Standup comedy resources online
July 7, 2004 1:13 AM   Subscribe

Decent links to standup comedy resources and advice from anyone who has tried it please. I have agreed to do some standup in the next month having never done it before. Thanks..
posted by kenaman to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wow...I think that's going to be rough.
posted by agregoli at 6:41 AM on July 7, 2004

As a rank amateur, you have a license to steal. If you want to do topical comedy, you can do no better than to steal from this site. You will find a wide variety of today's hot topics with loads of low-brow puns to high-brow wit. ;-P
posted by mischief at 6:44 AM on July 7, 2004

Oh, and break a leg!
posted by mischief at 7:05 AM on July 7, 2004

I tried it once, and I will probably never do it again. I bombed, though I prepared as much as possible, and had (what I thought was) funny, funny stuff (at least my buddies liked it). That was the first time that I cried as an Adult. I cried like a baby.

The thing is, I found out the hard way that being "funny" does not mean that you will be "funny." A lot of work goes into standup.

1) This is kind of obvious, but write your jokes ahead of time, memorize them and test them.
2) Get to know your local comedy club. Find out what the 'locals' find funny, and find out what they don't (ie. know your audience). This was key to my failure. I tried to be edgy. It didn't work.
3) I was always against them, but now I can't get enough of them - buy, borrow or DL some comedy albums. I used to believe that the visual aspect of comedy was key, but I now see that it is a good way to just listen to the timing. Check out my recent AskMe thread for some excellent, excellent suggestions.
4) Go to your video store, and rent "Comedian" a documentary about Jerry Seinfeld, and what goes into being a successful comedian.

and good luck.
posted by Quartermass at 7:14 AM on July 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

Quartermass hits the nail on the head. Being funny for your friends is relatively easy compared to making total strangers laugh. All those shared experiences you have with your friends and knowledge of what they like is far too easy of a crutch to fall back on. I've gone to tons of open mike nights and when the people bomb there is always a small table of people (the comedian's friends) laughing but the rest of the room is silent.

Once you find stuff that is funny to complete strangers, you need to work on delivery and segues. Both are difficult in their own ways.

Prepare meticulously. Practice as much as you can. Two to Three minutes of material is typical for the open mike nights. Good luck! (I've never made it past 30 to 45 seconds of material).
posted by mmascolino at 8:23 AM on July 7, 2004

Try alternative comedy. That way, if you fail to get a laugh, you can say it was part of your act.
posted by herc at 8:59 AM on July 7, 2004

Tell the aristocrats joke. You can never go wrong with that one!
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 9:18 AM on July 7, 2004

My sister's a stand up comedian. It's a tough racket.

My advice from observing her:

a. As suggested above, hit the club you're playing at. Pay just as much attention to the audience as you do the comics. And, pay just as much attention to those who bomb as those who kill. Ask deep questions as to why each does what they do.

b. CONIFIDENCE is key in comedy. People who look uncomfortable, out of place, or unsure of themselves have a considerably harder time. The audience will reflect your attitude.

C. Avoid audience participation. If you're not good at it, it will sink you super fast. I went to so many amateur nights when my sissa was starting and I got so tired of the "Does anyone here...?" and "How's everyone doing tonight...?" comics. If you're first on stage, sure, ask how everyone's doing. But if you're not, believe me, every fucking comic before you has already asked. (Note that I never once heard a comic say, "I'd ask how you're doing but who gives a shit." or "I'd ask how you're doing but I'm so fucking nervous that right after you say your answer I'll forget what you said." I would have laughed at either.)

So, if you've got a joke about something that happened in the news, don't preface it with "Did anyone see this thing in the paper....". Just tell the fuckin' joke. Obviously, this is a pet peeve of mine. :)

D. pre-gig, I think it's best to practice learning your material with a tape recorder (or digital voice recorder) and practice in front of a mirror (body language is very important, which you'll notice in the comics that hit). However, learn to riff on your material rather than just learn it rote. it'll make you look more at ease and put you more in the flow.

E. Do not read off a piece of paper. (Yes, I've seen more than one comic do this.)

F. Try to avoid props that are hard for everyone to see.

G. I do not recommend you steal any material. I once saw a guy tell an Eddie Murphy joke and the MC came on the overhead speaker and said, "All that we ask on amateur night is for 2 minutes of ORIGINAL material. Ya fuckin' douche bag." And trust me, no matter how obscure you think the joke you're cribbing is, someone's heard it. That someone probably works in a comedy club.

H. If you want to hear some great comics, there's some excellently priced classic comedy albums at (they're provided by, which I think George Carlin owns).

Break a leg.
posted by dobbs at 9:26 AM on July 7, 2004

I did this once, as a bet, and it was terrifying. But I wouldn't want to put you off, it was fun and I'm proud of it.

Knowing the venue and crowd is good, as people have said. That will help you judge suitable topics and the level of language you can get away with.

Then work out your act and practice. A lot. don't expect to be able to wing it, but you don't want to just recite it either. Be aware of how much material you've got and therefore how long your act should last.

Organise points in your material where you can drop back in if you've lost your place or gone off at a tangent. This will help you to keep going if all doesn't go to plan.

Confidence and ease are very important but don't get too drunk beforehand, although a couple won't hurt.

It may not go perfectly first time but don't worry. It's a really hard thing to do and it's impossible to judge how it will be without actually doing it. Then be ready to learn from your mistakes.

Good luck
posted by devon at 11:08 AM on July 7, 2004

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for your advice and best wishes. Appreciated.
posted by kenaman at 12:43 AM on July 8, 2004

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