If someone were to ask me how to write stand-up comedy material…
You might be surprised to find out that I would give them this stand-up comedy tip…
Don’t “write” anything — at least not the way most people think of writing (which is in the literal sense the way most comedy books, workshops and courses say to do).
I say this because…
The second someone sets out to “write” stand-up comedy, they immediately fall into the trap of believing that writing something that “reads” funny on paper will generate big audience laughs.
And the folks who follow that path are sorely disappointed, time and time again.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that developing stand-up comedy material for LIVE audiences is vastly different (and much, much easier) than trying to learn how to “write” stand-up comedy material.
Below is a detailed outline of just some of the most basic, yet critical information you MUST know when it comes to easily developing stand-up comedy material for the stage, if you want to move quickly and NOT take years to produce comedy material that actually generates big laughs for you.
But first, here’s a video that explains why folks struggle needlessly when it comes to trying to “write” a stand-up comedy routine in the “literary” sense….
The Stand-up Comedy Basics You MUST KNOW
1. Identify those things — observations, experiences, ideas, and opinions that you would like to share with an audience and have some personal meaning to you.
Stand-up Comedy Tip: It is much easier to start with things that you want to talk about and that allow you to easily use your sense of humor frequently when talking about them rather than trying to “fabricate funny” about something abstract from a blank piece of paper.
2. Determine all the things you want to say about any particular topic, idea, observation experience, etc.
3. Realize that the vast majority of what makes you a funny person in everyday life is not the words you use, but rather how you say and express what you have to say.
4. You need to structure on paper what you want to say and express to an audience, keeping these things in mind:
- We are taught from a very young age to “write” very differently than we communicate verbally. What you have “written” on paper should reflect the way you actually talk — not the way you are trained from youth to “write”.
- You only have approximately 60-100 words each performing minute (including punchlines) to generate 4-6+ laughs per minute.
That can be difficult to achieve if you are only working with words and sentences on paper and ignoring your expressive traits which provide MOST of your verbal communication and context.
Note: This is also why you need to start with comedy material that allows you to easily and frequently use the sense of humor and comedy talent you already have.
You should also know how to structure your stand-up comedy material on paper in a way that allows you to easily represent your natural speaking rhythm, timing and identify punchline frequency in EVERY minute of your stand-up comedy material.
Stand-up Comedy Tip: The reason why stand-up comedy material is written down is because you cannot physically see words as they are being spoken and expressed, nor can you visibly see how they are being expressed.
Words on paper merely provide a map, as opposed to being the sole means of creating a stand-up comedy act that will actually work on stage.
And words and sentences on paper alone will NEVER accurately represent how your stand-up comedy material will be delivered and expressed using your natural comedy talent.
5. No matter what you decide to talk about on stage, you need to be able to use your own individual sense of humor (and natural comedy talent) 4-6+ times per minute (deliver punchlines) AND generate an average of 18+ seconds of laughter each minute on stage (PAR Score 30) in order to generate headliner level laughter levels.
Stand-up Comedy Tip: You DO NOT have to be a headlining comedian in order to generate headliner level laughter levels with your stand-up comedy material — provided you have real comedy talent and you actually know what you are doing when it comes to developing and delivering stand-up comedy material.
Note: You won’t find this basic information in ANY of the popular books on “how to write stand-up comedy material”.
It is difficult at best to put everything you need to know about developing and delivering stand-up comedy that ACTUALLY works for you into a single article.
But let me just say this: The process for developing and delivering stand-up comedy material is much, much easier than you could ever imagine — far easier, effective and faster than trying to “fabricate” funny from a blank piece of paper for sure.
Unfortunately, developing stand-up comedy material is often referred to as having been “written”, as if words and sentences on paper make up all the “magic” needed to entertain and audience.
So almost everyone sets out to “write” jokes, which is not only very difficult, but can literally take years to master because HUGE pieces of the puzzle are missing.
Honestly, do you want to take YEARS to be able to develop and deliver headliner level stand-up comedy material?
Unfortunately people are so hell bent on “writing” their way to being funny on stage that I needed a reference point that people could relate to.
Just do this before you do anything: Go find a YouTube video of your favorite comedian and transcribe one minute of their act on paper. Verify the information that I have provided in this article for yourself.
So the big stand-up comedy tip for this article is this:
If you are trying to learn how to write stand-up comedy, don’t write it. Don’t try to pluck what may be funny out of thin air.
Be yourself and learn how to effectively use, structure and harness the well developed comedy talent and sense of humor that you already have.
Use paper to “structure” and edit what you want to say and express on stage (in the most compact and efficient way possible that is natural for you) and to ensure you have the punchline frequency you need to slay audiences when you perform.
The approach I have just described is far, far easier and much more organic than trying to learn how to somehow “write jokes” the hard, old school way.
If you don’t believe me…
Just check out the 5 free lessons in the Killer Stand-up Online Course (in particular lesson 5 in Training Module One).