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I would bet my house that most people who are looking to jump into stand-up comedy or even those who are new to it think that getting the big laughs on stage is all about the “writing”.
I would go so far as to say that “writing” stand-up comedy material that actually works to get big and frequent laughs is probably the #1 challenge that comedians face.
If this describes you, then you might want to devour this little secret…
First, the set up as comedians call it in stand-up.
I want you to reflect back on a time when you were talking with a group of friends, coworkers or family members about something and you “got on a roll”.
You know what I’m talking about — once you get started “on a roll” about something, it was like you could do no wrong.
Virtually everything that you would say would generate a big laugh, one right after another.
While it doesn’t usually happen often, when it does it’s a magical thing.
I can also tell you that when this happened for the 45 seconds to 2+ minutes you were “on a roll”, you were generating 4-6 laughs per minute.
So here’s my question:
Did you write that getting “on a roll” episode in advance? Did you sit down and write what you were going say from a blank sheet of paper in advance?
You didn’t? That’s very interesting because…
When you get “on a roll” during a casual conversation with friends, family or coworkers, you are as close as you will ever be to performing at a pro comedian level without actually being on a stand-up comedy stage as a comedian.
And you didn’t sit down with a blank piece paper and craft what you were going to do to “get on roll” in advance, every time that has happened over the years?
Odd, huh? Especially when you consider that the comedy mechanics for getting laughs are exactly the same whether you are generating laughs off stage in casual conversations or on stage as a comedian.
Here is why I can say that:
When you were “on a roll” during a conversation with a group of friends, family or coworkers:
- There was some sort of set-up information provided.
- There were punchlines and tag lines delivered (tag lines are punchlines that follow an initial punchline).
My goodness! That sounds an awful lot like stand-up comedy! That’s because…
When you got “on a roll”, that WAS stand-up comedy.
Oh but wait!
As a comedian, that is not how it works. It’s all about the “writing”, remember?
That’s why you need to sit down with a blank piece of paper and a pen or use a word processor and try to “write” jokes from thin air.
Just don’t be surprised if it takes you a long time to even get a few laughs when you hit the stage as a comedian because “writing” is a completely different form of communication than talking.
Related Article: Are You Dealing With Writer’s Block? You Shouldn’t Be
But if you would rather capture the experience of getting “on a roll” as a comedian quickly…
I have the ONLY stand-up comedy course on the planet that shows you step-by-step how to create, develop, structure and deliver a stand-up comedy act that is designed from the very beginning to generate 4-6 laughs per minute.
I have met plenty of new comedians that have experienced “writers block”. But I have never met a single person who has experienced “talkers block”.
And since stand-up comedy is about talking — which is a heck of a lot easier than writing — well, I think you get my point.
Folks who focus only on the “writing” leave out a majority of their potential laughter impact when it comes to generating big laughs from a stand-up comedy routine.
When you are “on a roll” in casual conversations, you’re using 100% of your actual comedy talent, whether you choose to recognize that or not.
That comedy talent that you use off the stage with friends, family and coworkers is the EXACT same comedy talent that you want to use on stage as a comedian, only in a more structured and refined way.
As you will see over and over again on this blog, writing as we are taught to do it is produced for a reader to consume and understand.
Since writing only involves words and sentences, many more words and sentences are needed to communicate what it is that you want to say the way you want to say and express it.
Talking on the other hand involves much more than just words and sentences alone, which reduces the number of literal words needed to convey a message, concept or idea.
Not to mention that most of a comedian’s laughter generation power doesn’t stem from the literal words they use. It comes from how they say what it is they want to say.
When I started my stand-up comedy career, I too thought it was all about the “writing”. And I paid the price for that – it’s called bombing.
It is important to write down your material, but I think if you are focused on just writing you’re going to risk sounding like a humorist. Like you said in another article, stand-up is 3-dimensional. Mark Twain was a pretty funny writer, but you would never mistake it for stand-up. Because he was just a writer. When you are writing down your material it is important to remember that you are a stand-up not a humorist writer.
Great point Steve! I love it. You can have the best script in the world. (The writer won best screenwriter of the year!) But during auditions, the casting director is not looking at the script. They are looking at how you bring out your interpretation of that one character. It is about your whole being being involved in the process! What you say is certainly important! (Like the script) But how you say it is just as important, if not more important! (That’s why lots of people audition for one role. But they are looking for someone who can deliver the lines and be believable–look and sound authentic!) Sounds like comedy to me. Having something to say is crucial. But delivering it such a way that you look and sound authentic is even more crucial!
I have learned from this website that comedy is not all about the writing. Sight, sound and delivery are key elements when it comes comedy writing. Plus using your natural sense of humor.