I think just about every new comedian will agree that coming up with that first solid and tight 3-5 minute set that kills virtually every time is probably the hurdle that presents the biggest single challenge for new comedians.
While 3-5 minutes may seem like a very small amount of performing time, it can seem like an eternity to the new comedian who is generating little or no laughter with their stand-up comedy routine.
And if the new comedian has had multiple stage performances with little or no laughs, it can begin to seem like a daunting task to somehow come up with that killer 3-5 minutes that will take them to the next level.
Then the performer has to make a decision on how long the are going suck before they finally quit.
So what is it that makes creating this first 3-5 minutes of killer stand-up such a challenging and elusive endeavor?
Here are the more specific reasons new comedians struggle to develop a stand-up comedy routine that will get them noticed:
They have difficulty nailing down what to talk about on stage in the first place.
I can only imagine the countless hours that have been spent by new comedians staring at a blank piece of paper, pen or pencil in hand and saying to themselves:
“Now what’s funny? What should I talk about on stage? What will an audience think is funny? What’s a funny premise to start with?”
And to make it worse, they don’t really know what a punchline actually is or how to generate them.
If you have looked at your stand-up material and said:
“What makes this funny?” or “Where’s the joke in what I just wrote?”
Then you know exactly what I am referring to.
Everybody already knows that the funny parts of the joke are the punchlines (and tag lines).
But that common knowledge will not give a comedian so much as a hint how create punchlines that are funny and will generate a noteworthy laugh, much less get 4-6 noteworthy laughs every performing minute.
They don’t know how to structure and/or tighten their stand-up comedy material to get multiple laughs per minute when delivered.
Comedians who get exposed to the most performing opportunities are able to generate an average of 4-6 laughs every minute they are on stage.
The problem with trying to even come close to that performance level is exacerbated if the new comedian doesn’t really know what a punchline is or how to generate them.
They don’t know what character they should be on stage that will make their stand-up comedy material funny.
Many new comedians start out trying to pinpoint what comedian “character” they should be when they are delivering their material.
Once they take some sort of unique persona, character or personality on stage and they don’t get laughs, they are left with these nagging questions:
“Was my (character, persona, personality) not funny? Was my material not funny? Was it a combination of both?”
They don’t know how to properly prepare to deliver a pro stand-up comedy routine.
Most of a comedian’s laughter power on stage comes from delivery. However…
The funniest stand-up comedy material can flop if the delivery of that material is poor. Likewise the best delivery in the world won’t salvage stand-up comedy material that is not funny to begin with.
They don’t know how to evaluate their stand-up comedy routine after a performance to achieve better results for the next performance.
If you don’t do smart post performance reviews of your stand-up comedy material, how do you really know if you need to edit it, fix it or chuck it?
Any of this sound familiar? Well you might be surprised to know that before I developed my own system, I encountered every one of the obstacles I have described above myself as a new comedian.
In other words, when I started out as a comedian:
- I struggled with pinpointing what to talk about on stage.
- I didn’t really know what a punchline was. I just sort of guessed at what might be funny.
- My set ups were too long before punchlines that didn’t pay off well, if not at all.
- I watched hours and hours of video recordings of stand-up comedians trying to pinpoint how they were able to get the laughs that they were able to generate.
- I couldn’t tell you how long my stand-up comedy routine was, much less how many punchlines I had in any given minute.
- When I hit the stage, I delivered my material the way I thought a comedian did it. It was largely a phony persona that I chose to do. Didn’t seem to help.
- I was always prepared when it came to performing, but I couldn’t get the laughs I wanted because my material just wasn’t very funny.
- I purchased every book on stand-up comedy available and consumed them over and over again trying to unlock the “secrets” I needed. Nothing worked.
- I signed up for stand-up comedy courses and workshops to see if they would provide the secrets I needed to develop and deliver a killer stand-up comedy act. This didn’t help either.
- I video recorded my sucky performances but didn’t do any sort of performance review because…
- I already knew I sucked. I had put so much effort in writing and rewriting of “jokes” and memorizing those jokes that flopped, there seemed to be no good reason to go back and review the crappy performance.
If you want to know some details about my own personal experience with bombing on stage as a new comedian, check out this related article.
So whatever struggles you may have had as a new comedian, I have been there personally. But I overcame those struggles and you can too.
Just know this:
Developing and delivering a powerful stand-up comedy act that kills is a process that involves:
- What a comedian does before they hit the stage
- What a comedian delivers on stage
- What a comedian does post performance to tighten their act before the next performance
The best part of all — every comedian has complete control over the process that they chose to use to develop and deliver their stand-up comedy act.
The more effective and efficient that process is, the faster a comedian will progress in the world of stand-up comedy. The weaker that process is, well…
If you can relate to what I have presented in this article, you may want to check out my own awful first steps as a comedian on my KillerStandup.com home page.