One of the questions I get from time to time is this:
“Should I rehearse or practice my stand-up act in front of a mirror?”
As a general rule, I don’t usually advocate rehearsing in front of a mirror (with some exceptions) and here’s why:
If an individual is rehearsing in front of a mirror, it usually means that they are trying to “fabricate” the facial expressions and body language to compliment their stand-up comedy material.
It can also be an attempt to better “sell” their comedy material to an audience.
Unfortunately, “fabricated” facial expressions and body language have a tendency to come across as phony or not genuine to an audience.
And once an audience sees that…
They will hold back laughter because they know, mostly on a subconscious level, that they are being “joked”.
Now there are some instances where rehearsing in front of a mirror can be advantageous:
1. Working on impressions of celebrities where facial expressions should closely mimic the facial expressions of the celebrity (usually needed to also reproduce the correct voice inflection and tone and enhance the recognition of the celebrity impression)
2. A ventriloquist act where the vent needs to be able to see the facial expressions and body language of the puppet
3. Working on a special “character” that is not who you actually are in real life (knowledge of acting would be of great benefit in this case).
4. When playing an instrument (musical comedy) and/or singing as a part of a stand-up comedy act
5. When incorporating props, magic tricks, juggling, etc.
Even then, all of this can be accomplished with video (see my note below).
No matter what, I’m still a firm believer that spoken word comedy material should be developed from the inside out, not the other way around — that’s what my courses are all about.
Stand-up comedy tip: Starting with comedy topics, ideas, observations, opinions, etc. that have real meaning to begin with has a dramatic effect on the actual delivery of that material and how “genuine” an audience perceives that material to be. Why?
Because your passion is genuine to begin with.
The very best tool a comedian has when it comes to rehearsal (or performance evaluation) is the video camera, which allows a comedian to look at different aspects of their stand-up comedy during multiple reviews.
Note: You have a video camera that you can use that is probably in your pocket right now — it’s called a smart phone. All you need is a smartphone tripod with video remote control capabilities (#ad) to have a very powerful rehearsal tool.
Video can be a comedian’s friend — you don’t get an instant replay when you are performing in front of a mirror.