My Stand-Up Comedy Experience
Yesterday I did my first ever Stand-up comedy event which was for the charity: Children Walking Tall, which helps homeless children in India. I’m not quite sure exactly how much we raised but I do know that it was in the region of about £800.
I love stand-up comedy and it did cross my mind a few years ago to give it a try but I never gave it a second thought. I was coaching my friend Hyde who said he had always dreamed of doing stand-up and so I encouraged him to do an event! One day he asked me if I wanted to do a short set as part of a comedy night that he was arranging for charity. I jumped at the chance without actually thinking it through! Little did I realise how much work it was going to take! 🙂
Last night was the big night, I was as nervous as I’d ever been about anything in my life and yet I was really excited too. I couldn’t wait to get up and do my set! I had butterflies like you can’t imagine but the crowd were amazing, really lively!
I was actually offered a 15 minute slot, so as I was planning and preparing my set, it gradually got longer and longer! By the time I had finished it, and polished it off, it was 25 minutes long, which included pauses for laughter. Even though that is bad practise it actually ended up being a good thing. One of the acts didn’t make it on time and had to be taken off the running so my extra 10 minutes filled up the time of the comedian who was missing.
As John Kinde over at Humor Power said to me, 15 minutes is a huge challenge for a first time gig but to just “learn from doing!”
So, I got up on stage managed to keep my voice steady, something I’ve always had trouble doing in front of large crowds, and deliver my opening gag with power….it totally worked! I had them rolling in the isles and got a huge applause for that gag and because I did, I totally relaxed and the rest came naturally!
As I mentioned in my previous article, I opted to include plenty of blue humour and it was the blue humour that got the most laughs although my opening line was a clean gag. There were gags in my set which people didn’t laugh at and also times where people laughed where I wasn’t expecting any. Toilet humour always gets good laughs and if you find a good niche with regards to toilet humour then you’re sure to get plenty of laughs. My toilet gag was about four minutes long in total and it got laughs the whole way through! If you’re doing club comedy and you have some good toilet humour, then use it! It’s sure to get laughs! A lot of the humour I incorporated was about me being fat and it got some great laughs and it even got some “awwwww’s” too. One person did say to me not to make so much fun of myself but to be honest, I don’t take myself or the humour that seriously, it was just there to make people laugh and not a true reflection of my opinion of myself.
In the future I do want to work on more clean humour but as John said to me, “it’s a much greater challenge”, and he ain’t lying! :-O
I did miss one or two of my main gags and on two occasions, I did need to pull out my keywords sheet of paper and have a quick glance but I did it in such a way that it got laughs too. I think people were forgiving for two reason: 1) Because it was for charity and 2) We told people in the beginning that we were amateurs and totally new to stand-up comedy!
I was totally overwhelmed with the feedback and the response at the end, I got so many compliments and most people just couldn’t believe that it was my first time as they said I looked like I’d been doing it for long while!
In the build up to the event, I was quite stressed as it took an immense amount of preparation and practise. I had spent a good 40 hours over the last 3 weeks rehearsing, re-writing, practising and watching dvd’s of other stand up comics (but that was an enjoyable part) studying their technique and humour. In particular my favourites are Jack Dee, Lee Evans, Russell Peters, Jimmy Carr, and Chris Rock. It was a huge time commitment. During that time I was telling myself that I would probably make this the only time I would do stand-up, but now that I’ve done it, I’ve caught the bug and I’m definitely going to do it again! The charity contacted me and definitely want our help to raise more money again by holding a similar event and I may even look into doing some paid gigs. My friend Hyde was approached last week and is doing more stand-up tonight as a warm up for a major comedian from Canada.
I’ve learned so much through this whole process and I wanted to share a few of those things that were not included in any of the books or websites I had read about doing stand-up. So if you feel like delving into the world of stand-up comedy and undertaking the monumental challenge that it is then here are my tips:
1) The more you practise and rehearse your routine, the more boring it becomes to you! After a while your jokes no longer seem funny to you and you start to question whether your material is any good. That isn’t a bad thing! When you lower your expections, naturally the chances of the opposite happening are higher. It’s like when you pick a card, you pick the 3 of hearts, and you’re asked to guess whether the next card is higher or lower than a 3, the chances are that it’s going to be higher…so when you don’t expect much, the return is always greater!
The temptation will be there to start re-writing your material…DON’T DO IT! If it was funny to you in the beginning, it’s still funny now, it’s just that you’ve become immune to them! There’s another bonus to that too in that you’re less likely to laugh at your own jokes on stage…and believe me, that’s a good thing! You can join in with the laughter once the audience start laughing…but laugh when they’re not and you’re in trouble!
2) One of the main challenges of doing a routine is memorising the wording, order and syntax of your gags. Mine was about 5 pages of A4 and I still had not remembered it with only 5 days to go! Here’s a good technique you can use to help remember your routine. Break down your routine into paragraphs, one gag per paragraph. Assign a key word to each paragraph, something that will trigger the gag in your head, keep a list of those words separately to your written material and as you start to remember your routine more and more from your script, keep the script out of site and just use the sheet with your keywords. Once you can do it with just your key words, try applying the pegging technique without the numbers but use the words and connect them with a story!
3) Don’t ask too many people about what they think of your gags. I asked one of my work colleagues what he thought of my opening gag and he wasn’t too impressed. It put doubts into my head and I nearly ended up taking that one out but I’m so glad I didn’t! Like I said it had them rolling in the isles! If it was funny in your head when you came up with it, chances are, a good portion of your audience are going to laugh at it! A better way to gauge your act is hold a rehearsal night and invite people around that are unlikely to be at the event and then do a full practise then. That is more likely to give you a clear indicator of what jokes are good and what are not.
I’m no expert, I just wanted to offer some of my learnings just in case you decide you want to give stand-up a go! 🙂
A word of caution though…if, like me, you’re slow at getting jokes….then get faster broadband!! 😆 (One of the clean gags from my set!) 😉