Trying out Stand Up Comedy

KyouguKyougu Registered User regular
Lately one of the breweries I visit often started doing open mic nights. After going to them a couple of times, and talking to the MC I think this is something I would want to give it a shot. This isn't something I'm looking to do for money or a career, just something of a personal challenge/different experience. I still don't want to horribly bomb though!

I have plenty of public speaking experience (having done speech and debate in HS and college) so I'm comfortable with the public speaking part, and missing doing that is also why I want to try it. And like everyone else who probably wants to try it, I think I'm generally funny and quick witted.

The advice the MC gave me was to work on a 10 minute material for a 5 minute performance, write it out, and just practice, practice and practice.

Anyone else have any other tips? Like how to actually write up the set, the flow of jokes, etc?


  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    Not a comedian, but I'm a huge fan.

    If you dont watch a decent amount of comedy, I would probably put that on your agenda. There are tons of avenues to do so, different styles, and different audiences. Most of the things I know about the mechanics of comedy I learned from podcasts, If your favorite comedians frequent one, or have one, that might be a good place to start.

    From my experience listening to comedians talk about their time, you are going to bomb, off and on. If you aren't afraid of being on stage that'll probably help, but I wouldn't expect to be killing it out the gate.

  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    @Tav knows quite a bit about this topic IIRC.

    Also kinda feel anybody is gonna bomb the first time they step up to the mic, at least if you compare yourself to professional comics. Most people don't do a great job at anything the first time they try it. Just remember without that horrible first time you never get to the decent fifth time or the killer twentieth time.

  • TavTav Registered User regular
    Yo, I've been doing standup for over four years and have performed internationally at festivals.

    For your first time, don't worry about it. You might bomb, you might do well but in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter too much. Honestly, bombing your first time is probably the best thing because then you have that monkey off your back. There's a reason a lot of people compare their first time doing standup to their first time having sex.


    1) don't listen to anyone else's advice on joke writing, performing or what you should be doing on stage. They're all talking out their arse. Do what you think is funny and see what happens. There's a bunch of basic joke theory you can read up on (setups/punchlines, the pull back and reveal etc) if you're interested in structuring your jokes. For a 5 min open mic spot, you don't need to worry too much about structuring your jokes into a flowing set, that will come with time.

    2) DO NOT RUN THE LIGHT. If you have 5 mins, do 5 mins. Time your set and have a vague idea of how long you'll be doing, and ask the host when he lights people (it will usually be with a minute or so to go). You won't be killing it hard enough to warrant you being a dick and going over. Two mins might not seem a lot but if you've got 20 open micers on with the same idea, factoring in changeover times, you just added an hour to the show. Remember to put the mic back in the stand if you pulled it out.

    3) don't do bringer shows. If a show requires you to bring friends along for stage time, it's not worth doing.

    If you've got any specific questions, hit me up. Always happy to talk shop!

    Dark Raven XElement BrianHappylilElfGiggles_FunsworthSix
  • DaimarDaimar A Million Feet Tall of Awesome Registered User regular
    From listening to comedian podcasts the main advice they give is to try and get as much stage time as you can.

    Also, don't steal jokes.

  • Gabriel_PittGabriel_Pitt (effective against the Irish) Registered User regular
    I like watching open mic nights, or performance nights for clubs that have classes. There was a club near where I lived in Baltimore that did this at least once a month. You'd have the students all give their set, and then the closer was actually a veteran and usually known name comic. It was REALLY illuminating, because you could see the amateurs trying to make it all come together, or stumbling through missteps, and then at the end, you could see how the pro dealt with the same things. Like a joke bombing, and the comic just continuing to roll along and work with it.

  • Element BrianElement Brian Peanut Butter Shill Registered User regular
    I have also performed stand up. Not on Tav's scale, but some.

    ON Jokes: I would say generally avoid touchy subjects, especially for your first time on stage. Certain very well established comedians can get away with jokes that other people couldn't because they've kinda earned that spot. I'm specifically talking about race/gender politics/etc. Especially for your first time, it's just a good idea to kinda learn about your crowd before going in with anything like that.

    Volume/Control: this seems like an odd thing to bring up, but i gotta say it, yelling/shouting usually isn't funny, especially at amateur open mic's. I only say it because i've seen it done tons of times and I never really see it work. For whatever reason someone will be retelling a story or doing an impersonation or something and they'll resort to shouting their punchline..It just doesn't work.

    Persona: People will say that timing/delivery or two of the most important parts of telling a joke, but I feel like, especially for stand up, owning and establishing your on stage persona is one of them. Every comedian has a very specific style and one joke that would work for one comedian wouldn't specifically work for another. It's the same reason why re-telling some joke you heard from a comedian 2nd hand to another person usually just falls flat. When writing your jokes and practicing on stage, It really helped for me to think of my on-stage persona in relation to not only telling jokes but just how it effects your mannerisms and everything else .

    Do Not: talk about the light on stage and how it's brighter than you expected. Do not try to explain a joke if it lands flat. in fact Do not talk about a joke or acknowledge that it landed flat at all. Do not insult the audience for not getting your joke, Do not insult anyone in the audience for that matter, at all. Do not break character. Get on stage, have your material rehearsed and memorized and stick to it. acknowledging that you're bombing only makes it worse, it might be tough, but just stick to your material.

    Record it: Have a friend there to record your set with your phone. This way you can listen to it and analyze later what worked, what didn't, what you could change, when you messed up a line or whatever.

    Switch FC code:SW-2130-4285-0059

  • ChasinTheTraneChasinTheTrane Registered User regular
    It may help to create a dedicated character for standup. Naturally, that character is likely YOU, but exaggerated and maybe over the top. Listen and practice is the best advice you can get. You will learn from your mistakes, not from your successes.

  • MegaMan001MegaMan001 CRNA Rochester, MNRegistered User regular
    Everyone else beat me to all of my advice.

    But I also did Forensics in HS / College.

    Good luck, man. Don't be an asshole.

    I am in the business of saving lives.
  • DisrupterDisrupter Registered User regular
    I only haveome 5-6 months of open mic experience (but I did just do my first showcase and the dude who ran it gave me a small pay day so technically I'm a super professional real comedian now
    I'm not

    The biggest thing I see when folks do an open mic for the first time that lends to a bad time is just telling stories with no punch.

    Every truly hard to watch mic is the same. It's one or two super long had to be there stories. Basically honestly look at your set and ask yourself "where do I expect people to laugh?" Because a funny premise isn't good enough, you should have actual jokes that work off that premise. Jokes that fall flat are better than no jokes.

    The other thing is folks going way too blue and thinking that being offensive is a good idea. Bombing isn't bad but bombing while coming across as a terrible person is rough

    Beyond the two scenarios above people should genuinely want you to to succeed and be supportive.

    Just have fun. The big things I need to work on is eye contact with the crowd and making sure I'm loud enough talking into the mic (but not yelling) so be wary of those things too.

    And if you feel the urge to riff off something someone said earlier go for it. Even if the joke doesn't land the casual nature of saying something unscripted tends to get everyone on your side a bit more. And you'll notice quickly that sometimes the actual quality of the joke matters less than if the audience likes you or not. Basically if the audience doesn't want to laugh at you because they don't like you you're screwed no matter how good your material is. And if they like you they are more likely to laugh.

    Element Brian
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