Does it Take 10 Years to Find Your Comedic Persona?

There are several reasons that finding your persona is an important part of your development as a comedian. 

It makes you more memorable and helps you to stand out from the crowd. And that’s always important in terms of reaching a level of success.

But how do you find it? And How long does it take?

Some people on social media have said with absolute certainty that it takes “10 years for you to find your persona,” like that’s some magical number or something.​ 

There is a more streamlined approach to finding your persona and it’s easier than you might think. 

I discuss that in this video.

You can also read the transcription below:

The 10-year myth

Hi, it’s Jerry Corley. Stand up comedy clinic dot com. With another episode of Ask The Joke Doctor in this episode, we’re covering the question, Does it really take 10 years to find your persona?

Welcome back to ask the joke doctor. I just got a question the other day from a student of mine, he tweeted at asked the joke doctor. He said, “Joke Doctor, does it really take 10 years to find your persona?”

Around town, and on social media, I’m hearing from comics that say it takes 10 years to find your persona. First of all, let me address that. I don’t know where this magical number “10 years” came from. Like, you know, Hey at nine and a half, you’re almost there, but you got to wait a few months and then you’re going to hit 10 years. And then, that’s magically when your persona will appear.

And that’s ridiculous.

Stand-up comedy is a relatively new art form

Think about this, stand-up comedy is still relatively new as an art form in our history. If we go back to fine arts, if we go back to sculpting, if we go back to painting, dancing music acting, they go way back to the Greek days and standup comedy, as we know, it’s pretty much about 75, 80 years old in this country.

So it’s still a relatively new art form. People throw around rumors and innuendo and urban lore like it’s actually fact, anytime anybody paints anything with a broad brush, you’ve really just got to kind of shrug your shoulders because they think they know it, but they don’t really know it. 

I mean, despite the evidence of everything to the contrary being right before their very eyes, they’ll cast out facts. Like it takes 10 years to find your persona. Like, you know, that’s the rule.

Let’s take a look: 

Jerry Seinfeld didn’t take 10 years to find his persona

You want evidence? Jerry Seinfeld, from the very first day he stepped on stage in his early twenties. I think he was 20 or 21 when he stepped on stage at Catch Rising Star in New York City. That first time on stage where he froze for his first five minutes, I think he was up there for like a minute and a half and he just walked off the stage.

Then he came back again some time later, and could only do premises. Then he just kept working and kept working from that day, five years later, five years later, he was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

And pretty much from that day on, he’s never really changed. His “what is it with bugs,” still the same guy he was back then. So five years, 10 years. I don’t know. What’s the quotient, right? How do you know?

Be the guy you are around your friends

Lots of guys have their own individual approaches towards comedy? I mean George Burns, the famous George Burns. He reinvented himself, I think five to eight times before he finally hit on George Burns. So you’ll go through evolutions. The first goal, as far as persona, I think is to find out if you can be the guy you are around your friends on that stage in front of strangers, that’s the first goal.

If you can do that, you’re off to a start. As far as finding your persona, your persona may evolve.

I started out emulating Jerry Seinfeld

When I started out, I started out very “Seinfeldian,” you know, despite the fact that I grew up listening to George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Bill Cosby.

I wound up being more “Seinfeldian” in my early days.

It was bad, like to the point where I was actually ridiculed by Seinfeld!

I was actually on stage at the laugh factory and it was doing stuff like, “You know, I saw a sign that said ‘Positively No Smoking’ as opposed to “Negatively, Smoke Please.” That’s kind of the way I started. And Seinfeld was standing right there. He had done a set earlier, just kind of looked at me and went, “Yeah, Whatever.”

The “tip” from George Carlin that changed everything

So eventually I found my voice. It was after I met George Carlin and he said to me, “take the shit that drives you absolutely crazy and make that funny.”

So that’s what really turned me on. That’s how I started to find my persona if you will. Which is basically just me being myself and being pretty cynical about the sociopolitical mess that this country is in. And we’re always in some sort of sociopolitical mess. Aren’t we?

There’s always something going on that we can pick on. So the five-year ten-year thing, there’s no such thing. People say, some people say seven years, some people say 10 years…

Most comedians spend their early years just figuring out how to write a joke

Here’s the deal, When you first start, you’re spending the first three to five years, just trying to figure out how to write jokes. Isn’t that true?

So it’s like people are just trying to figure out the mechanics of what triggers laughter. But when you know how to write an early point, when you understand what triggers human laughter, like the Nine Psychological Laughter Triggers and the 13 Major Comedy Structures and what you need in order to pull those triggers, like through a reverse, or incongruity, or paradox, or comedic irony, or using recognition or ambivalence to trigger a laugh, then you’re way ahead of everybody already.

So it doesn’t take as long to find your persona,

Make it a rule to break the rules

But these rules that people layout, always blow my mind. It’s like, don’t listen to the rules. Picasso said, “You’ve got to know the rules before you can break the rules.”

That particular thing is not even a rule. It’s just something somebody made up, you know, 10 years to find your persona, you know?

Mark Lonow, who was the co-owner at the improv in Los Angeles here. He used to have this little orientation for all the new comics that were coming in that wanted to do an audition for a spot at the improv. And I remember during that orientation, he said to the group of new comedians, he said, “It takes seven years to become a headliner.” Like, again, that’s the rule. Like at six, six years and nine months, you’re going to go “Three more months and I’ll be headlining.”

It doesn’t work that way. When he said seven years, I said to myself, I’m going to beat that. And I headlined my first gig in three and a half years. When I said that to my class, one of my students said, I said, I’m gonna beat that. So he did it in two and a half years. He was headlining and also did TV before that. See, interestingly enough, this guy says 10 years…

Random “rules” can hold you back

I have a course called “How to be The Richest Comedian Nobody’s Ever Heard Of,” because it’s basically my blueprint for how I was making $250,000 a year with standup and nobody knew my name because I wasn’t JUST doing standup in clubs.

I was creating multiple revenue streams with my comedy and making money. So, but this guy put on my blog, “Hey, don’t even expect to make any money until you’ve been in this business 10 years.”

Again, some little number that popped out of the blue that he decides is a rule for everybody else. And the thing that bothers me about that, it’s like, you’ve got these people that want to get into this business that really eager about being comedians. And then they got guys who were making up these rules that make no sense.

Just stop listening to people with these arbitrary rules. Just be, you. Be the best you, you can be and I know how cliche that sounds, but just be you. Just be the best. You just go out there and start to explore, get out there and start, you know, being super confident with your identity, no matter who you are.

And even if you’re, even if your persona changes, just get up there and be you. And don’t worry about what anybody else is thinking and try to set goals, you know?

Somebody said to me, what seven years, 10 years to make any money really 10 years? It was less than two years that I was in this business that I was making money in comedy and it was doing it in corporate and not in in the clubs. So I mean $800 a gig to start. And that’s how I started in this business. 

Listen to your own voice

So don’t listen to these guys that come up with this arbitrary nonsense and try to paint something with a broad brush. You’ve got to take your own journey. Each individual will find their own way, but this 10 years stuff to find your persona, doesn’t have to be that way. 

It might take that long, depends on you, but in the long run, you’re going to do what you do.

And eventually you’re going to find yourself first goal, be able to be you on stage and not just recite material. You know, mechanics of the materials is one thing. The structure of the material is one thing, but being able to be in the moment and have a conversation with the audience, you’re going to find yourself. I skewed towards being cynical and doing socio-political material.

How Anthony Jeselnik found his persona

Anthony Jeselnik in his interview that I saw online. He actually said that he was just practicing doing jokes. He was just doing jokes with an audience and he hit a couple of dark jokes and it seemed like that’s what the audience was kind of responding to the best. So that’s the direction he went.

He actually was inspired by Jack Handy’s “Deep Thoughts” on Saturday Night Live, remember that little segment?

He would kind of write his material based off of versions of that. He started with Deep Thoughts and then came up with his own. And that was kind of his direction. And then he found out that the dark ones, the edgy ones, were the ones that people were responding to so he went in that direction with his material.

It’s not a random number, it’s your number

So 10 years, seven years, five years, two years, one and a half years. It doesn’t matter. Just get up there and be you and find your own voice and stop listening to these things. You know, maybe you found your voice and then, some guy says 10 years and you’re like, “Oh, I couldn’t have found my voice. Cause that dude said ’10 years.'”

It’s not nothing like that. Everybody’s an individual. They do to do their own thing.

And you can break all those rules that are out there and find your own way.

I hope this helped add value to your day. Remember if you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter, where my handle is @jokedoctor. Ask me a question, then hashtag it with #AskTheJokeDoctor, and I’ll do a video for YouTube and give you my best answer.

Great to have you here!

When Do You Think it’s Too Late to Break Into This Business of Comedy?

older character actor

One of the most popular questions I receive on my YouTube Channel or Twitter is “When do you think it’s too late to break into this business?”

Each time I get that question I take a deep breath, because–okay no reason really–I just like doing breathing exercises!

See, I was trying to make it sound all dramatic like one of my favorite Fed-EX commercials where the two businessmen realize the package they sent is not going to arrive in time and they sit there in the office saying, “We’re doomed!” “Doomed!” “Doomed!”

The commercial made me laugh, but the commercial also made me think, If your entire business is doomed because a couple of packages arrive a day late then you should diversify your business plan!

I’m going to use that perspective to give you my best answer to the question, “When do you think it’s too late to get into this business?”

I addressed this issue in one of my YouTube videos entitled Ageism in Comedy is No Joke, but let me address it from a fresher perspective.

You ready?

I think anyone can get involved in this business anytime they want. I mean that totally seriously. Any. Time. You. Want.

In comedy, there’s only one requirement; get laughs, and do it consistently.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a couple of jokes that don’t resonate once in a while, (I mean SNL does that… A lot!).

But that’s just talking about “getting into the industry of comedy.

If you are talking about the bigger picture. Show business. The Entertainment Industry. The machine. And then having some level of success in it…

That level of getting into the industry has some other requirements.

You Need to be Able to Sell Soap

After you have a level of confidence with your ability to be humorous or funny consistently, these are the next two requirements that most of us comedians, rarely, if ever, consider.

You hear comedians say, “I killed it!” “I crushed it.”

When we first start out in this business, all we’re thinking about is making the audience laugh.

But if you want to reach the level in this industry where you’re actually achieving some success, (and of course, I’m talking about making money), the next requirement is the ability to develop an audience.

You have to have people who want to see you. To watch you. To listen to you. To stop what they’re doing and listen or watch what you’re doing.

The third requirement of this business is you need to be able to sell soap.

And when I say “sell soap,” I mean attract viewers who want to buy products that companies advertise. Because that’s what keeps shows on the air.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being able to sell soap.

Show business is two words. There’s the show and there’s the BUSINESS. And “BUSINESS” is always in ALL CAPS.

But, here’s the good news…

In today’s world, all the potential is in the palm of your hands… literally. Especially if you’re reading this blog post or watching this video, right now, on your smartphone.

It’s Time to Think Differently

I think most people have a this vision that getting into comedy means that you have to go to open mics, where you may or may not get on stage, but before you do get on stage, you have to sit through a sea of jokes about dicks, or jokes about smoking too much weed, or jokes about dicks who smoke too much weed.

If you’re over 40, the thought of having to slog out to do that several nights a week is not pleasant.

But there’s another way…

Doing comedy isn’t only about performing at clubs like the Comedy Store or the Improv. Doing comedy can and should encompass a lot more.

There’s a lot that can be done with comedy that most comedians don’t think about.

You can crush an audience with your humor at colleges and universities, cruise ships, corporate events, service organizations, (Optimists, Rotary, Soroptimists), or trade associations and so much more.

School assemblies, Trade show hosting, Convention Entertainment, Audience warm-up, Private parties, Opening for bands, Executive Roasts, Grad-night shows, Assisted Living Facilities, Book Launches and the list goes on.

These are just few avenues a comedian can pursue in performance-based comedy. In fact, many of these events prefer more mature performers.

There are a lot of other avenues a comedian who gets into the game later in life can pursue. Too many for me to get into in this article.

I go into a ton more in my course “How to be the Richest Comedian Nobody’s Ever Heard Of.”

You Can do This at Any Age

The bottom line is, there are so many niches in comedy that I truly believe you can get into comedy at any age.

But it doesn’t stop there. Any comedian can develop a niche audience at any point in their lives. They just have to be willing to be consistent and do the work to develop an audience of raving fans.

You know how you can do this?

Social Media. Specifically, YouTube.

Before you go all tech-phobic on me, here me out.

I have a student named Charlie Berens, who did this exact thing. He built a following of raving fans on YouTube and he’d only been doing comedy for a couple of years.

In one of my classes that Charlie was attending, I mentioned developing a niche by creating a character or having a well-defined point-of-view and publishing short videos on YouTube.

So Charlie started a YouTube Channel called the “Manitowoc Minute.”

On the channel, his character, who is a Wisconsin yokel, delivers short bits of news and commentary with lots of local references, while adding jokes along the way. He also has interesting giveaways and philanthropic opportunities.

How Effective is His YouTube Channel?

Well, when I first found out he had a channel last fall, he had 77,000 subscribers. That might not sound like a lot, but that 77K allowed him to sell out comedy rooms for one-night special events all over the country!

Including selling out 280 seats in the main room at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, CA on a Saturday at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

I mean who’s selling out comedy shows at 4 o’clock in the afternoon?!

How many comedians who have been in comedy for such short time are doing that?

As of this writing, Charlie’s “Manitowoc Minute” Channel, has earned 217K subscribers. He literally tripled his subscribers in 9 months!

Charlie has also been getting a ton of traditional media exposure, so don’t be surprised if you see him on Netflix sometime soon or hear about a show being developed for network starring this quirky, funny dude with a very noticeable Wisconsin dialect.

To be candid, you might check out Charlie’s channel and comeback at me with something like, “Yeah, but he’s young!” And you would be right.

He’s younger than me, but then I would just send you over to my friend Cowboy Kent Rollins on YouTube, who started with a “How to Make Cowboy Coffee” video and now has (at the time of this posting) 2 million subscribers.

He’s not only making coffee, he’s making bank!

So What’s the Secret to Their Success?

If you took a moment to really take a look at the videos I so carefully embedded on this page for you, (Hint, hint. Go take a look), you might notice that these two guys have a couple of things in common.

They both provide solid entertainment enmeshed with well-refined personas.

There is some really cool science underlying how powerful a well-refined comedy persona can be for those of you who are looking, not only to get into, but to succeed, in this business, that will just blow your mind.

It gets a little deep, and I don’t have the space to cover it in this article.

It’s a proven science. Jeff Foxworthy the “Redneck Comedian” has sold more comedy albums (CDs, DVDs,) than any other comedian in history.

The reason? A well-refined persona.

The bottom line is, a well-refined persona attracts a niche (focused) audience. That audience has an almost unavoidable tendency to become raving fans.

And raving fans have an even bigger tendency to buy soap.

Show-BUSINESS!

2 Simple Comedy Writing Exercises that Secretly Make You Faster and Funnier

wax-on-wax-off

“Wax on. Wax Off.”

Do you ever have those days when you don’t feel inspired to write comedy? You want to write but you don’t feel funny? Or you’re feeling defeated because you don’t feel like you are growing or not growing fast enough?
Here are 2 simple comedy writing exercises you can do just to stimulate your comedic instincts. These are great when you just want to keep up your writing but you don’t feel like you have anything to write about.

These exercises are like the “Wax-on-wax-off” exercises Mr. Miyagi gave to his student “Daniel-San” in the movie “The Karate Kid.”

In the movie, the kid is bullied by a group of rogue martial arts students, he is saved by a man name Mr. Miyagi, who offers to teach the kid how to defend himself.

Mr. Miyagi starts by giving Daniel-San some chores. One chore is to wash and wax Mr. Miyagi’s cars. To the kid this makes no sense.

What does this have to do with learning karate? 

The kid later learns that the muscles used in putting the wax on the car and rubbing the wax off the car are important muscles used while executing defensive moves in karate.

With comedians, we want to get to the laugh. We want to get to the punchline. But just as most of Karate is not about punching, but redirecting the energy of the other person’s momentum, comedy is often about leading the listener and using the momentum of their expectations to create a surprise ending.

Comedy is more than just trying to “be funny.”

The comedy writing exercises I’m going to show you here may seem to have very little to do with your actual stand-up comedy. But what they do for you is sharpen your instinct and your skill with comedic technique, ultimately making you faster on your feet.

There is an app online called a random sentence generator. Just for kicks I loaded up 10 random sentences and tried to come up with some jokes using a variety of techniques. I came up with a couple of useable jokes, but that’s not the goal of this exercise. It’s just to get some practice in “thinking” like a comedian; looking beyond what’s implied by the the statement.

Start with 3 Questions

I start by taking the sentence, then asking three questions:
  1. What is assumed, expected or what do I imagine the audience sees, and can I shatter it?
  2. Is there a double-entendre in the sentence that I can write an alternate meaning on. In other words does a word have an implied meaning that I can turn to a comedic meaning?
  3. Are there two dissimilar ideas converging that I can do a list with and juxtapose those ideas?

When I was little I had a car door slammed shut on my hand.  

After that my mom thought it would probably be better if she just spanked me.

My mom didn’t really know how to raise kids. Like one time when I was little I had a car door slammed shut on my hand. And my mom was like “next time I should probably just spank him.”

She wrote him a long letter, but he didn’t read it

I dated this girl that I met originally when we were five. I hadn’t seen her in years. But she wrote me a letter. Which was fascinating because the day we met she drew me a letter. Yeah. And I drew her one. It was a letter D for her name Danielle. She cried because I wouldn’t give it to her. We’re gonna have dinner tonight. I’m excited because I think she still wants the D.
Then I rewrote it to tighten it a little below…

This girl I hadn’t seen in years just wrote me a letter. Which was interesting because when we first met when we were in kindergarten, she drew me a letter. I drew her one too. It was the first letter of her name, Danielle. I remember she cried because I wouldn’t give it to her, I wanted to keep it. Anyway, We’re gonna grab dinner tonight. I’m pretty excited because I think she still wants the D.

Notice how in the second draft I changed “we met when we were five,” to “when we were in kindergarten.” It’s an important change. The 5 elements of story are:
  • Character
  • Theme
  • Setting
  • Conflict
  • Plot
Adding “when we met in kindergarten” accomplishes two things: It states our age and it gives the audience a setting; kindergarten.
If the audience sees a kindergarten classroom in their imagination, the line did its job. When the audience sees the colors, smells the smells and feels the textures of the story you’re telling–even in a quick joke–then they are more compelled and involved emotionally in your story.
Therefore, they are not just hearing a joke, they are experiencing it. Big difference.
In taking a random sentence, keep in mind that the 3 questions I ask at the beginning is only the start. I can apply 10 other comedy structures to find a way to turn a sentence into a joke.

Using Inflection to Find an Angle

This next exercise, I just repeated the line aloud multiple times while emphasizing a different word each time, this has an almost magical effect in that it gives the reader a different perspective on the meaning of the speaker’s intent.
What I did with this line is imagine a scene at the airport and the chauffeur is saying the line to the arriving passenger at the luggage carousel. I underlined each word that I emphasized to write each response.
Let me help you with your BAGGAGE.
No need. We left my mother-in-law at home.
Let me help you with your BAGGAGE.
That won’t be necessary. I left the kids at their moms.
Let me help you with your BAGGAGE.
Wait. You can get rid of my wife?
Let me help you with YOUR baggage.
Because it would be weird if you helped me with THAT GUY’S Baggage.
Let me help you with YOUR baggage.
Thank you, Jeeves and uhm… feel free to help with my wife’s baggage too.
Let ME help you with your baggage.
Why? Did you have somebody else who was gonna do it?
Let me HELP you with your baggage.
When you’re done with that can you HELP me find a sex worker?
Let ME help you with your baggage.
Let you? Geez, look at you. Who’s gonna stop you?
Let me HELP you with your baggage.
You’ll get a better tip if you just do it yourself.

I may never use this in a stand-up act, but if you allow your imagination to see all the possible ways you can play the intent of this simple line, you can imagine a character in a movie or on TV respond to a chauffeur in a similar silly way.

See if you can come up with your own, based on what I did on this page, then go generate some of your own random sentences and see if you can come up with some yourself.
Some of you might think this exercise is childish, but when you practice these techniques they have a big impact on your overall skill. They make you wittier, funnier and faster. And every comic wants that!
Like in The Karate Kid, you have to work those muscles you never knew you even had, because when you’re on the stage, there may come a time when you have to “sweep the leg.”

Have fun!

How to Write a Joke like Chris Rock

how to write a joke like Chris Rock

That’s right. In this post, I’m going to show you how to write a joke like Chris Rock…

Well, I’m going to show you one specific way that Chris Rock writes his stand-up comedy material.

I’ll tell you what brought me to this. As you might know, I have a YouTube channel where I post a lot of videos based on questions the comedy-curious send me on Twitter. I get great questions from comedians at all levels, beginners to professionals, because, let’s face it, we’re always learning!

This particular video addresses a comment I received on my YouTube Channel regarding a comedy writing tutorial I put online. I demonstrated how to write jokes using incongruity by utilizing the listing technique.

This guy wrote a comment that said, “Nobody uses this technique to write comedy.”

I replied, “What is your experience in this field? It must run deep since you imply that you know everyone in comedy.”

He wrote back, “Oh. Sorry Jerry. I didn’t even know you read these things.”

So what’s that say about his character? When you’re not looking I’ll talk shit about you…”

Now, don’t get me wrong I appreciate the skeptics. I used to say I respect them, but it’s hard to respect someone that simply defaults to negativity and commits themselves to a fact when all the evidence to the contrary is right before their very eyes.

And if they just took a little time to research the field they are in, they could find the truth.

But sometimes people need a little more than just somebody like me telling them they’re wrong. They need examples from someone with a LOT more credentials and fame than I have.

So that’s why I put together this video where I deconstruct a bit that Chris Rock does.

Then, as a bonus I demonstrate that if you actually go deep with the lists you can write like 20 more jokes on just one premise.

To really put a nail in the coffin of the skeptic, I include a downloadable PDF worksheet so that YOU can print it out and do some writing yourself on the same premise.

It’s great practice. And you’ll have a ton of fun doing it.

So watch the video. And while you’re there don’t forget to leave a comment, subscribe, like and share!

Don’t Listen to the Schmucks!

don't listen to the schmucks

There’s a condition out there that some people have called the “I-know-everything” condition and it’s terminal.

If there’s one thing in your journey to success that will stop you cold in your tracks, it’s being the guy who thinks they know everything.

That’s what today’s video is about.

I call it “Don’t Listen to the Schmucks!” 🙂

I hope you enjoy it… and as always, leave a comment, and if you like the content, consider subscribing to the channel.

How to Crush a Heckler Without Ruining the Show

When I first started doing comedy, I used to do these shows during breaks in between sets of my friend’s band when they performed in nightclubs around Los Angeles.

One night I was doing a set and it wasn’t going well. There were these three guys that noticed me failing miserably. I could hear one of them say, “Look, he’s bombing! Let’s get him.”

They approached the stage and stood like four feet from the stage and started heckling me. When one of them ran out of breath, one of the other ones took over. It was like being verbally gang banged by hecklers.

After that miserable set I went to the bar and thought about getting drunk, but then I realized that I had audio recorded that entire experience.

I record every set. Mini-tape recorders, digital recorders or the voice memo app on my iPhone is the technological equivalent of an airplane’s black box. It records every event that leads up to a crash.

I said to myself, “That shit is NEVER gonna happen to me again.”

I took that recorder home, listened to to each line those assholes said to me and I wrote comebacks for every single one of them.

That was totally empowering. It was a true-to-life example of taking a negative experience and turning into a positive one.

During the nearly 30 years of doing stand-up I’ve learned a lot about hecklers and most of the stuff I learned is counter-intuitive to most of the stuff we hear from other comedians.

One thing I have learned is that preparation is essential. Having an arsenal of response lines called “comebacks,” will help you overcome your fear of hecklers.

Some comedians insist that you don’t need to prepare for hecklers. But then you have to ask yourself why the number one joke type stolen from comedians is heckler comebacks?!

How do you Prepare for a Heckler?

Dealing with hecklers is not something that comedians get enough practice with.

Heckling doesn’t usually happen often enough for us to have enough time to get any reps in. Think about it. You can spend hours honing and rehearsing five minutes of material, then you get up on stage in front of an audience and you rehearse and hone that five minutes.

There’s usually no heckles. Once in a while a heckler shows up. A heckle is a blip in the overall stand-up experience. So literally what time do we have to work on hecklers?

Very little, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t get the practice in.

Your overall practice for a heckler comes with the practice you put in writing your jokes. If you have a good grasp on how to craft a joke from scratch on any given topic, you’re already ahead of the game when it comes time to deal with a heckler.

Think about it this way: a heckle response is a comeback to something someone says in the audience. Usually that something comes from somebody who’s trying to somehow disrupt your show.

As a comedian, your writing is usually a cynical comment on a fact, statement or announcement, incident or situation. So if you’ve been practicing your writing, you’re going to be more prepared to respond to a heckler.

The first skill you must acquire when dealing with a heckler is what I like to call active listening. That means really listening to every word the heckler says. When hecklers speak they usually give you enough fodder to develop a quick incongruity response to a joke, a paired phrase response to a joke or a wordplay response to a joke. But it’s not only limited to those comedic comebacks.

Hecklers comments are like any line you might write a joke on. There’s endless possibilities, but when you just give yourself a few structures to work with it makes faster with your comebacks.

The good news is that the tension is so high in the room when there’s a heckle, that the audience will usually give you accolades for coming up with anything that makes sense in response.

Two Basic Types of Heckle Comebacks

There are two basic types of Heckle Comebacks.

  1. Evergreen Comebacks
  2. Ad-lib Comebacks

The Evergreen Comeback

The Evergreen Comeback is a response to a heckler that the comedian uses that may or may not (usually not) have anything to do with the subject matter the heckler is talking about. It’s just a line to shut him/her up. Here are a few I’ve heard over the years. They’ve been recycled by a variety of comedians…

“I remember when I had my first beer.”

“Why don’t you wear a full-body condom? If you’re gonna act like a dick, you might as well dress like one.”

“Has your father stopped crying?”

“Your bus leaves in 10 minutes. Be under it.”

“Your mother could’ve done us all a favor and just swallowed.”

Those are standard lines they are there in case the moment doesn’t provide me with enough fodder to respond to the comedian effectively in an ad-lib situation.

You’ve probably heard comedians use one or more of those lines, but I was never a fan of using someone else’s heckle jokes so I wrote a bunch of my own…

Here’s one I usually use to keep it playful…

“What’s going on at that table? Are these all your friends or are you the only one in the trailer park with a car?”

I might follow it up with, “Because I’ve seen your house and I love what you’ve done with the Michelins.”

The fun part is keeping it playful. Usually after I would say this line and do the tag, the heckler behaves.

Ad-Lib Comebacks

The Ad-Lib Comebacks are lines that a comedian uses that are direct responses to what a heckler has said. It could be prompted or unprompted by the comedian.

I remember being at a show and Howie Mandel had a heckler. Howie just said, “So what do you do for a living?”
The guy said, “I’m a carpenter.”
Howie said, “That’s cool, because I was just thinking, “If I had a hammer…”

It’s not even a put down. It’s just a comeback. But it diffused the moment and as silly and innocuous as that was for a comeback, the audience not only laughed, they applauded.

The audience laughed at the simple coincidence that Howie came up with something that related to the subject of “carpenter.” In addition, the added coincidence that Howie’s response was a song that was relatable and familiar and it fit with the subject matter. Audience’s will not only laugh at the coincidence that those two ideas fit with each other, they laugh because the tension is high and they are craving a release point.

This technique by Howie Mandel is used quite often when the heckler is not providing any fodder. When the heckler says what they do for a living, the comedian now has something to work with. At that point the comedian can choose to go on the attack or be playful.

A Professional Should Keep the Show Playful

I prefer the comeback that keeps the show playful. In my experience being playful is much more effective at quieting the comedian for the rest of the show than going on the attack.

There’s a misunderstood psychology behind the heckler that most comedians don’t bother to understand. It’s a subject that’s beyond the scope of this post, but I will address it in another one soon.

I also cover it in a half-day Heckle & Comeback Workshop that I do.

I think club owners and audiences expect more from a comedian these days.

There are times you can carry something too far. If you corner someone and don’t give them anywhere to go and it’s not comedic, you’re doing yourself, your act, the audience and the club a disservice. If it turns into a fight, you’ve killed the night and probably your chance of getting asked back to that club.

I’ve done all that.

I’ve shredded someone to the point that I had a beer bottle thrown at my head. I’ve humiliated someone to the point where they went out to their truck and got a gun. I’ve burned a heckler to the point where a group of KKK put a brick through the rear window of my car and I’ve throttled a group to where I got cracked in the jaw by a couple of dudes after the show.

I’ve since learned ways to be prepared and keep it fun, while still being edgy. There’s a way to diffuse, deflect & pivot so that you can still “WIN,” while still keeping the show moving and not have a fight or get a bottle thrown at your head.

Preparation is key but understanding the intrinsic nature of the heckler and the audience empowers you to be in charge of whether the night is a night of funny or a night at a bar fight.

There’s more to come on this subject of hecklers, so keep an eye out for my next post on the heckler. In the meantime, check out my Heckle & Comeback Workshop and learn some secrets to crushing the heckler every time.

how to deal with a heckler workshop by Jerry Corley

Email Whitelisting

Email Address Whitelisting 

“Email Whitelisting” is used to describe the act of allowing an email to reach your inbox. This is helpful if you want to make sure a certain business’ email doesn’t go to your spam folder. Whitelisting is typically accomplished by adding the sender to your contact list in your email client. In this article, I’ll give you step-by-step instructions that show how to whitelist a sender.

Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions to whitelist a sender in common email clients and providers.

Apple iPhone / iPad

  1. Open the email.
  2. Tap the sender’s name in the From line.
  3. On the next screen, tap Create New Contact.
  4. Tap Done.

Microsoft Outlook 2013

  1. Right-click on the email that you would like to add to your safe sender list
  2. Hover over Junk and then click the option Never Block Sender.

Android

  1. Tap to open the email.
  2. Tap the icon next to the email address.
  3. Tap OK.

Apple Mail

  1. Right-click on the sender’s email address.
  2. Select Add to Contacts or Add to VIPs.

Gmail

  1. Click and drag the email into the Primary tab.
  2. Click Yes to confirm

Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail)

  1. Open the email.
  2. Click the Add to contacts link

Yahoo! Mail

  1. Right-click the email.
  2. Select Add Sender to Contacts.
  3. Click Save.