My mom always encouraged me to do stand-up comedy. I laughed and said “No way, my life has been way too awesome. I’m not messed up enough to be a comedienne.” I was incorrect.
I’m not an expert in anything, much less stand-up comedy. This is not a blog written by an expert. This is a blog about my experience trying to get into stand-up comedy. When I started doing stand-up seven months ago, I was fortunate enough to have a close friend who has been producing and performing stand-up comedy for ten years. Having a friend in the biz is invaluable. But not everybody has a stand-up comic friend. So my hope is that with this blog I can be that friend for you or at least pass on what I learn as I learn it. Also, as I write and rewrite this first post, I remember why I majored in theatre instead of English. I write how I speak. I speak how I think. And I think like a sixteen year old on a first date.
I’m gonna give away the gold right here at the top.
The most important thing you need to know before you get started is…
Don’t date comics! Not for the reasons you might think. Not because comics are often stereotyped as narcissistic, depressed alcoholics. (Most of my comic friends actually don’t drink at all.) Don’t date comics because…YOU should be one! And when you’re dating a comic and you get into a fight…afterwards you are going to get into an even bigger fight about who gets to talk about that fight on stage. So have those fights with a teacher or a veterinarian instead!
Alright, let’s get started!
Write some jokes!
If you need help getting started you can always take a class or read a book a two. I didn’t take a class. I just started writing. I wanted to take a class, but I was way too broke. Comedienne Erikka Innes (who will be featured in my next post) found that taking a class was really helpful in getting rid of her stage fright. Classes can also be great because you get immediate feedback. And some classes even end with a performance at a comedy club.
I’ve been doing theatre since grade school so I’m no stranger to the stage…but I still experienced an adjustment period because now all of a sudden I was not being judged just on my performance. Now I was also being judged on my words…and in comedy a lot of these words come from a very personal place. For me, I feel much more vulnerable when I’m alone up there saying my own words instead of the words of a playwright.
I started writing jokes in May of 2012. But when I would say the jokes out loud it was more like I was performing a one woman show. I was just telling mildly amusing personal stories without any punchlines. So in lieu of the class that I couldn’t afford – I read a book: Judy Carter’s The Comedy Bible. Comics have different opinions about this book. I think it depends on what you need personally in your process. Everyone will take away something different from this and from any other comedy “how-to” book. But for me this book really helped me turn my stories into actual jokes.
If you can’t afford a class OR a book, there are tons of free resources online. Just Google “how to write a joke”. Click here for an example of what you will find.
Once I felt I had a good grasp on joke structure I had to figure out what to write about. The first fifteen minutes of material I wrote were all about the guy who I had just broken up with. Ha! Therapy! So I knew I needed to find some other topics to talk about. So if you are looking for inspiration… Read through your old journals and diaries. Read through that screenplay you never finished. Read through old love letters and hate mail. While you’re at it, watch Fox News (it’s got to be good for something)! And since you’re in the mood to write and because you are hungry for inspiration…start a new journal right now! Carry it with you everywhere because you will be amazed that now that you are in the mindset of writing jokes…your brain will be constantly processing your thoughts that way and you will have fabulous ideas when you least expect it.
Don’t be afraid to try out your jokes on your friends. You can even text them your jokes! Just make sure you begin said text with “Joke:” or else you could get some really strange reactions. And also make sure to continue to talk to your friends about things other than your jokes. Otherwise they will start rolling their eyes every time you show up to the party.
In my future posts we will talk about lots of stuff, including…
Things you can trade for some time on stage…oo la la!
The next post will also feature an interview with comedienne Erikka Innes. I’ve been on several shows with Erikka at Flappers Comedy Club and Rock Paper Coffee. Besides being a super funny lady, she has always impressed me with her marketing and drive.
Alright, thanks for listening! Hope you learned something new or feel inspired to get out there and spread your funny. Please feel free to post your questions below in the comments section. If I don’t know the answer…I will have lots of fun finding it!
Marilyn (Your Aspiring Comic Friend)
P.S. I’m producing a stand-up comedy show for my birthday that will benefit Children of the Night. It will feature all female comics!! You can RSVP by clicking here!