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Saturday, February 19

Some random advice for budding comedians

I was chatting with a facebook friend and ended up reeling off a bunch of tips on how to be a comedian. They may be useful to you if you ever wondered how to crack the art form. It's a bit of a random blether as I've edited from bits of the original hat. Hope it's interesting to read.

Things to avoid:
  • Doing yourself down as a comedian - don't tell them you find doing comedy hard in any way, even if a joke fails, don't tell them you have no confidence in your role as comedian
  • Doing yourself down totally on stuff they don't know/care about - parading one's failings/insecurities IS funny, but up to some sort of breaking point, by which the audience stop caring. Likewise, if it's a small thing that they haven't necessarily noticed, then they may not make the leap of realisation that it's funny.
  • Cliches - avoid obvious subjects.... at least, avoid facing them head on - I'll mention this a bit more in a moment.
  • Monologuing - give the audience room to breathe. Stand-up is a dialogue - make room for their reaction.
  • Big explanations for small jokes - the size of the laugh must justify the amount of listening it takes to get to it. Small jokes need small explanations, big jokes, need big ones. If the journey isn't meant to be funny, then keep the journey brief.
Cliches Here are some things which are expected of a comedian to talk about. You can talk about them, but if you do, you should either do a quick line, or come at the subject from the side. Otherwise you're probably not saying anything new, or surprising enough to make a decent laugh.
  • Weight
  • Appearance
  • Periods
  • Porn
  • Masturbation
  • The hilarious difference between genders/races etc
  • Sex
  • Family
  • Tubes
  • Airline experience
  • Sat navs
  • others that you can guess
So, if you opened a set with "So... periods", you will probably get a bunch of audience members and many comedians going "Here we go again".

Positive advice Boil the story down to the biggest joke and work backwards from it. What's the simplest and shortest route to the punchline. Do the subsidiary punchlines justify their branches from that route? Where's the surprise and revelation in each thing you say. Ignore my advice completely and make up your own. Stand-up is a personal thing and my tips should be taken with a pinch of salt.

If you'd like a script doctor's view of your material, feel free to email me on ashley at ashleyfrieze.co.uk a long-hand script of a set. I'm happy to send you feedback as though I was editing a script of my own, with questions, alternatives and ideas for you to try. This may make you go "No. My way is the ONLY WAY", which is a good reaction, since you're showing conviction in your draft, or it may make you go "Yes, but, how about I do this other thing you didn't suggest" which is a good reaction, since you've been able to kick start the script development and make something that's more you than me... alternatively, I might strike it lucky and suggest something you could use.

It's up to you. Or you can not bother. :)

How to start
The "I know what you're thinking" line is a comedy cliche, but it's also an easy way into an audience.

Example: "I know what you thinking - I didn't know that Barry From Eastenders Had a Baby With Shrek" (see photos of me for context)

My favourite "I know what you're thinking" moment was something along the lines of a stand-up saying the following and then getting heckled in the most perfect way - the heckler didn't miss a beat. It sounded like this:

Man: I am a mind reader. I can reach into your minds and work out exactly what you are currently thinking...
Heckler: ... tosser!

Brilliant. Still makes me chuckle.

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