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Polish. Usually this word is used to talk about fingernails, the shine on someone’s shoes or when’s someone’s from Poland—wait, that’s a different ‘Polish.’

But what about comedy?

There are loads of people that come to me weekly and ask how they can take their comedy to the next level. I have several workable and proven solutions. Not a single one can be deemed a fix-all for every comedian.

Each comedian has their own needs and an adjustment or a note is different for each one.

But I think there is one thing that could be painted on to each comedian’s act with a really broad brush:

Polish.

I see a ton of comedians that get up on stage night after night at the mics and they wander through their acts like an old guy pullin’ an oxygen tank in a Vegas casino. They have no direction, no specificity and no polish.

“What else, what else, uhm: let’s see: uhm crazy, man, shit’s crazy, man. I tell you:”

How are you supposed to give your material a fair shake if you don’t take the time to polish what you’re going to say to the audience. Even when you’re testing material in front of an audience, have some direction.

KNOW where you’re going from joke to joke: or story to story.

Sometimes just one glitch in the set up of the material will cause an audience to respond half-heartedly or worse, not respond at all.

What fixes that? Polish.

Here’s the simplest solution: Practice!

Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many comedians don’t practice before they hit that stage.

When you write a new joke, do you practice saying that joke out loud? How many times? To whom?

  1. Say the joke out loud at least 25 times.
  2. Then say it to your friends.
  3. Then before you hit the stage, say the joke in the context and flow of your existing set at least 25 times. This will help secure the flow of the act both leading up to the new joke and following it.

Practicing will give you high odds of really giving that joke a fair shot when it lands in the ears of the audience.

I can’t emphasize this enough!

Before his first appearance on the Tonight Show, Jerry Seinfeld performed his Tonight Show set 100 times at clubs in front of audiences.

That’s right 100 times! The exact same set. How many of you have done that before a show or a competition?

He knew that he would be a little nervous on that sound stage in Burbank, California. But after rehearsing that same set 100 times in front of different audiences, he knew nothing would be able to shake him, aside from an Earthquake.

So do your homework and prepare. if you don’t you’ll wind up like that cliché comedian at the mics; unpolished and unpracticed, trying new jokes and boring the audience with:

Uhm: what else, what else:

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    7 replies to "1 Sure-Fire Way to Take Your Comedy To The Next Level"

    • Gil Martinez

      It’s like learning Magic, practice test it, practice test it, then do it all over again.

    • Phil Johnson

      Amen to this… Some comics look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I practice in my living room. One additional tip: You should have a mic in your hand while you practice. And if you’re dealing with any sort of stage fright, practice in front of a mirror. It helps to alleviate that.

    • Ray Camacho

      Word Jerry…I practice it and practice (in front of a mirror) so that way when it comes time to do my set it comes across very natural and easy….GOOD practice makes perfect!

    • Richard Allan Jones

      How do you get to Carnegie Hall? …practice, practice, practice.

    • John King

      Sage advice! I know I do the um, uh , what next, thing a lot. Thanks!

    • Rick Olson

      Jerry, great post. If I could add one thing and that is the concept that not all practice is equal. There are two models of practice that could be beneficial. On is the Deliberate Practice Model – Anders Ericcson – Talent is Overrated
      1. Practice with an explicit goal of getting much better.
      2. Stay “in the moment.” Be present.
      3. Get as much feedback as possible.
      4. Continually build mental models of your situation.
      5. Do steps 1-4 regularly, not sporadically.

      The other is The Deep Practice Model – Daniel Coyle – The Talent Code
      1. Understand that rote practice is not deep practice.
      2. Emotion and visualization are vital to create an image of what is possible.
      3. Every skill is a form of memory.
      4. Slow practice focused on fixing errors is key.
      5. Perseverance is king.

    • Trevor Dean

      Jerry, your words ring true! When I did my comeback show it took several hours of work with you to get seven solid minutes of material that was consistent with the laughs. On top of that were another couple hours of practice. I’m starting to get that “polished” look, but there’s a long way to go and many more mountains to climb first!

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