Thou Shallt Not Quit

The feeling that you’re going to fail before you hit the stage is a horrid.  It’s a terrible thing to give up on something before you even begin.  Everyone knows that, yet we still do it all the time.  Having said that, I still fall victim to my own defeat more often than I’d like to admit.

There are times when conditions are not in a comic’s favour to produce a max-laughs situation (as I call it).   Sometimes the audience of four paying customers may seem to hate laughter and everything it stands for, dragging your spirits 20,000 leagues under the sea.  Other times a boisterous, intoxicated heckler ruins every one of your punch-lines by shouting out his own witless remarks.  And even other times, the comic before you may just suck teats.  I remember a stand up show I did in a pub where there just so happened to be a pin ball competition going on at the SAME TIME!  That’s right, PIN BALL.  Who even knew those machines were still around and functioning!  It was impossible to ignore, so everyone who got on stage acknowledged that it was annoying, and then carried on.  And tried to be louder and more entertaining than the pin ball machines (impossible).  Because what’s worse than the negative circumstances winning?  Seeing someone give up and LET those circumstances win.  It’s much more interesting and entertaining to watch a battle, right sportsfans?

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to remember NOT to give up on yourself.  In my experience, the most experienced and professional comics are able to stay composed and confident to get through a set no matter the circumstance.  That’s what I’m striving to do.  (I’m also trying to say “umm” less on stage, in case you were wondering)  If no one is laughing, don’t force the issue, power through with all the energy you can muster.  I would advise against belittling an audience for not laughing, that’s even tougher to watch.  And if that heckler gives you a hard time, tell him to shut his damn trap because YOU have the mic.  I’m still working on overcoming hecklers and it’s tough because you may be forced to improvise witty back-and-forth in front of an audience and, ideally, win.  Yeeeeesh!  Phil Hanley is a great crowd worker.  He can scold a heckler into regret, plus he can rock a cardigan like nobody’s grandpa.

But reflecting on all the imperfect conditions one must perform in, makes you realize how awesome it is when the conditions ARE perfect.  When the audience is tipsy and roaring with laughter, and your confidence is through the effing ROOF because everything you say is GOLD!  I’M GOING TO LIVE FOREVER!!

However you decide to approach negative circumstances, commit to your jokes, do it with CONFIDENCE, and always be the best that you can be!  (That’s what my mom always tells me anyway)

CONCISENESS!

Now THAT’S a “to-the-point” title.  And it’s a good rule to live by if you are writing jokes.

People don’t come to a comedy club to listen to comedians tell long-winded stories for five minutes before finally getting to the three-second punch line.  And if that is the case, it had better be a DAMN good punch line.

But generally, like most things in life, jokes are best being short and sweet.  This is one thing that I am constantly working on, especially with new material.  A fellow comedian told me that, ideally, the audience should be laughing every seven seconds.  So trimming the fat off jokes, avoiding wordiness, and just getting to the funny part is key in maximizing funnies by streamlining and maintaining clear thoughts.  We don’t need to know that you and your significant other were in Calgary at your second-cousin-who-you-hate’s wedding last summer on a beautiful July day in your trendy, yet affordable, outfits from H&M.  Just get to the part where your grandpa got loaded and fell into the $800 wedding cake.  THAT’S what I want to hear about.  I may not be the biggest fan, but there is something to be said for one-liner jokes.  Give ‘em what they came for!

This is not to say that details should necessarily be chopped.  But ask yourself, do the tiny details make the idea funnier, or are they just extra words?  Details should add to your jokes, not take away from them.  Maybe Grandpa Mortimer fell into the cake because he had a few too many Glennfiddich single malts and was looking for his monocle which he kept dropping….down ladies’ cleavages.  What a scamp!  Chris James‘ joke about buying bulk foods is extra funny because he says that he uses the code for “dried split peas” and I don’t care where you’re from, peas are HILARIOUS.

Choose your concise words carefully and you’ll be twice as funny*.  A group of my friends and I were at a show last week where my pal Ivan Decker was also performing.  He has a way of saying things and adding details that make his jokes sound more colourful and clever.  Talking about how an eccentric sultan’s lion “ate most of us” sounds funnier than just a rich man’s lion killed everyone, and it made the joke more memorable for us.  The thesaurus has become a great friend to me.  My only friend really….ANYWAYS!

So keeping in the spirit of this post, cut fat+funny details+effective word use=success.

*not guaranteed

Diary of an Amateur Comedian: My First Time

Ah, I remember my first time like it was a year ago.  Ripe with anticipation, belly full of flutterbys, expecting that I was going to provide satisfaction beyond anything experienced before, yet the fear that I would just bomb up there.  On stage.  I’m talking about stand-up comedy, you PREvert.

The hardest part of becoming a stand-up comedian is thinking about doing it for the first time, and mustering up enough courage to just get up on a stage to do it.  That’s it.  That’s the big secret.  Once you’ve had your stand-up cherry popped, much like sexual intercoursing, you’ll think “that wasn’t so bad.  I could really get into this.”  What?  You didn’t say that after losing your virginity?  Just me?  Moving along then.

The point being, don’t think about it so much.  Just get your name on a list, then you have to get up there and then you’ll be glad you did.  Even if you crap the sack, you’ll be better for it.  Audiences are relatively understanding, other comedians are supportive because they have all been there, and your mom will still love you.  Unless of course you are swearing excessively to express your hatred for “midgets”.  No one appreciates that.  (I witnessed it).