How To “Write” Stand-up Comedy Material The Hard Way

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If you strongly believe that the key to becoming a powerful and funny comedian is try to “write” jokes the way all the “traditional” stand-up comedy books, courses, workshops and online websites say that you should…

I truly wish you the best of luck because luck is really all you are going to have to depend on when it comes to actually developing a stand-up comedy routine that actually works on stage using the “conventional” joke writing methodologies.

Just disregard these concrete facts as you set out on the difficult path to “writing” stand-up comedy “jokes” that will get decent laughs when delivered on stage:

1. Writing is a completely different form of communication than speaking or talking.

Writing involves the use of only words and sentences designed to communicate with a reader. Because only words and sentences are used in the writing process, many more words are needed for that communication method.

Speaking on the other hand involves multiple communication methods working together simultaneously, not just words and sentences when talking or speaking.

As a matter of fact, most of what makes a person funny and gives them the ability to generate laughs when they speak, whether they are off stage on on stage is not the literal words and sentences they use, but how they say what it is they want to say.

When a comedian tries to “write” jokes or stand-up comedy material in the literal sense for a reader — the way we have been taught to do since youth — they end up automatically reducing the punchline frequency in their stand-up comedy material, no matter how tight they try to make it.

Let me recap what I just said:

Writing = More words needed
Speaking = Less words needed
Comedian Needs = Less words, more laughs

The comedian who can only generate 0-2 laughs per minute is either almost bombing or they are most certainly bombing.

Many times this low amount of laughter is because the new comedian is trying to deliver the material they have “written” for a reader using only words and sentences as the material they use on stage for live observers.

If you want to deliver a tight and solid stand-up comedy act, you simply can’t spend 30 seconds setting up for a single joke. Again, that is called bombing.

Related Article: Are You Using A One Dimensional Approach In A Three Dimensional Performing Art?

2. No matter how funny an individual thinks they may be in everyday life, stand-up comedy can be overwhelmingly brutal if a person doesn’t really know how to structure a stand-up comedy routine and/or know what they are doing on stage.

Merely having two thumbs and a bunch of paper written “jokes” is not enough to generate big laughs on stage.

Here’s what you need to know:

If you cannot generate a minimum of 4 solid audience laughs every minute you are on stage as a comedian, you are going nowhere as a comedian.

Why? Because there are already plenty of comedians from the feature level up who can generate an average of 4-6 laughs every performing minute.

Hint: Verify this for yourself — just go to YouTube, find a video of your favorite comedian in action and count how many laughs they generate every minute of that video.

Making sure your stand-up comedy has 4-6 punchlines each minute is easy if you know how.

But it’s super tough when someone is trying to “write” jokes one at a time in a way that is actually designed for a reader, then cobble the jokes together to try to come up with a solid routine.

That’s like trying to use a butter knife to eat soup.

3. What “reads” funny on paper may have great value when it comes to greeting cards, but when it comes to stand-up comedy…

Most stand-up comedy material doesn’t “read funny” from a piece of paper, no matter what system or method you use to develop a stand-up comedy routine.

Hint: Transcribe just one minute of your favorite comedian in action from a YouTube video to verify this. Show what you transcribed to friends or co-workers and see if they fall down laughing.

If you are expecting your stand-up comedy material to do well on stage because it reads funny, that means you are “writing” your stand-up comedy material literally for a reader, instead of developing stand-up comedy material for a live audience to consume.

It should be fairly easy to understand why I say that there is a hard way to develop stand-up comedy material and a much easier and more effective way to do that.

Keep this in mind if you are serious about doing well in stand-up comedy in a reasonable time:

1. While not difficult at all, there is much to know about developing and delivering a stand-up comedy routine that generates big laughs consistently.

2. Every comedian has 100% control over the process that they use to develop and deliver the stand-up comedy material that they choose to share with audiences.

I submit to you that if that process doesn’t give you the laughter results you want, you may want to seriously consider using a different (and easier) process instead of trying to “write” jokes or stand-up comedy material in the literal way.

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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.

3 thoughts on “How To “Write” Stand-up Comedy Material The Hard Way

  1. Having the benefit of waywardly trying to “find my way in the dark” using my own methods, then using joke formulas, I can personally say that from working with Steve’s system, there were a lot of “Ah-ha!” moments. Writing used to be painful and worrysome to me. Now its a fun adventure, where I wonder where the next thought will take me. It snapped me out of the “everything’s GOTTA be perfect” mindset. Severely second guessing myself with writing is gone and has taken a lot of pressure off me. Just watch a headliner club comic on youtube. Not TV comics. You then realize that not everything you say needs to be a gem. Your own sense of humor and Steve’s structure will guide you through. I found joke formulas constricting, almost as if I had a gag in my mouth blocking what I wanted to say. Dont’ get me wrong, only the best one-liners that I had were recycled into my act, along with my steve-inspired material. Hell, a few chapters into the course 1 writing guide, and I was already developing material that was stuffed back in the recesses of brain, waiting to be released from their prison. The precieved need of adherence to joke formula structure was their warden. He’s gone now, and the inmates are running wild!

    • Congratulations on your ‘break out’! Feel free to ‘kill’ as many audiences as possible. With any luck you’ll get ‘sentenced’ to more stage ‘time’. Look forward to seeing your work.

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