How to Be a Stand-Up Comedian

Try these tips to take your act out of your living room and in front of a live audience.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Write original material Write original material for your routine. Whenever inspiration strikes, write it down immediately. Then, take time to polish your jokes into a linear, comedic narrative.
  • TIP: If you have funny friends, enlist them to help with jokes or give you an opinion on your material.
  • Step 2: Develop act Develop your act by rehearsing your material and finding an original voice. Study successful comedians for tips on delivery, timing, and attitude. Angry, zany, laid-back, deadpan -- however you deliver your act, be true to yourself.
  • TIP: Have plenty of backup material ready in case your act bombs.
  • Step 3: Get on stage Get on stage often. It's critical for a stand-up to practice before an audience as much as possible. Sign up for open-mic nights at comedy clubs, nightclubs, and coffeehouses. Travel to other areas to see how different audiences react.
  • Step 4: Read the audience Read the audience. If you're not getting laughs, shift gears. Be prepared to stray from your material and improvise to mine comedy from spontaneous situations, and defuse hecklers.
  • Step 5: Tape your set Record your set when you have it down, and make a DVD. Professional comics send these to comedy clubs around the country as a way to audition for a booking.
  • Step 6: Show respect Show respect to fellow comedians and club owners. Comedy is a small world and many clubs are family-owned. Staying in good graces is crucial if you want to continue to work.
  • Step 7: Have a mentor Have one or more seasoned comics as a mentor. Most professional comics learned a lot about the business from hanging out with older comics, and listening to their words of wisdom.
  • FACT: Film comedy impresario Judd Apatow spent eight years as a stand-up comedian before becoming a television comedy writer.

You Will Need

  • Original material
  • Act
  • Stage time
  • Ability to read an audience
  • Demo DVD
  • Respectful attitude
  • Mentor
  • Funny friends (optional)

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