When it comes to stand-up comedy and writing a stand-up comedy routine, there is an almost universal assumption that the “written” word (writing) and the spoken word (talking) are essentially the same means of communication.
It is this false assumption that fuels another false assumption which is that “writing” and “talking” are effectively interchangeable when it comes to writing jokes or otherwise developing stand-up comedy material for the stage.
Not only are writing and talking NOT effectively interchangeable when it comes to producing stand-up comedy material that actually produces noteworthy laughs, trying to use the “written word” as substitute for the “spoken word” is a proven formula for flopping on stage as a comedian.
If you do a search online for “differences between writing and talking”, it will become clear that the differences between these two distinct forms of communication are significant.
So let’s take a look at some of the differences between writing and talking as it applies to becoming a comedian so that you can have a better understanding of why 95% of new comedians never make any real headway with their stand-up comedy adventures.
About Comedy Talent
It doesn’t matter what type of sense of humor or comedy talent you have, it was not developed using written passages, written responses or notes to interact routinely with others. It was developed as a result of live spoken word communication and interaction with others that started when you began talking as a child.
What gives a person the power to make others laugh in everyday life goes far beyond just the use of words alone – there are numerous visual (body language) and auditory enhancements (voice tone variations) when we talk that makes up what we have to offer as comedy talent.
Writing on the other hand only involves the use of words and sentences without the benefit of these powerful visual and auditory enhancements, actually robbing an individual of their real laughter power in the live performance environment.
In all fairness there will always be some “written” word excerpts, jokes or whatever that will line up to create a laughter response when silently read from a piece of paper or when consumed by a person or audience who is listening to someone talk.
However, the stark reality is that this is the exception rather than the rule.
The Intended Receiver
Writing has been and always will be intended for an individual reader – it is not intended or crafted to be spoken and certainly not spoken to audience unless your content is going to simply be read (which effectively kills the laughter potential of the content).
There are no rhythm, timing, pausing, body language, or voice tone additions when a receiver reads something that has been written.
There are also no necessary group dynamics (contagiousness of laughter) present when an individual is reading something.
Just like writing and talking are completely different forms of communication, there are massive differences between reading comedy material that generates a laughter reaction and delivering comedy material that is experienced live by an audience that results in laughter.
The Production Process
Probably the fastest way to hit a wall when it comes to producing comedy material that works is to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and try to “dream up” or write funny jokes or material for a stand-up comedy act.
What usually happens is referred to as “writer’s block”. Interestingly enough…
There doesn’t seem to be any sort of similar condition known as “talker’s block”.
Stand-up comedy is about talking; more specifically it is about verbally communicating with expression, along with all the attributes, mannerisms, etc. that accompanies the process of speaking.
Note: All comedy material should be written down for structuring and formatting to assist in reaching the laughter generation levels needed to move ahead as a comedian. This is completely different than attempting to somehow “fabricate funny” from a blank piece of paper.
Reaching The Goal
In order to make continuing progress as a comedian you will need to be able to ultimately generate an average of 4-6+ laughs for every performing minute. To be even more specific, you will need to generate an average of 18+ seconds of laughter each performing minute.
If you choose to take the “conventional” writing approach to producing jokes or stand-up comedy material, the chances are very good you will not reach the needed goal and here’s why:
As I mentioned earlier, writing only involves words and sentences without the benefit of the other ancillary means of communication (body language, voice tone variations, etc.).
Subsequently, many more words are needed with “writing” to convey the same information or have a similar impact.
As a comedian, you simply do not have the luxury of excessive wordiness or verbosity when it comes to delivering a big laugh stand-up routine. As a matter of fact, in order to reach the performing goal I have described, you really only have 60-80 words to use each performing minute.
Note: As far as I can tell, the Killer Stand-up Online Course remains the only educational resource for comedians that not only identifies this goal but also demonstrates how to create and structure your comedy material to reach that goal as quickly as possible.
How you approach the creation of your comedy material is strictly up to you.
But if it were me…
I would take the time to verify the information I have provided in this article. Attend a couple of stand-up comedy open mic nights as an audience member and see if you can spot some of the issues I have pointed out about “writing” comedy material.
While there is a lot to know about developing and delivering a stand-up comedy routine that rocks the house, becoming some sort of “writing” expert in the process is not required at all.
Never forget: talking is and always will be easier than writing.