One of the questions that new comedians have is:
Does it take 5-10 years to get good at stand-up comedy?
If you read some of the conventional books on stand-up comedy, that’s what they will tell you.
Personally, I think that question is not a very good one and should probably be broken down into two better questions:
How long does it take to be funny on stage?
How long does it take to progress in stand-up comedy?
As far as how long it can take to be funny on stage, it can be relatively fast — literally weeks or months not years, provided that:
- The individual actually has comedy talent to bring to the table
- Knows how to capture and structure their already developed comedy talent for the stage
- Has a stand-up comedy material develop process that works consistently
- Knows how to properly prepare to entertain audiences
- Takes advantage of every possible performing opportunity in order to develop and hone a killer act as quickly as possible
I’ve said all along that an individual does not have to hold the “title” of headliner in order to slay audiences like a pro.
However most new comedians really don’t know how to develop or deliver a stand-up comedy routine that will give them the laughter results they want in a timely manner.
Instead, the process they use goes something like this:
- They try to fabricate original and funny premises from thin air.
- Then they try to fabricate funny punchline for their fabricated premises.
- Then they try to cobble together the jokes they have written into an act for the the performance time they are afforded.
If the material doesn’t work, the new comedian doesn’t really know why, even though they have done everything “by the book” so to speak.
In other words, if they deliver material that doesn’t generate laughs they don’t know what went amiss. If they deliver material that does work, they don’t know why and have difficulty reproducing those laughter results with other material.
This approach ends up being a very unnatural way for an individual to attempt to use their natural comedy talent, usually with less than favorable results.
Ultimately, the new comedian becomes forced to produce and test mountains of jokes before they are able to accumulate enough that work to make up a stand-up comedy act that gets laughs.
This is how I started and it was not a pleasant or rewarding process.
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Even if a new comedian could get on stage 2-3 times a week, it can take a very long time to develop a hot 5 minutes of stand-up comedy material, much less 15 minutes or more.
During my comedy career I literally knew dozens of people who had been in the stand-up comedy open mic scene for 5-10+ years and couldn’t generate the laughs they needed to move forward.
I should also mention that for most of these folks, their inability to get laughs on stage had nothing to do with a lack of talent, lack of desire or an inability to learn how to develop and deliver a powerful stand-up comedy routine.
It was because of the “established” process they were using to create, develop and deliver stand-up comedy material that was holding them back.
Now as far as how fast an individual can progress in a stand-up comedy career as a comedian…
First of all, that aspect is directly related to the last question.
The faster an individual can generate big laughs from an audience on a consistent basis, the faster they will progress as a comedian.
In other words, the faster a comedian is able to crush audiences consistently, the faster that comedian will draw the attention of those who can make a difference in how fast their stand-up comedy career moves along – specifically, attention from club managers, club owners, comedy bookers, agents and talent buyers.
Still, keep this in mind:
It takes time and experience to move from delivering 5 minutes of killer stand-up comedy material to 15 or 20 minutes.
The same can be said of going from delivering 20 to 30 minutes of material to performing 45 minutes to an hour.
It takes time to develop a reputation as an entertainer.
It takes time to gain experience at every level of stand-up comedy — opening act, feature act and ultimately headliner.
And it takes time to demonstrate consistency in one’s ability to deliver a high impact stand-up comedy routine, no matter what “title” they hold.
Anyone who has worked their way to earn the title of headliner has accomplished a major undertaking — one which takes time and persistence.
My advice – focus on that which you do have absolute control over, which is developing a powerful stand-up comedy act as quickly as possible.
The rest will fall into place as your experience and reputation increases. 🙂
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The remainder of this interview can be found on this page.