Confidence: A Critical Attribute Every Comedian Must Have

Building Confidence in Stand-Up Comedy

One of the important things that every comedian must have if they want to generate big audience laughter is confidence.

Here’s why I say that:

Audiences are smart, and they know — either on a conscious or subconscious level — when a comedian is confident and when they are not, and will respond (or not respond) accordingly.

Confidence as a comedian is learned based on two primary aspects – advanced preparation and experience, both of which are related to each other.

Advanced Preparation

Everyone remembers a time in school when they knew they had a big test to study for, but for whatever reason, they failed to study for the test. Then when it’s time to take the test, they know they are not prepared and have no confidence in their ability to do well. And the less-than-optimal results speak for themselves.

Stand-up comedy is no different in that regard.

Unfortunately, most new comedians are usually poorly prepared to deliver a tight, well-structured stand-up routine before they step on stage. Let’s look at this a bit closer because this aspect is 100% within the control of the individual — much more so than any other aspect of stand-up comedy.

1. Not Knowing a Stand-Up Comedy Routine Is Carefully Mapped Out

The first issue that can affect a new comedian’s confidence involves a distorted perception of how a stand-up comedy routine is prepared and executed, specifically:

They simply see stand-up comedy as a spontaneous process of talking about whatever comes to mind at the moment (sometimes referred to as “winging it”) or from talking about some pre-selected topics in a spontaneous manner once hitting the stage.

This approach is usually gathered from observing professional comedians perform and mistaking the appearance of spontaneity that professional comedians exhibit when they perform as actual “talking from the top of the head” spontaneity (it is not).

Ultimately, what happens is the new comedian will flop miserably not knowing that virtually every aspect of a stand-up comedy routine is carefully premeditated and planned in advance.

Needless to say, this can have a significant impact on a new comedian’s confidence level.

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2. Not Knowing “Writing” Is Not the Same as Talking

Once a new comedian has figured out that they need to prepare a stand-up comedy routine, usually by “writing jokes”…

They quickly lose confidence in this process because it does not yield the laughter results they long for.

The reality is that they are unaware that “writing” the way they have been taught to do for an individual reader is NOT the same as talking.

Note: Stand-up comedy material should always be written down as there is no other way to edit, refine, rearrange or otherwise tighten that material. But “writing jokes” for an individual reader that only involves words and doesn’t factor in how an individual expresses themselves when they talk is a surefire formula for bombing on stage.

So what happens? The new comedian “writes” joke after joke that ends up flopping on stage. The audience actually never gets a chance to see that comedian’s real comedy talent because they are hung up reciting the words and sentences on paper they have produced that are designed for a reader — not talking and expressing oneself to an audience.

When this sort of “writing” process is used, there is a massive amount of second-guessing about what is actually funny or not, leading to an increased amount of trial and error.

Again, you have a situation that is NOT a confidence builder.

Note: The process that a comedian uses to develop their stand-up comedy material MUST work to get the laughter levels they want in order to bolster that comedian’s confidence before they hit the stage.

3. Not Knowing Rehearsal Is a Key Element to Getting Big Laughs

To compound the issues that can dramatically reduce a new comedian’s confidence…

Most new comedians don’t rehearse or don’t even know how to properly rehearse to get maximum laughter response even if the stand-up comedy material they developed is solid.

What they don’t realize is rehearsal is required to ensure that comedy material is delivered in a natural and organic way that is in alignment with the comedy talent someone uses when they are off stage talking with friends, family, coworkers, etc.

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It is rehearsal that provides that appearance of spontaneity to audiences, no different than when you start telling a story in casual conversations that you have told over and over again.

Note: Once stand-up comedy material has been tightened and performed multiple times proving that it will consistently generate high-level laughter, rehearsal for that material is minimal. But until then, proper rehearsal is a critical element for getting big laughs when delivering a stand-up comedy act.

Ultimately, the new comedian hits the stage without much confidence at all, which creates a less-than-optimal environment to generate laughs.

As I mentioned earlier, this situation is very much similar to not being prepared to take a test.

The approach used to create and develop stand-up comedy material, along with the amount of proper preparation that a comedian engages in, directly impacts the experience they have on stage — and whether or not those experiences develop confidence or reinforce a lack of it.

The Experience Angle

Confidence is learned from having a positive experience, then having repeat episodes of the same positive experience with consistency.

This applies to most anything in life, whether it involves cooking, repairing a car, or stand-up comedy.

Lack of confidence is also learned from having negative experiences that continue to repeat themselves regardless of the action being taken to avoid those negative experiences.

Needless to say, proper preparation and actually knowing what you are doing BEFORE you hit the stand-up comedy stage is essential to having experiences on stage (getting the big laughs) that will build and sustain your confidence level on a performance-by-performance basis.

As I have said before, there is much more involved in developing and delivering stand-up comedy material that actually works than meets the eye.

So if you want to know why folks who use and apply the information in the Killer Stand-up Online Course have such a great advantage and tend to progress far faster than most other comedians…

Every process that you need to know about is covered to give you maximum confidence with your routine BEFORE you ever hit the stage.

3 Replies to “Confidence: A Critical Attribute Every Comedian Must Have”

  1. While smoking and soda can agitate the nervous system, the real issue lies in what you said – I know what works and what doesn’t. It’s that “what doesn’t work” part that’s probably causing the lion’s share of the issues.

    If you know how to engage in performance improvement processes, you should be able to intelligently adjust or remove comedy material that doesn’t work, leaving you with “core” material that works with great consistency in a short period of time. This establishes the basis for confidence that grows, ultimately reducing that nervous feeling and increased heart rate.

    You should have anticipation before hitting the stage. But there is a big difference between anticipation of something you look forward to doing that is exciting and experiencing dread (which has a foundation in doubt).

    Doubt is a not a comedian’s friend – confidence is. Confidence is knowing without hesitation or reservation that you are going to slay the audience before you ever reach the stage. And having confidence is not about just one thing. It’s a about a combination of things that work together to create the laughs you want on stage (and effectively reduces or eliminates dread).

  2. I don’t lack for confidence. I’m a ledgend in my own mind. I truly believe I’m a headliner waiting for an open-mic.

    I need a good dose of humble pie to set me straight. I hope I am at least competent my first time out, but I expect to kill. I’m sure I won’t be instantly great, but hopefully I’m not garbage either. I can’t wait to get on stage!

    Hopefully, I’ll keep gaining more and more insight from your blog, course, and E-books. LOL! 5 more links on this article I haven’t read yet…

  3. I’ve seen comics who have way more time than me, still do the same bits with the same results…crickets. I think they are learning bad or negative stand up habits because they hit the stage confidence high, and as soon as the first joke don’t go over…he tanks.

    My bad habit is waiting until I find out if I’m on the list to go on stage before I start deciding what set list to go with. So I don’t get to try out as many joke updates as I want to.

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