10 Questions You MUST Be Able To Answer In Order To Produce Stand-up Comedy Material That Works

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I know that there are many who want to “write” a stand-up comedy act that works who think that the way it is done is like writing a book report or a short story.

They also tend to believe that there are specific “writing techniques” that will somehow enhance the process.

Those sort of things may be beneficial if an audience was going to read a comedian’s stand-up comedy material or if a comedian was going to read their stand-up comedy act to an audience.

Neither one of these things actually happen in the realm of stand-up comedy.

One of the things that I did in the very first free lesson in the Killer Stand-up Online Course was to transcribe a stand-up comedy bit by a very popular comedian who is killing on stage.

I did that because…

I challenge you to check that out and see for yourself if you can identify ANY so-called “writing techniques” in that transcribed bit (I also provide the video of the comedian performing the bit).

But you certainly don’t have to take my word for that.

You have the ability to transcribe any number of proven big laugh stand-up comedy bits performed by any number of popular comedians right there on YouTube.

Related Article: Looking For Stand-up Comedy Material Examples?

Seemingly solid logic would dictate that one should be easily able to identify any number of “writing” techniques you could possibly use by doing that. The reality of the matter is far from the surface logic of that sort of activity.

Maybe you are one of those folks who think using writing exercises are the key to producing high quality stand-up comedy material.

If that’s the case, let me ask you this:

At any time you were in a conversation with another person or a group of people and they laughed at what you said, was it the result of any type of writing exercise?

Or did you stop and take the time to write what you said that caused others to laugh?

Unless a person is mute and can’t talk those may be a viable scenarios.

But I can assure you that anyone who is mute is not looking to take a shot at stand-up comedy nor are they reading this article.

If you don’t get anything else out of this article, know this:

The process of “writing” stand-up comedy material is overwhelmingly taken out of context by those who want to jump into stand-up comedy.

If you want to improve your literary “writing” skills, you have two of the most prolific (and free) platforms to do that sort of thing — Facebook and Twitter.

Both of those platforms involve the “written word” that is designed for and consumed by readers — not live audiences where employing more than just words alone is critical for not only using an economy of words but to also to generate significant and frequent laughs in a live audience setting.

I’m telling you this because I want you to have a much better and more accurate perspective about what developing and delivering a high level stand-up comedy routine is really all about.

Otherwise you will get caught up trying to use out of context information or even worse, non-actionable information to attempt to reach your stand-up comedy dreams and goals.

That’s how I started. And make no mistake — it sucked.

So here’s what I want to do in this article…

Below you will find 10 important questions about “writing” a stand-up comedy act or developing stand-up comedy material that you should be able to answer without hesitation.

Note: The questions below apply to both “one liner” stand-up comedy or topic based stand-up comedy.

If you want to develop stand-up comedy material that actually works for you and…

You don’t want to wait many months or even years to be able to do that, then you should be able to answer these questions quickly and easily:

1. What is a punchline? I’m not talking about the academic definition found in most references about stand-up comedy, but rather the actionable definition as it applies to you and your sense of humor.

2. What important audience related aspects of punchlines make them work?

3. What is the actual sentence structure common to most punchlines and how do you use that to get bigger laughs?

4. How many punchlines should you have in any given minute of your stand-up comedy material?

5. How do you structure your stand-up comedy material to maximize punchline frequency?

6. How does the structure of your stand-up comedy material relate to your comedy timing?

7. How does the structure of stand-up comedy material affect punchline frequency in any minute of your stand-up comedy material?

8. How does the structure of your stand-up material affect set-up lines before any punchline?

9. What is the critical aspect that will give your punchlines most of their laughter generation power and cannot be represented on paper, no matter how well your stand-up comedy material is “written” or transcribed?

10. Do you know how to make intelligent adjustments or edits in order increase the laughter power of your stand-up comedy material in the fewest number of performances possible?

I should probably mention that none of the information required to answer the questions above is difficult to understand or apply — all of which is provided in the Killer Stand-up Online Course.

Here’s the bottom line:

Assuming that you have real comedy talent, know how to apply that comedy talent and are able to professionally prepare to deliver your stand-up comedy material…

If you are able to answer all the questions above with confidence, you should have fewer issues moving along very quickly in your stand-up comedy endeavors than most every other new comedian.

If you can’t answer the 10 questions above about “writing” a stand-up act or developing stand-up comedy material (there’s a difference)…

I can almost guarantee that you will have a very difficult time producing or “writing” stand-up comedy material that actually generates solid laughs in any reasonable time.

Related Audio Resource: Episode 2 (Free) at ComedyUniversity,com

About 

Leading stand-up comedy educator and trainer, providing proven 21st century strategies and techniques for individuals who wish to become comedians on a professional level. For a detailed stand-up comedy resume go to: Steve Roye’s Stand-up Resume.

9 thoughts on “10 Questions You MUST Be Able To Answer In Order To Produce Stand-up Comedy Material That Works

  1. Over the better part of the past two years, I have filled over 150 pages of a notebook bit by bit. ( pun intended) My lone confidant who I would trust with what each bit was about, or a punchline here and there or how I was developing one of my two recurring characters ( think Aziz Ansari’s cousin Harris) was a friend several states away who was only seeing the material in written form, not seeing or hearing it performed. Almost each bit that I ran by her had the same feedback. ” the lines themselves are great. But I have no idea of the delivery or tonality. It is not fair to judge it without that” Of all the books and articles I have seen, it is nice and refreshing to see so much emphasis on delivery. It has made a career for many, and is truly the foundation of great comedy.

  2. OK, let me elaborate on this a bit. I watched a comic bomb at an open mic a little while ago. He had a routine that was like Jack Handy observations, where almost every line was a punchline, but the topic or theme was depression, and he delivered every line in slow motion like a recording that was slowed down. And it was depressing; as he bombed, he ramped back up to his normal speaking speed and remarked that the audience’s lack of laughter was a wake up call for him. He thanked them for being honest, saying he realized he wasn’t a comedian and it was time to give up his dream. My first thought was “you had good material, but your delivery was weird,” because to me, the slow speaking character was the only thing that didn’t really work. But then I saw him do the same bit the very next night and it went over well, he got laughs and applause throughout the entire routine. The major difference was, the second night, his material was tighter, he spent less time setting up and more time delivering his punchlines – yet still at that same slow pace. So the question then, is if someone is doing this exaggerated character technique, like a depressed person or a character on cocaine, even if it’s just an impression of such a character in the middle of a story, should the comedian have more or fewer punchlines to compensate for the change in speed? I guess what I’m really wondering is, what didn’t work the first time he did the bit but then worked the second time? From my perspective in the audience, he was able to pull it off the second time by delivering more jokes by way of compensation for the lethargic delivery.

    • This is a good question – one that requires more than just a sentence or two. There are actually multiple elements in play with the scenario you have described. If you will give me a couple of days, I will answer your question in a more extensive blog article. I have added 200 extra reward points for your question. I think the answer to what you have asked would be of benefit to all visitors, not just Reward Points Members who get access to the 10 Questions article. Thanks!

    • Jared, the answers to your questions are here: http://www.realfirststeps.com/7221/questions-delivering-standup-comedy-material/. Thanks for your patience and the great questions!

      • That is truly relieving how you take the time to analyze someone’s feedback and reply to it- swiftly for that matter! A lot of sites seem not to care about feedback, only sales. You genuinely mean to help people better themselves Steve. That is rare these days in any walk. That said, I have my own question. Last Fall, I had a friend visit , I live in New York so naturally he expected me to plan all activities. ( since everyone in New York knows what’s going on 24/7.) My friend is my old college roommate and is a thirtysomething so he didn’t care about the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building etc. He wanted a memorable trip nonetheless. I needed an event for Sunday night and asked a friend who works in the city for an idea. He said ” take him to the comedy club, they practically give away admission on the weekends and I know how you love standup. No- brainer” I took him up on it and brought my friend to Rodney Dangerfield’s. That night’s lineup was okay, but not unforgettable. He had a blast. Afterward I asked the emcee if there was an open Mic night. He told me there was, and after I explained how much I have put into my routine, he told me I had an open invitation and that every week there were talent scouts among the crowd. My question is this. Would you advise someone to attempt this kind of venue early on? I feel confident in my act, but to bomb there could send all I’ve worked for into a tailspin. Your thoughts?

      • I would recommend that you have max confidence in your act before you go after this gig. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression.

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