How You Perceive Stand-up Comedy Can Affect Your Progress As A Comedian

As I reflect upon the start of my own stand-up comedy career, I can say with great certainty that I wasn’t prepared to make much progress, despite my efforts to be prepared as possible.

I remember my first open mic performance in 1992 at the Comedy Store in La Jolla, CA. I went on last and there were only 3 audience members left.

I left the stage with the thought that developing even just a few minutes of stand-up comedy material that worked was an overwhelming task.

That prompted me to get every stand-up book available at the time and take workshops on how to do stand-up comedy.

I wrote jokes and more jokes. I tried to learn joke formulas and apply them to my stand-up comedy material (to me, this was like trying to learn advanced calculus).

And when all was said and done, I made little progress from the massive amount study and work I put into developing my first few minutes of stand-up comedy material.

To say it was frustrating was an understatement and certainly not unlike the experience many new comedians have.

Here are a few observations I can make upon retrospect:

Persistence is related to progress. Like many, I have a tendency to stick with those things that I can make progress with and abandon those things that I can’t make progress with.

I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t justify putting more time into developing a stand-up act that could only produce mediocre results at best.

The stand-up comedy books I studied and workshops that I attended didn’t help me at all. 

As a matter of fact, they steered me in a direction focused on “writing” (in a literary sense) and becoming sort of special “character”, instead of being myself and applying all the comedy talent I had BEFORE I made the decision to become a comedian.

Subsequently, the comedy talent that I did have never made it to the stage. Instead, I ended up trying to do my impression of what I thought a comedian should be.

I came across as phony and mechanical, which reduced my chances of getting any significant laughs.

I was also trying to force “paper written” jokes to work, instead of using my own comedy talent in a structured and deliberate way that was natural for me, talking about things that allowed me to easily use my sense of humor.

Of all the things that I discovered in my journey to become a comedian, probably the most important thing was this:

What I initially perceived stand-up comedy to be as far as developing and delivering stand-up comedy material that actually worked to get significant laughs was not what actually worked for me on stage when all was said and done.

So if you are not getting the laughter results you want with your stand-up comedy material, don’t waste time doing the same things over and over again that don’t work and expecting them to.

Seek out solutions that allow you to be yourself and capitalize on the comedy talent that you already have.

Related Online Lesson: The Problems With Conventional Joke Writing


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