Is Stand-up Comedy Difficult?

Ken asks…

How difficult is stand-up comedy?

I’ve been a singer in a band for the last five years, played hundreds of gigs, in front of some pretty big audiences.

I rarely get properly nervous and any nerves I do get are usually a due to potential equipment failure, rather than a lack of faith in our ability.

After the bands next album, I’m thinking of trying my hand at stand up comedy. I have written comedy (though nowhere near the level I have in music) but never performed comedy.

I am not the most confident person when talking to people who don’t ‘get me’.

However, those who do, seem to think I’m really funny and people have said that I remind them of Eddie Izzard and Ross Noble. I’ve begun to gather together some ideas, and I think I can make a good stand up set – at least as good as some of the stand ups I’ve seen on TV.

I’m wondering, just how difficult is stand-up comedy? And does anybody have experience of how it compares to singing in a band?

Steve Roye answers:

The ease or difficulty of stand-up comedy for anyone is directly related to 2 factors:

1. Initial comedy talent. Many people are under the impression that someone can “learn” to be funny on the stand-up comedy stage, even if they aren’t funny in everyday life.

This is false. There is no system, method or technique to give someone a better sense of humor or personality for stand-up comedy — no matter how convincing the sales pitch is from so-called stand-up comedy gurus who can’t even do stand-up comedy at headliner levels themselves.

In other words, an individual must come to the table with a sense of humor or raw comedy talent that can be honed for the stand-up comedy stage and will translate into audience laughter.

2. Joke writing versus sense of humor structuring. Most people are also under the impression that words and sentences (jokes) can be crafted from a piece a paper and if done properly, then somehow audiences will wet their pants with laughter.

Unfortunately, this arcane approach leaves out 93% of an individual’s natural laughter generation power (55% body language – 38% voice inflection and tone variations).

Most new comedians are unaware that writing and verbal communication are very different forms of communication or assume that “writing” is completely interchangeable with talking as a means to get the laughter results they want and it doesn’t happen — not even close.

But the majority of people who take a shot at stand-up comedy find out the hard way that their paper written “jokes” don’t work and won’t ever work.

Unfortunately most people are hell bent on “writing” their way to funny instead of structuring their sense of humor for the stand-up comedy stage and this is probably the biggest factor in making stand-up comedy far, far more difficult than it actually is for those who do have real comedy talent to start with.

Note: Episode 2 (available for free) discusses this issue in detail at Comedy University.

So, to answer your question…

Stand-up comedy can be relatively easy for those who do have comedy talent to start with and know how to structure their already developed sense of humor on the stage using the strategies and techniques in the Killer Stand-up Online Course (which does NOT involve conventional “joke writing” methodologies).

Stand-up comedy can be an almost impossible adventure for those who do not have real comedy talent to begin with or who believe that they can “write” their way to being funny on stage.

Check out any stand-up comedy open mic and you will see exactly what I am talking about.

Singing in a band does not command the constant and frequent audience responsiveness that stand-up comedy does.

Also, a band can perform the same songs for the same audience without repercussion (if the band is good).

Stand-up comedy on the other hand requires a different audience for each comedian because once a “joke” or bit has been told and the “surprise” has been revealed — the audience won’t be laughing because they know what’s coming.

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3 Replies to “Is Stand-up Comedy Difficult?”

  1. I believe you need “something to say” (i.e., an actual message that you really believe in) rather than merely jokes to tell. The confidence you are seeking will then be in your message itself and not in your ability to entertain, so then you won’t feel that you are under the microscope of a critical audience. When I use humour in public speaking, I focus more on my message than on the humour, which (hopefully) is a natural part of how you think and communicate anyway.

  2. Any kind of performing is a bonus. It gets you used to being in front of a crowd. Acting in a play is a great experience, especially if it’s a comedy. If you follow the rules of theater (speak loud and clear, let the laughter die down before continuing your lines, etc.), it will certainly help. But acting in a play, playing/singing in a band, teaching (standing in front of a group of people for a certain amount of time), can only help you so much. It’s like a person who cooks for a family of five people. Does that nightly experience prepare you to be a Master Chef who cooks gourmet meals for hundreds of people every night? In some ways, yes. In other ways, not really. They are two different things. My experience acting in plays, or singing in a choir, or being a public speaker (pastor) has only helped so much in my stand-up comedy pursuit. Steve’s course has helped me a lot. Plus, it’s just getting up on stage and doing it. (“it” = a well rehearsed act! Not just winging it!) Then analyzing what worked and what didn’t. It’s figuring out how you make people laugh in real life and how to tap into that on the stage!

  3. I’ve taught for years and years, I’ve done a lot of public speaking, and I was already comfortable in front of a crowd, with a microphone in my hand. And it shows on my first open mic. But comedic delivery really is more complicated than just telling jokes. I’ve got a ways to go.