with distortions, contradictions and falsehoods, even the churches pick and choose what parts of it to believe!

The two things that I think are valuable in that book is that humor should come from an emotional foundation and it’s nice to have a comedy buddy.

In the end think about this: Tom Dreesen, one of the most successful comedians of his time said that comedy is 90 percent surprise. If your material has surprise, incongruity, recognition or benign retaliation, odds are it has the elements to get a laugh.

Finally, in the end, whether or not the joke contains ‘I’ or ‘me’ if the audience laughs, it’s a keeper.

Promoting Your Video via Email

Want to email your video to bookers, managers or agents? Here’s a quick tutorial.
So you have your video done and you want people to see it. You put it up on YouTube, but now what? I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how one goes about getting the video out there, so I put a quick tutorial together on how to email your YouTube video. I hope you find this useful!

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Comedian Lessons | Give The Joke A Chance!

raise-your-handOne of my classes just had their graduation showcase at the world-famous Comedy Store. A student-comedian was not happy with his set. Some of the jokes worked and others didn’t. He was wondering whether the material was funny or whether he was just getting pity laughs while running the material in class.

He was ready to toss out some really good material just because they didn’t get laughs that night.

Comedian Lesson:

Never throw out material that you believe in if it doesn’t get a laugh on one given night.

Everyone has had a night where even the “tried and true” material is not resonating with the audience. Always give a bit at least 3-4 attempts in front of different audiences before you determine that it’s not working.

There could be a multitude of reasons that joke or comedy bit doesn’t work;

  • The room could be too hot
  • The drinks are taking a long time
  • The waiter or waitress seems rude
  • The dynamic of the room is not immediately conducive to laughter
  • The audience is not empathizing with you
  • The audience doesn’t know you yet to trust you

… then list can go on and on.

Comedy is a process and you learn how an audience feels and with experience you develop the ability to better read an audience’s mood, then you make adjustments in your act to reflect their mood. I never blame the audience for my set not working. I believe that it’s my job to figure it out and get them to respond. Most of the time it’s successful, sometimes…not so much!

If I see that an audience is fickle; they are not giving love right away, I will either hit them with solid surprise and structure at the opening rather than an esoteric story-based routine. Once I get them to give me 2-3 solid laughs, I can try to lay out a more story-based routine. Sometimes I’ll just talk to them and ask them a question like, “Is this the support group for back-pain sufferers?” Then why are you guys groaning at everything?” “Is this one of those overly politically correct crowds?” Then I have a routine about political correctness that almost always does well. Once I’ve earned their trust and their laughter, now I can test the new stuff.

Jay Leno use to say, “Start with the ‘tried and true’, then put some new stuff in the middle, then end with the tried and true.” It’s good advice that could keep you from throwing away good material by overreacting to just one audience and it’s a good comedian lesson.