Most new comedians tend to be fixated on the notion that “writing” comedy material that gets big audience laughs makes up the lion’s share of the stand-up comedy process.
When I refer to writing, I’m talking about the conventional means that is taught in school.
To be fair, that’s how I started out myself as a new comedian.
Here are a couple of interesting questions that I received from a top stand-up comedy tips blog reader that are representative of the type of questions I get regarding how to write stand-up comedy material:
How do you get a big laugh instead of a little laugh?
Is there a formula or technique that you can use (something separate from practicing) that will give me bigger laughs on stage?
A Formula For Great Stand-up Comedy?
While developing and delivering a powerful stand-up comedy routine could be described as a recipe of sorts, there are two things about this “recipe” that every new comedian should know:
1. Since everyone is different and has their own unique sense of humor, everyone has a different “recipe” when it comes to generating decent laughs as a comedian.
2. And just like in any recipe, multiple ingredients are needed in the right amounts in order for the finished product to be great.
Unfortunately when a comedian focuses solely on the “writing” part of stand-up comedy, it’s much like trying to bake a cake using only the eggs and leaving out the rest of the needed ingredients.
Below you will find 21 questions about developing and delivering stand-up comedy material for those who are generating 10 seconds or less of laughter for each performing minute on stage…
These are questions that every comedian should know the answer to if they want to perform at an above average level.
And I will be so bold as to say this — if you cannot answer the questions that I have provided below with confidence, the chances are pretty good that you will struggle — or continue to struggle — needlessly on the stand-up comedy stage.
The vast majority of the time there is usually not just one aspect of a comedian’s material that can be focused on and improved upon to get better results because…
Developing and delivering stand-up comedy material that works at a high level and generates big laughs is representative of a number of simple, yet important aspects that work in conjunction with one another.
In other words, developing and delivering a stand-up comedy that generates loud and frequent laughs is a combination of multiple “ingredients” that a comedian must integrate into the process of developing and delivering a stand-up comedy act in order to get the audience laughter results they want.
Here are the questions, the answers to which can be found in the Killer Stand-up Online Course:
Questions You Need To Be Able To Answer For Yourself
1. Do you know how to identify topics, experiences, observations, opinions, etc. that allow you to fully utilize your natural comedy talent and unique sense of humor or are you simply trying to “write” the “funny” into your comedy material?
2. Are you aware that there is a significant difference between trying to “write” comedy material designed to be “read” and developing comedy material designed to be delivered to a live audience?
3. Is your stand-up comedy material representative of a narrow sense of humor range or does it appeal to almost any audience?
4. Are you aware that being able to identify set-up lines and punchlines is only valuable AFTER you have determined what you want to talk about on stage?
5. Do you know how to make sure you have 4-6+ laughs per minute in your comedy material that will give you 18+ seconds of laughter for each performing minute?
Note: The number of laughs generated each minute on stage is not nearly as important as being able to reach the 18+ seconds of laughter for each performing minute milestone.
6. Are you aware the comedy mechanics used for generating laughter on the stand-up comedy stage are exactly the same as those used in everyday conversations?
7. Are you trying to be some sort of made up “character” on stage or are you able to capitalize on your own unique expressiveness and sense of humor on stage?
8. Do you understand structure as it relates to punchline frequency?
9. Do you understand how structuring your stand- comedy material affects comedy timing?
10. Do you know the sentence structure that most punchlines have and why it matters?
11. Do you know what a punchline really is?
Note: Simply knowing the definition of a punchline will NOT help you produce punchlines that work for you and your sense of humor.
Related Article: The Truth About Set-up Lines And Punchlines
12. Do you know why you cannot study “punchlines” delivered by other comedians to gather any meaningful information you can use for your own stand-up comedy material?
13. Do you understand that being able to get 4-6+ laughs per minute on stage means delivering 4-6+ punchlines PLUS the set-up lines to support those punchlines?
14. Are you aware of the audience variables that can affect your stand-up comedy performances and why it matters?
15. Do you perform completely different stand-up comedy material each time you perform because lack of laughter?
16. Is the only time you “practice” or rehearse your stand-up comedy material is when you get to the stage?
17. Do you know why most stand-up comedy material doesn’t “read” funny from paper and why it matters?
18. Are you aware that most of the laughter you will generate as a comedian doesn’t come from the words or sentences you use in your stand-up comedy material?
19. Are you struggling on stage because you really don’t know what you are doing when it comes to developing and delivering stand-up comedy material?
20. Do you use your already developed expressive comedy traits in your stand-up comedy material?
21. Do you review your performances for improvement — more specifically, do you even know what to look for to make rapid and intelligent adjustments to you comedy material?
Bonus question: Do you have confidence in the process you use to develop your stand-up comedy material, knowing that it will generate some level of laughter when performed?
Most new comedians could not begin to answer most of these these questions. As result, they struggle to produce comedy material that gets the bigger laughs.
Like I said before, being able to generate noteworthy laughs as a comedian involves much more than writing comedy material — it involves a number of factors that work together to give them the laughter power they need to excel on stage.
Anyone can suck on stage as a comedian. For those who have little to no talent there is no course, book or workshop that can give someone talent. All the techniques in the world for writing comedy are of little value.
But for the majority of people that do have plenty of talent to do well as a comedian, most of those folks choose “blind trial and error” as the means to reach their stand-up comedy goals.
If you want to know why I say that, check out these 5 free stand-up comedy lessons. That should give you more than a clue as to why there’s more to generating big laughs as a comedian than “writing” stand-up comedy material.