If someone were to ask me how to write stand-up comedy material…
You might be surprised to find out that I would give them this stand-up comedy tip…
I wouldn’t try to “write” anything — at least not the way most people think of writing (which is in the literal sense the way virtually all comedy books, workshops and courses say to do).
In this article I want to touch upon the most common issues associated with trying to “write” a stand-up comedy routine and provide an overview of a much more effective approach to producing stand-up comedy material that will actually generate laughs when delivered to an audience.
Writing Is Different Than Talking
Writing (the way we have been taught to do since childhood) is a formally learned means of communication that involves a number of grammatical rules (spelling, punctuation, noun, verb, adjective, adverb placement, etc.) in order to communicate with an individual reader.
Talking on the other hand doesn’t necessarily abide by “grammatical rules”, nor is it designed for a reader — it is intended for consumption by a live, in-person audience of one or more people.
Talking that generates laughter does so as a result of incorporating much more than just words formed into sentences — there is nuance, expressiveness, facial expressions and a host of other attributes that allow a person to use all their already developed comedy talent.
Writing has just words and sentences along with limited punctuation as a means of communication — again, for an individual reader, not a live, in-person audience.
Note: For a much better understanding of the information I have just provided, you may want to review episode 2 in the Stand-up Comedy Secrets For Beginners series (it’s FREE for download or online review).
No matter how you slice it, “writing” tends to be a difficult affair subject to issues like writers block.
Talking on the other hand tends to be pretty darn easy and I have never heard of anyone experiencing talkers block.
The Big Disconnect
I would have to say that the single biggest disconnect when it comes to trying to figure out how to write stand-up comedy material is this:
There is a widespread (and false) assumption that writing and talking are not only the same means of communication but can be used interchangeably to get the laughter results a comedian wants.
Every single comedian, whether they have been doing it for a week or for years stands before an audience armed with the exact same thing:
The comedy talent they already have and the process they employ to use and amplify that comedy talent for an audience.
Unfortunately, trying to use a “traditional” writing skill set as a substitute for a talking skill set is much like trying to use a screwdriver to change a flat tire.
Just know this:
There is a massive difference between trying to “write jokes” from a blank piece of paper for consumption by a reader and writing down and structuring what you want to deliver to an audience to get 4-6 solid laughs per minute.
Stand-up Comedy Tip: The reason why stand-up comedy material is written down is because you cannot physically see words or edit sentences as they are being spoken and expressed, nor can you visibly see how they are being expressed.
Words and sentences on paper merely provide a map, as opposed to being the sole means of creating a stand-up comedy act that will actually work on stage.