The Truth About Developing A Character For Stand-up Comedy

Many of the popular stand-up comedy books, courses, workshops and classes suggest that an individual who wants be successful as a comedian needs to develop a special and unique stage “character”.

Oddly enough, none of these books give much in the way of insight on exactly how to develop this special “character”. The same can be said of most stand-up comedy workshops and classes as well.

In my opinion, this is just another example of how “conventional wisdom” on stand-up comedy makes it much more difficult than it really is.

Now before I jump into this issue about developing a special character, let me be more specific about what I am referring to.

I’m talking about the prospect of somehow becoming a completely different persona for the stand-up comedy stage.

For some, this can mean donning some sort of costume or other attire to help better express the “character” someone wants to portray.

For others, this can mean displaying a certain attitude, personality or otherwise different type of person than the individual is in everyday life.

I’m not talking about natural impressions that a person may do of other people they know or have met.

There are several major reasons why people who want to take a shot at stand-up comedy look to become a special “character” in their stand-up comedy endeavors:

1. They see stand-up comedy as something that is larger than who who they are.

Everyone sees themselves differently than others around them do, Subsequently they can assume that stand-up comedy requires a persona that is larger or somehow different than who they are.

I started out by making this assumption and tried to be what I thought a comedian should be like when I performed.

Needless to say, I sucked big time doing this.

2. They can’t get laughs with their stand-up comedy material. As you move along in your stand-up comedy adventures you will run across a number of folks who will try to blame their lack of ability on the stand-up comedy stage on just about anything.

One of the things they can blame is the “character” that they already are in everyday life is not funny enough for stand-up comedy. So they end up trying any number of different persona’s in order to fix the problem.

The reality is that the reason that people don’t do well on they stand-up comedy stage is for two distinct reasons:

  • They don’t have enough comedy talent to begin with or…
  • They don’t know how to develop and deliver a stand-up comedy routine that will generate the laughter levels they want.

In other words, it not a certain character or persona that will make someone magically funny on stage, but rather it’s the “funny” that makes a character or persona recognizable and embraced by an audience.

If you have reviewed any number of articles on this blog then you should know that what I have to offer is all about getting significant laughter results in the shortest amount of time possible.

So from that perspective, here’s what you need to know about developing a “character” for your stand-up comedy:

I want you reflect back on the last time your were talking with someone, a group of friends, family or co-workers and caused them to laugh.

Did you have to use some sort of made up, fabricated character to do that? I’m going to say no, you didn’t.

What you did do is naturally use the already well developed “persona” or character that you already are.

Let me put this another way:

The absolute best (and easiest) character or persona that you can tap into as a comedian is the character or persona you are right now.

If you can fully accept that, then it simply becomes a matter of knowing how to develop and deliver a stand-up comedy routine using the character or persona that you already are.

But the one thing I cannot do is make someone recognize that who they are in everyday life is more than worthy for the stand-up stage if they actually know what they are doing.

That’s why I say that if you want to become a special stand-up comedy “character” — someone who is vastly different than who you are in everyday life…

I would strongly suggest that you seek out an acting coach, acting course or acting classes for “character” development as opposed to seeking out a stand-up comedy teacher.

Trying develop and become a completely different and unique “character” outside who you already are equates to a lot of hard work and an increased measure of difficulty on top of also trying develop and deliver comedy material that works.

Now there’s one last question I want to address before I wrap up this article which is:

But don’t I need to have a special “character” or persona to stand out from other comedians and make myself more marketable?”

And to that I would reply:

If you are generating 4-6+ quality laughs every minute you are on stage as a comedian, you will automatically stand out head and shoulders from all from the most experienced comedians.

As a matter of fact, if you can generate audience laughter at that level, you are already in the top tier of comedians anywhere no matter how long you have been a comedian.

In other words, having the ability to generate loud and frequent audience laughs automatically sets you apart from the rest. And you don’t need any sort of special character or persona to do that.

Here’s the last word:

If you are a naturally funny person, you are already a unique and proven “character”. To try to develop a different “character” simply adds an additional huge roadblock to developing stand-up comedy material that works well in record time.

For more on this topic and other myths that hold funny people back, please check out the 5 free online lessons provided at

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6 Replies to “The Truth About Developing A Character For Stand-up Comedy”

  1. I guess this is like Ali G/Borat, which you wrote about on a differt page. I think it’s cool to play-act a confrontation between different personas on stage, but I wouldn’t try to BECOME the persona as my complete act. If you can do that well, acting might be your better line of work.

  2. Now that is the hard part trying to be natural on stage. I guess it will come with confidence and knowing your material. When you get comfortable with yourself on stage. Your character will shine and develop every time you do a performance.

    • Well said, Lee. Being so confident and comfortable that you are “natural on stage” comes only with experience, I would guess. The more practice and performance experiences we can get, the easier it should be to be ourselves and react (rather than merely ‘act’ — i.e. become a character other than our true self) on stage. As Steve says in this article, we are already unique characters, so we shouldn’t need to develop a different one.

  3. I agree with your opinion about becoming another character different than yourself. However, I do believe that using stereotypes to characterize a bit help to bring out humor. After all they’re stereotypes because everyone understands them.

    • I agree, as long as a characterization is expressed naturally AND the audience can easily relate to the characterization. Otherwise, the comedian is left with trying to “pluck” a character out of the air, which is just as hard as trying to “pluck” funny out of the air.

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