The following is a list of tips I have for performers of stand up comedy.
I am in no way an expert on this however I have been getting up on stages for over 6 years and in that time I like to think I have amassed some knowledge of a few of the dos and don’ts when it comes to making an audience listen, pay attention and hopefully laugh.
It is absolutely not in order of importance. It is more a stream of consciousness that has been added to when convenient for myself. And the idea behind it is that if anyone wishes to read it, that it may give them some food for thought.
Feel free to think they’re all incorrect. Or unhelpful. But it’s just what I have picked up. It is purely intended to help others to avoid the early mistakes I made. I still make mistakes but not as many as I did 6 years ago.
I will keep adding to this so feel free to check back from time to time.
1. Enjoy yourself.
2. Don’t slap your thighs
3. Avoid saying err or umm
4. Make eye contact with audience members
7. Don’t speak and do actions at the same time, it’s distracting. Do one then the other.
8. A joke isn’t bad, just unfinished.
9. Don’t be afraid to tell people to stop talking. Most people in the audience will be on your side, or at the least sympathise with you so it’s very rare you’ll turn the majority of the audience against you for telling one or two people to shut up.
10. Know the area and venue you’re gigging in. And try to know your audience.
11. Commit. As in, if you’re in character. Stay in character. If you’re high energy. Stay high energy. Etc.
12. Don’t be afraid to go off script. It can be a great way of getting an audience back on side if your written jokes aren’t working.
13. If you’re MCing, know your running order, if a high energy act has left the crowd in hysterics, don’t just immediately bring on the next act if they’re low energy.
14. Remember none of this is personal. It may feel it but in reality all comedy is subjective and there may be times where you’re playing to an entire room of people who aren’t your audience.
15. Take each gig as it is. Do not over complicate ideas based on the gig before whether that was good or bad. Just do your material or whatever you do, and go from there.
16. Stay in the room. If you go inside your own head too much you could miss an opportunity for comedy gold in front of you.
17. Keep a note pad and pen with you everywhere you go, you never know when an idea may come to you.
18. Keep haribo fizzy sweets in the car for long trips. They’re great at keeping you awake.
19. Network. But at the same time it doesn’t matter if you don’t know everyone on the circuit. There’s far more people trying comedy then you could ever possibly fathom.
20. Try to gig outside of your comfort zone whether that be geographically or stylistically. Even if you don’t do this more than once, it will teach you much more than if you didn’t.
21. Keep gigging. And for no other reason than you want to make people laugh. That should be the absolute bottom line reason why you’re doing this.
22. Remember, just because someone else has a joke about a topic, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a unique perspective on it. Keep it as personal as possible with regards to your own lens through which you see the world.
23. The audience will judge you on your appearance. Bear this in mind and use it to your advantage.
24. Address things the audience may be distracted by early on. Elephants in the room must be spoken about for the audience members to move past them. Try and imagine what an audience may be distracted by during your set and talk about them early on so they can move past them.
25. When MCing, remember that you’re not there to be the funniest person in the room. You’re there to ensure the night runs smoothly. But you will also need to be funny. Ensure they know the ground rules and ensure they’re feeling comfortable enough to laugh in a room of strangers. This may mean your jokes won’t go down as well as you’d hope. That’s fine. Just keep going until they’re warm enough for the acts.
26. Make sure you are honest with the audience. That doesn’t mean you have to tell them the truth. But if you promise them ballet, get that tutu on or tell them you were joking. Don’t leave things lingering without completion in some way.
27. Do think about what you’re wearing. Does it serve you? If not, it’s probably making your job more difficult.
28. Write, re-write, write again. Even if you think you’ve perfected a joke. Don’t be afraid to double check by trying it a different way just to see.
29. When you’re starting out especially, do bear in mind that A LOT will change. So don’t keep too commited to anything early on. There’s a lot of different styles out there and you may find in messing around at one gig that you enjoy doing a particular type of comedy more. So experiment.
30. Speaking of which, you could have the best material on the circuit but if you’re not delivering it confidently and well practiced then it’s as good as a chocolate teapot. So if something doesn’t land, remember your delivery could be off, not the material. But most of the time it’s not the audience.
31. Sometimes, not often but sometimes, it’s the audience. This could be a result of the heat of the room, the distractions out of your hand or the fact that they’ve all had a shitty day that you don’t know about. Never take it personally. If you do, you will not make it far in this industry.
32. What you find funny is your sense of humour. Remember that. And remember you’re not the only one who has that sense of humour, you just have to be patient finding your audience.
33. Be patient. Not just at each gig but over the course of your stand up life. Everyone is on a different journey, some may take the express route, some may take the slow road. The only thing they have in common is they didn’t give up.
34. Never compare yourself to anyone else. It achieves nothing more than making someone (usually yourself) feel bad.
35. Try not to gig hungover. It’s fucking horrible.
36. Try to deliver new material like it’s old material. Don’t bail on it or hide behind labelling it new material. You’ll find out more and get a more honest response from an audience that way.
37. Try to record all your gigs in some way and make notes on your performance. Listen to how different audiences respond and pay attention to your tone, energy, inflections and pauses. These are important aspects to a joke that go beyond just the words used.
38. Listen to advice from audience and peers even if you don’t take it on board. It helps gain a wider perspective.
39. Keep your phone charged.
40. Pace yourself on stage. It’s better to deliver 5 well timed gags rather than 10 rushed ones.