One of the most nerve-wracking parts of doing stand up comedy is trying out new jokes for the first time. It’s like introducing your new significant other to your family at Thanksgiving and hoping they don’t judge them based on their face tattoo. (Never again)
I have discovered that there are a few key ways to try out new jokes. First of all, especially for me as an amateur, practise your jokes and say them out loud before you open your mouth on stage and have nonsensical verbal diarrhea (eww). Some more experienced comics can improvise brand new material on stage and make it work relatively well right away. But I know for me, this is the kiss of death. So in the words of the boy scouts, BE PREPARED.
Secondly, don’t do an entire five or ten minute set of brand new jokes. That’s silly! The WRONG kind of silly. I made this mistake a couple of times in my earlier days and it did not end well. With every new punch-lineless joke that drowns in a sea of groans, a bit of your confidence also melts away and you find yourself floundering in a puddle of tears by the end. Instead, sandwich the new stuff amongst some tried and tested material so that you can start strong and end strong. You can also get a more accurate reaction from the crowd because they aren’t expecting to groan after everything that comes out of your mouth. Build that trust with the audience and they’ll love you even more!
Lastly, go to a smaller open mic night that a lot of other comedians also frequent to test out new ideas. This is a better idea than biting it while being featured at The Comedy Mix beside some international comedy sensation. You can get useful feedback and suggestions from your fellow comedians on concepts, punch-lines, delivery, etc. and really workshop your jokes. I have given and received (ha ha) suggestions at open mic nights, and it’s a way more relaxed and supportive atmosphere. The Sin Bin on Sunday nights in Vancouver is awesome!
I used to dread trying out new material. Now, as I gain more experience and confidence, I actually get excited to try out new jokes and develop them into refined GOLD! Whether or not the first time you expose a joke to the light of day is successful, you always have to keep working and refining. And the more fun your jokes will become. Woooo!!