Why Most Stand-up Comedy Material Doesn’t Read Funny On Paper

Sometimes I get into spirited discussions with comedians at all levels when I say that most stand-up comedy material doesn’t read funny on paper.

Just to be clear, some stand-up comedy material will read funny on paper. It will always be that way, just by its very nature.

But one of the big traps that many comedians fall into is assuming that all of their stand-up comedy material must “read” funny before it will work on the stand-up comedy stage.

That is false and here’s why that's important to know:

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Words and sentences on paper simply do not fully represent how stand-up comedy material is expressed.

As a matter of fact...

Most of a comedian’s laughter power actually comes from delivery, not from the literal words and sentences used in their stand-up comedy material.

Let put this another way:

“Writing” is a process that involves only words and sentences generally designed to be read.

From early in life we are taught to “write” in a manner that is different than the way we actually speak (unless of course you speak like an encyclopedia is written).

Because “writing” only involves words and sentences, many more words are usually needed to make a statement or a point.

When we speak, we use body language, facial expressions and voice variations in addition to words communicate what we want to say which ultimately results in less words being used.

Let me ask you this question:

Which would you rather do – explain a simple task to someone or write out every detail of that task for the person to read?

I can assure you that it will take many more words written on paper than it will to explain the same thing verbally to someone because you are using communication mechanisms in addition to words alone to get your message across.

Hint: Brevity is a critical factor in delivering stand-up comedy material with frequent punchlines and very difficult to achieve when working only with words and sentences.

So, why does most stand-up comedy material that will work on stage not read funny on paper?

It’s because that words alone do not represent the complete expressive qualities of what a comedian has to say and deliver on stage.

Again, let me say that some stand-up comedy material will read funny on paper.

But here’s the bottom line:

Whether or not stand-up comedy “reads” funny on paper or not doesn’t matter.

Hint: If a person knows a comedian and can visualize their stand-up comedy material delivery, more of their stand-up comedy material will "read" funny on paper than if they can't visualize that comedian's delivery.

Audiences don’t read a comedian’s act – they experience it as it is expressed and that expression involves much more than just words alone.

What DOES matter is that when a comedian delivers stand-up comedy material that they have developed that it gets big laughs on a consistent basis.

I firmly believe that once a comedian knows that their stand-up comedy is not required to “read” funny in order to get big laughs on stage, they have much more creative control over the stand-up comedy material they are able to produce.

For some transcribed examples of stand-up comedy material that generated huge laughs by popular comedians but by and large doesn’t “read” funny on paper, check out the first free lesson in the Killer Stand-up Online Course.

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