Sometimes in the process of educating folks on the dynamics of developing a stand-up comedy routine, some of the most basic information can be missed.
And it has been said that it’s hard to get answers if you don’t know the questions to begin with.
So here’s a question that I know many new and prospective comedians have that is pretty darn important and can actually have an impact on a new comedian’s progress which is:
“Do I repeat my stand-up comedy act over and over or do I develop new material for each performance?”
Here’s what you need to know:
Hidden Aspects Of Stand-up Comedy Performances
One of the “magical” things about professionally delivered stand-up comedy is the appearance of spontaneity — in other words it seems as if the comedian is simply talking about things as they randomly pop into their head.
What many new comedians (including me when I started) don’t see when they watch a pro comedian perform in a live setting or in a video recording is the number of different versions of the material before it reached the point of being “finished”, requiring no further adjustment in order to generate the laughter levels the comedian desires.
Some comedians refer to this as “A” material and is no longer classified as material that is “B” material or still in the category of a “work in progress”.
Once a comedian has comedy material in this “A” status, they can and will literally use it for years.
New comedians also don’t realize that a pro comedian may have actually performed the stand-up comedy material they are delivering literally dozens if not hundreds of times before a wide variety of audiences before that material makes it to a video for widespread distribution.
So the short answer to the question is yes, comedians do repeat their stand-up comedy material.
However it is also important to point out that developing and delivering a high level, big laugh stand-up comedy act is a process that involves both off stage and on stage work.
And the more effective the process a comedian uses to develop and deliver their “A” stand-up comedy material, the faster they can progress.
Bad Moves New Comedians Make
What I have presented so far leads right into some major issues that many new comedians have:
Completely changing stand-up comedy material for each performance.
What happens in this scenario is the new comedian will take their stand-up comedy material to the stage and it flops. So in order to compensate for that, they bring new material to the stage each time they get the opportunity to perform.
By doing that, pinpointing stand-up comedy material for future development (editing, adjustment, rework) is much like trying to win the lottery. The cause? Not using an effective process for developing stand-up comedy material in the first place.
Add that to the limited stage time afforded to new comedians to work out their stand-up comedy material, it is easy to understand why it can take a long time for a new comedian to make any real headway.
Performing the same unfunny material with the expectation that it will somehow get funnier over time.
This is the opposite end of the spectrum from those who completely change their stand-up comedy material every show.
Let me just cut right to the chase:
Unfunny stand-up comedy material, no matter how well delivered WILL NOT miraculously get funny over time. Stand-up comedy material is not like meat or cheese that can get better with age — it is either funny and will generate laughs consistently or it won’t.
Once again the problem boils down to the absence of an effective process for developing stand-up comedy material in the first place.
If you’ll allow me to be brutally honest, here is what I can tell you with extreme certainty:
There are already plenty of comedians who can generate an average of 18+ seconds of laughter every minute they are performing.
Likewise you need to be able to do that as well if you truly want to reap the benefits and rewards that stand-up comedy has to offer.
If you cannot make significant and measurable progress in your first 6-12 months as a comedian, your chances of success as a comedian become increasingly reduced.
As a matter of fact I would be so bold as to say that process you are using to develop and deliver a stand-up comedy act that gets results in increasing success in stand-up, you basically have two choices:
1. Ditch trying to become a comedian or…
2. Identify a process that will help you to develop a noteworthy and valuable stand-up comedy act.
There is much more to stand-up comedy and becoming a successful comedian than meets the eye. However I also strongly believe that those who have real comedy talent and really know how to harness that talent for the stage can progress quickly in the world of stand-up comedy.
What You Already Do
You already use repetition in a natural and organic way when you use your own natural comedy talent to make others laugh in everyday conversations. Here’s what I mean by that…
Everyone has stories, quips, lines and responses that they have developed and that they use over and over again in conversations that they have with people they meet throughout their life. The material they use over and over again is the material that is consistent and works.
So the concept of repeating comedy material that works is not a new one. But again, once someone makes the decision to become a comedian, the mentality about developing a stand-up act and delivering that act to an audience tends to override most anything that someone does off stage to get laughs.
That’s not the way it should be. While there are certainly differences between stand-up comedy and interacting with people off stage to get laugh, there are far more similarities than there are differences and those similarities should be used to the comedian’s advantage.
When it comes to stand-up comedy, the goal is to produce stand-up comedy material that gets big and frequent laughs consistently for all audiences they perform for.
If you attempt to perform different stand-up comedy material each time you perform, it would be difficult if not impossible to develop any performance benchmarks in order to improve and tighten that material.
Subsequently, it would be nearly impossible to implement any sort of performance improvement activities.
If you attempt to perform the same unfunny stand-up comedy material each time you perform, the only remedy is to develop different stand-up comedy that does work.
Stand-up Comedy Tip: Stand-up comedy is all about calculated and rehearsed repetition — doing the same material over and over again for different audiences, making adjustments until it can’t generate bigger laughter.
Then a comedian moves on to develop new comedy material that kills — sandwiching new comedy material between proven comedy material until it too has been honed, refined and generates big laughter consistently.
If you are working out comedy material and you try to do the same routine for the same audience week after week (ie: local bar gigs), you won’t experience great results after your first performance because the audience has already heard your material. The element of surprise is gone.
So it is important that comedians develop their “set”, just a like musicians develop their “set” in front of as many different audiences as possible.
As I mentioned in the beginning. part of the “magic” of being a comedian is to be able to deliver stand-up comedy material that appears as if it was just thought of and is spontaneous.
That’s an illusion. If you don’t believe me…
Go to a professional comedy show featuring the same comedians two nights in a row. You will see exactly what I am talking about.
If I been away from comedy a few years and try to come back can I use the same material I was using before I stopped performing?
Yes you can.
This is some really good information about a stand-up comedy routine. I liked that you pointed out that you can keep doing the same jokes and making adjustments to get bigger laughs. I have always wondered how a comedian can go up without a script and talk for over an hour most of the time.