This is a serious article for the most part. Southern Boulevard is here to help you with stand up comedy, and discuss what this art form really means and how it can impact other areas of your life. I’ve done it several times before writing this and by the time you read this will have hopefully performed a few more times. How does it work? Simple. Find a style.
Find a voice that is uniquely you. Write jokes, jot ideas, save them any way you can. Review them every so often. When you have ten or twenty or fifty (ten is fine), start to shape a routine. Cut out the ones that won’t work. It’s an organic process because when you’re up there, it’s never the same. The same routine will change slightly every time it’s done because you make jokes about the room, yourself, recent things…your wording changes. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it weakens things, but with more experience you’ll be able to feel out the vibe of a room and know how to tailor your routine for them.
Self-deprecation is a good way to open and close your routine. The more aggressive humor is better suited to fleshing out the middle, along with some observations. Your nastiest/edgiest joke should be 3/4 of the way through. Wrap up with a humorous apology or warmer attitude. This way you leave people with a good impression while giving a sense of a rounded routine.
If you’re telling a story, it should build to the punchline but needs smaller jokes peppered throughout.
Become self-aware and also gain insight into others. Talk to “peculiar” people. Study and think about yourself, how you appear to others, who you are. Do you have a slight tick or speech impediment? Stand a certain way? Do you put others at ease or are you a little uncomfortable? Accepting your strengths and weaknesses is crucial because this allows you to find jokes that will be funny for you. Just because it worked for Louis CK does not mean it will work for you. Deliver a joke harshly and it may not work: the same joke delivered in an innocent tone might bring the house down. Being aware that you come across a certain way and then feigning a lack of awareness is challenging but always works well. Similarly, letting everyone know you’re aware of a quirk about yourself, or even one of them/a famous person can surprise people and gives them a feeling of warmth when they realize you think the same way.
Southern Boulevard will self-assess for your pleasure. As usual.
I’m not a super smooth guy, and point this out as openly as possible. This warms up everyone. If you’ve accepted yourself, they’ll accept you. I’m sure to show confidence however. If you’re making a snarky comment, just deliver it. The apologetic giggle may work for some personalities and not for others. For me, I usually follow up the same joke with lighter punchlines commenting or evaluating the joke or myself, allowing the audience to see the subject from a different angle and relieving tension if the joke crossed a line.
Joke types I use: I kind of made these terms up myself but I’m sure you hear them anywhere.
1-2-3 Setup: The first two statements or clauses are innocent or average, the third is dirty/unexpected. In a list of things to bring to a deserted island, for example, you say bread, a dog, and a defibrillator (that’s in an article on here actually. Horoscope one I think).
Unexpected sentence: A sentence starts out sounding like it will go one way and then ends another way. This surprises people which is half the fun.
Calm statement: saying a joke as calmly and evenly as possible, without giggling or emotional expression, makes it funny because you’re not reacting. This is standard “don’t laugh at your own joke.”
At the same time, don’t be afraid to show emotion. Don’t go completely deadpan. I look down and smile once the audience laughs. That’s your opening to think what you’re doing next/read it out of the tiny piece of paper cupped in your palm.
Impersonations/voices: These are underrated. Don’t rely on them as that can get corny, but weaving them through a story/changing your own voice speed/tone for a punchline where you say what a person (audience member/celebrity) is thinking, etc. can add emphasis and brings energy to the moment.
Comedy writing is tough because you can read ahead and see what’s coming next, which is why I often write in a small alcove surrounded by preserved dragon testicles.
Charisma: This is toughest to learn. By far. There’s two types of people when it comes to this.
If you’re a naturally charismatic and outgoing person, you may have a very easy time getting in front of people but your actual material may suffer. You probably have a willingness to improvise and can easily work with the audience. You’re lucky, in a way. Just focus more on your act, or write things down and read them off a phone or paper if you want. You’re charismatic enough to always be appreciated, but having solid content is the only way to really get laughs.
If, by contrast, you have plenty of ideas and people have shown genuine appreciation for your humor, but you’re uncomfortable with public speaking, you’ll have to learn some skills. Also, since this will always be a slight weakness, just make it part of the routine – half the room can identify for sure. This helps everyone, including you, get past it and compartmentalize it while making it funny. I do this regularly. You’re probably better at writing your ideas than speaking, in which case rehearsing will be more important for you than the above person. Remember that once you can communicate effectively, people will enjoy your thoughts and observations.
I’ve found that being comfortable with any kind of artistic expression or public speaking boils down to understanding yourself and how you relate to others. You should also have a good idea of a range of personalities, walks of life, and the kind of people in front of you. With experience comes comfort.
The same tricks won’t really work for everyone, aside from the basic ones I listed above, the same ones you’ll see on any website about this topic. Know yourself, know your audience, and the jokes will feel right. If it’s not “you,” don’t make it. If it’s not “them,” definitely avoid it. If you make a mistake, turn it into a joke. Point out the disconnect. It’s all just a game of connecting with a crowd of strangers – but that’s the fun. That’s all any artist is trying to do.
Thing is, the connections are already there. You just have to find them.
Ever perform standup? Ever preserve dragon testicles? Have a favorite comedian? Comment away!