How to get into comedy

How to comedy CJ Delling

This blog post was first published on 24 February 2015 and last updated on: 13 August 2015, 6 August 2015

Sometimes after a gig, people will come up to me to tell me one of two things:

“Oh, you are so brave. I could never do this.” or
“Oh, I would like to do this too. Where should I start?”

Having worked in a learning & development capacity for over 10 years (the former day job), the answer I like to give to the above is always: “Yes, you can! And here is how.”

Tips, tools and thoughts about comedy

This is a selection of tips, tools and thoughts that I have come across over the years since I started doing stand-up comedy in 2010. I certainly don’t have all the answers and am still relatively new to the whole thing myself, but I would have found this collection of information helpful back when I started out in comedy. Right now, I am still new enough to know what it is like getting started, but I also have been around for long enough to have a bit of an understanding for what’s important.

The information below is structured into 3 parts:
Part A: Just want to cross it off the bucket list?
Part B: Want more of this funny business?
Part C: A few years in? Time to get really serious?

I will update this post from time to time as I come across any other helpful information. And if you come across something really great elsewhere, let me know in the comments below.

The-comedy-bucket-list

Part A: Just want to cross it off the bucket list?

“Watching stand-up comedy is like
going for a walk in someone else’s brain.”
– Andrew Denton

First up: Buy a pen and a notebook or have some sort of semi-organised system for collecting random bits of paper. You will most likely think of something funny when you are (a) doing the dishes, (b) in the shower, (c) when you are talking to other people, (d) just before falling asleep or (e) none of the above. The key is to write it down. You won’t remember it the next day.

Here are some helpful tips to get you started with writing, rehearsing and performing on stage:

Starting-out-in-comedy

Part B: Want more of this funny business?

“Comedy isn’t just about making people laugh,
it’s about making people think.”
– Ricky Gervais

Time to buy a new notebook, think of things you really want to talk about on stage and make it as funny as humanly possible. Then it is mostly just learning-by-doing, learning-by-watching and learning-by-talking to people.

Tips:

Tips to listen to (podcasts):

  • The ‘Ask the Industry podcast’ by Simon Caine: He interviews industry experts such as comedians, producers, PR experts, reviewers, photographers etc. about the comedy industry.
  • A great podcast about starting out in comedy called Open Mic Life.

Tools:

My 2 cents worth:

  • Find out from other comedians about which Facebook groups they are part of and join up. It’s a great way to get to know other comedians, get more tips, find comedy room details etc.
  • Buy a “buzzing” watch with a vibrating alarm function to help keep to time at gigs.

More thoughts:

Part C: A few years in? Time to get really serious?

Comedy-Show-Business

“I wish I could tell you it gets better but it doesn’t get better.
You get better.”
– Joan Rivers on ‘Louie’

Well, where to next? That is something I am figuring out and working on right now, so here are just a couple more things that I found helpful and interesting.

Tips:

  • Andrew Rivers’ awesome collection of hand written notes full of great advice for stand-up comedians from stand-up comedians.
  • A fantastic web documentary about semi-professional comedians called The Joke’s on Me.
  • Go through the internet and find out how highly successful comedians approach the serious business of comedy:
    • Listen to the Comedian’s Comedian podcast.
    • ‘Talking Funny’ with Louis CK, Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Gervais and Chris Rock.
    • How to write a show? Listen to Wil Anderson and Ronny Chieng (FOFOP podcast episode 196) describe their process of writing and testing a new solo show (this was part of a longer conversation).
    • Again Simon Caine’s ‘Ask the Industry podcast’ is an absolute go-to destination for his interviews with successful DIY comedians, agents, promoters, writers, art directors, PR experts etc.

Tools:

  • The BBC comedy toolkit has an extensive collection of blogs, interviews, example scripts and other resources from the BBC writersroom about writing comedy for TV, radio, film.
  • Getting skilled up in the key aspects of self-producing such as:
    • Project management – there a plenty of project management tools around (both paid and free ones).
    • Marketing
    • Social media – i.e. how best to keep in touch with your audience where they like to hang out regularly (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.); also here is the comedianist.com’s article on ‘Tricks to increase your visibility online‘.
    • Selling your show and yourself – i.e. this great article titled ‘How to sell yourself’ about Justin Heazlewood’s book “Funemployed: Life as an artist in Australia”

Thoughts:

  • Rinse and repeat: learning-by-doing, learning-by-watching and learning-by-talking to people.
  • There are a lot of comedy avenues one can explore besides doing stand-up: Writing for other performers, writing for Radio/TV shows, cartoons, making online videos, creating a web series, podcasting, running your own room, sketch, improvisation, acting, etc.

Over to youComedy-thoughts

What have you come across that you found helpful when it comes to doing comedy? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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