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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How To Become A Comedian - Tips From A Standup Comedy Road Warrior

How To Become A Comedian
You crack up your friends. You're the life of the party. People comment about how funny you are. Thoughts creep into your head that maybe you could do this professionally. And you seek an answer to: "How to become a comedian" - Here, you'll get tips from a stand-up comedy road warrior.

I've been there, done that and I have the comedy club t-shirts to prove it. From 1989 to 1997 I was a comedy road warrior. I performed over 2,000 shows and amassed over 50,000 miles a year driving to gigs. I've worked the dirtiest dives to the stages of Las Vegas. I've seen it all and am willing to tell anyone about it for FREE.

There are seven things you need to be successful as a comedian and build a career in stand-up comedy.
  1. Comedy Club(s) to perform
  2. Solid jokes or comedy material
  3. Be Fearless 
  4. Confidence and Stage Presence
  5. Develop A unique stage persona
  6. Networking with other comics
  7. Embrace Social Media and the Web
I'll cover each item individually. 

Comedy Club(s) To Perform

This is your first step. You need to locate a comedy club that offers an open mic night somewhere within a couple hours of where you live. If you have no place to perform, writing material is pointless. It would be like packing for a trip and having no destination. So, you need to start looking around for comedy clubs. Call them to see if they let amateurs perform on certain nights or if you can do a guest set. Every comedy club has different rules for aspiring comedians, so make sure to ask if there are guidelines before you prepare your act.

Solid Jokes And Comedy Material

You may be funny at office parties and family gatherings, but can you get up in front of a room full of strangers and make them howl? To do that, you'll need solid jokes and some organized comedy material.

Before you begin crafting a comedy act, I'd suggest you either purchase or borrow from the library, Gene Perret's Comedy Writing Workbook. This is by far the best comedy writing book I've ever come across. Gene Perret was Bob Hope's head writer and was also head writer for the Carol Burnett Show. He has a wall of Emmy's to validate his expertise.

What Perret's book does is takes you through all of the various forms of comedy writing and joke constructions. You may not employ many of the styles in your act, but you will come away with a greater understanding of what makes funny and how to write it yourself.

Creating great comedy material is a process of trial and error. What you think is funny, may cause an audience to take a yawn break. Getting "stage time" is critical. The more you are on stage and the more material you get to try out, the faster your act will develop.

Make writing a habit. Think constantly of ways to twist our world around or come up with clever observations. Write your ideas down. Don't rely on your memory because some of the best ideas will inevitably get away.

Decide what kind of material you want to perform. What suits you best? Are you a joke teller? Then, one-liners with quick punchlines will be your best bet. Do you like to tell quirky stories? Now, you're looking at creating amusing monologues. Don't forget that audiences will only allow you so much time between funny segments. Cut, cut, cut your dialogue to get it to the barest, crispest form and you'll do much better.

Be willing to experiment. Keep the material that does well and build from there. You might find that your material on your family life kills. That means the audience finds that material believable. Continue to work in that direction.

Over time, you'll build more and more routines and will have enough to headline a show. In the beginning, however, you're only concerned with coming up with a good five minutes. If you can rock the room for five minutes, comedy clubs will let you appear again and again on their open mic nights and/or offer you a chance to open a show as an emcee - and PAY you.

The next plateau of material is the ten to fifteen minute mark, followed by the thirty minute mark.

Always prepare more material than the time allotted. If you are bombing, you burn through material faster. Your pace increases, too. You don't want to have to bail out with two minutes to go. A club will be harsher on someone that bails early than if you stick it out and convert the room into a quiet church congregation. The next act will bring them back to life and laughter. Do your time - and don't go over.

Be Fearless

One of the greatest fears most people have is the fear of speaking in public. If getting up in front of a group of strangers makes you queasy, you might not be ready to become a comedian. Try getting a job in the box office taking tickets.

Not all audiences are friendly. I've climbed up on stages where the audiences were hostile from the get go. I even had a guy in North Carolina pull out a gun and put it on his table and say, "You Yankees better be funny." Ahhhh.... Yes, sir...  "Hello my darlin', hello my baby..."

An audience can sense when you are afraid. So be fearless and give your time on stage everything you have.

Confidence And Stage Presence

If you are fearless and your material is shaping up, you will gain more confidence. That confidence will translate into a commanding stage presence. You have to give the audience the impression that you are the one in control. They expect that and respect it.

Be aware of how you are on stage. Do you move around? Do you leave the microphone in the mic stand? Video taping your comedy performances will help you with the fine points of improving your stage presence. To become a comedian, you need to become the general of the room. The audience is there for you to take on a comedic journey. Deliver and you will find getting bookings much easier.

Develop A Unique Stage Persona

What makes you unique? Is it the way you dress, the way you talk, the way you walk? Developing a unique stage persona is critical for long-term success as a comedian. It takes times, so don't freak out about this during your first year of performing. But be aware of it.

Successful comedians all have something unique about them - their look, their mannerisms, the way they dress, their style of delivery. Study famous comics and seek out the ones that you most identify with. You goal is to not copy that comedian, but to examine how consistently they stay within their stage persona.

Will you be the angry guy, the goofy guy, the clever guy, the smart-ass girl or beleaguered housewife? Find your niche and own it.

Networking With Other Comics

Make as many friends as you can in the Green Room at the comedy club. Other comedians who have been performing and working will lead you to other opportunities to get on stage and to get paid. If you sit quietly in a comedy club and don't engage the other comics, you will wind up sitting quietly at home. Find out who the booking agents are. See if you can get a recommendation from a working comic. Recommendations go a long way with booking agents.

Embrace Social Media And The Web

These powerful tools were not available when I was doing stand-up. Today, however, you should consider Social Media and the Web as a MUST HAVE in your career. Learn to be a good self-promoter. Get on Facebook, set-up a Fan page. Build friends. Set up a Twitter account. Put short clips of your act on YouTube. Start a blog.

If you want complete instructions on How To Start A Blog, check the tab at the top of this blog Make Money. A complete course on How To Start A Blog is there.  

You'll also want to check out my article: How To Build Your Brand On The Internet And Social Networks. This is what building a unique stage persona is all about - it's called building a brand. What will your brand be? You can control it. Make whatever you want happen.

As a bonus, I'm going to share with you the Secrets of Promotion, which I learned through my years in advertising, following my stand-up career. A blog is perfect for these methods.
  1. Pre-Promotion - This is the "Coming Soon" phase of promotion. "I'll be appearing in..." Use short blog posts to rave about the city you are going to or tell anecdotes about your last visit. "I have lots of new material. You don't want to miss my upcoming show."
  2. The Event - "I'm here all week in..." Plug the club, they love that. See if you can work out a deal on tickets for your blog readers. Any time you can put asses in the seats, the comedy club goes nuts. 
  3. Update The Event - "So far this week, it's been going great here in...." "Last night the crowd was on the floor. Don't miss out."
  4. Post Event - "What a great time I had in..." "You people are the best." A highlight of the week was..." "Can't wait to come back in... (that is if you got re-booked)." 
  5. Start the cycle over 
Do this for everything you do. If you are releasing a book, Pre-Promote, Promote the Release, Update on the reaction, Tease with what is next, start over.

There are a plethora of subtleties to become a comedian that you will need to master. But that all takes time.

For now, you have the framework of how to become a comedian. Now, go find a stage, write some jokes and perform - you got the best tips from a stand-up comedy road warrior.

Related articles:
FREE Comedy School | How To Write Comedy For A Comedian Or Yourself
How To Write A Funny Blog Post

Best of My Funny Blog Posts
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1 comment:

  1. Great Blog Roger!!!!!! I still remember you up there on stage!!!! Would be nice to see you there again!!!! Love Ya!!!!

    ReplyDelete

You Just Have To Watch It. Absolutely Incredible !!!!!