The Stand-up Comedy Bottom Line

stand-up comedy performance bottom lineI find it amusing when aspiring comedians want to get into a spirited discussion with me about different stand-up comedy “styles” — joke telling vs. story telling or topic based stand-up comedy and how that somehow makes a comedian funny or not.

Here’s reality:

“Style” doesn’t matter. Whether a comedian uses props, music, PowerPoint presentations, magic tricks or whatever — doesn’t matter. What a comedian talks about doesn’t matter (unless it is for work outside the comedy club market).

Here’s what does matter:

It’s important to provide the best entertainment possible for the audience.

In the world of stand-up comedy, the level an audience is entertained is directly related to the frequency and duration of laughter a comedy performer can generate during their show.

In other words…

The longer, louder and more frequently an audience laughs, the more they are entertained.

Let me break it down even further:

1. If a comedian — regardless of “style” — can’t produce a minimum average of 18 seconds of laughter, cheering or applause every performing minute during their show, no matter how long that show may be, they ARE NOT performing at headliner level.

This is not something that I simply made up — as a matter of fact, you need only have access to YouTube and select any known headliner level comedian to verify for yourself exactly what I am referring to. Not only that…

You can use your smartphone for accurate verification — this report explains exactly how you do it using the most basic apps most smartphones have:

Stand-up Comedy Metrics | Laughter Measurement - Comedy Evaluator Pro
This article describes the objective and measurable metrics associated with headliner level comedian laughter levels.

Related article: Setting Standards For Stand-up Comedians

2. An individual may or may not subjectively “like” a comedian’s comedy material/content from the examination of an online video or other recorded performance. But live audience response is always objectively measurable and undeniable.

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Related Article: You Kill On Stage And You Got The Video! Then This Happens…

3. A comedian cannot go minutes without getting laughs. Well, they can but it’s called bombing or giving a lecture.

But what is absolutely bizarre in stand-up comedy is the number of new comedians who suck horribly, yet still expect to be somehow “discovered” for the comedy talent they have but can’t actually demonstrate because they don’t get laughs when they perform.

But DO NOT take my word for this. Go hang out at several comedy open mic nights, get to know the open mic comedians and find out how long they have been pretending to be a comedian.

In my eyes, the funniest comedians are those who can generate the most laughs in a live environment. Audiences will agree. Talent agents and bookers will agree.

So here’s the no BS bottom line you can take to the bank:

  • Every comedian is afforded the exact same 60 seconds for each performing minute, whether they are on stage for 3 minutes or 60 minutes.
  • Every comedian has the same opportunity each time they step onto a stage to generate the audience laughter levels needed to get recognized, get discovered or otherwise move forward as a comedian.
  • If a comedian cannot closely approach, meet or exceed generating an average of 18 seconds of laughter for each performing minute on stage they simply won’t get far in world of stand-up comedy as a comedian.

I should probably also mention that individuals who are able to consistently deliver 18+ seconds of laughter each performing minute (PAR Score 30+) are in the top 5% of ALL comedy performers, regardless of fame, notoriety or TV credits accumulated.

My overall perspective regarding success or failure as a comedian is this:

  • Most people have all the comedy talent they will ever have (or need) to do well as a comedian if they would simply learn how to use and apply it like they do offstage (but in a more concentrated form for the stage).
  • If you believe that the ability to make others laugh is strictly based on word usage and sentence structure alone, you are already severely screwed and destined for a hard existence as a new comedian.
  • Success as a comedian involves using accurate information in order to properly prepare to succeed as a comedian — from creating comedy material from scratch to the actual delivery of that material and getting the frequency of audience laughs needed.
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Again, don’t take my word for it — go to any comedy open mic anywhere on the planet, observe the new comedians in action then ask yourself this question:

Were they prepared to succeed and get the laughs they needed or not?

Funny can’t hide. Well, guess what? Unfunny can’t hide either. 🙂

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8 Replies to “The Stand-up Comedy Bottom Line”

  1. One thig is abundantly clear from this article and the subsequent comments: there is a wide variety of comedic tools and styles. Which reinforces the concept Steve has been arguing all along — there is much more to successful comedy than being able to write a joke. Very interesting discussion!

  2. Before I used to judge comedians purely on what I thought of them. “Comedians are only funny if I find the funny”. This article made me realize even more that my thinking was completely flawed. I am not the person that the comedian needs to make laugh. It is the audience. It is about seeing them laugh and having the smile in anticipation. That is comedy.

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