How to become a Stand up comedian | A Comprehensive Step by Step Guide.
Updated: Feb 6, 2019
The most common question I get asked is probably; "How do you start doing stand up comedy?"
I googled that shit. However, looking back on it knowing what I know now. There just isn't a great guide out there for starting stand up comedy from step one.
They say things like; find an open mic, write a funny stand up comedy routine, over come stage fright, go kill it. Its that easy.
They are all over simplified and gloss over all the important details. This is a realistic guide, that will explain exactly how to do those things, and set you up with real world expectations.
I'm going to walk you through all the necessary first steps of comedy. By the end of this blog you're going to know how to:
Find an open mic near you.
when time to show up.
how ti sign up.
Tips on deciding if that room is going to be warm to a first time comic. I’ll even tell you the difference between a good open mic host, and a shitty open mic host.
-I’ll give you advice on
writing your very fist comedy bit.
Dealing with the anxiety, the stage fright, and what to do if you completely blank while you're up there.
And finally, to wrap it up we will talk about what to do whether you bombed, killed, or something in-between.
So First we need to find a stage.
We call these open mics. An open mic is stage time that anyone can sign up for. Sometimes you have to buy an item in exchange for the venue letting you use their facilities.
Some people have have a problem with that, but in fairness, new comic’s are more likely to drive customers away than they are to entertain them. In today’s culture of social media outrage, places are actually taking a significant risk by letting any whackadoo up there.
Open mics can be found in your local news letters if you're in a small town, or badslava.com if you're in a city with buildings that go higher than 4 levels, check badslava.com or Facebook groups with whatever city you live in followed by “comedy scene”
Now lets decide on the type of room we want to do.
For first timers, I recommend a mixed mic, meaning there will be musicians and poets and shit like that there. Mixed mics are generally warm and artsy, and they’ll generally golf clap any jackass who goes up there. These are great if you're really nervous, and your material isn't too racey.
If you want to do adult material right out of the gate; You're going to want to find a dedicated comedy mic. Don’t go to the biggest club in your town though. Go to one of the lesser known places or just a bar or cafe if you can. The more relaxed the environment, the more relaxed you will feel.
A lot of the places you’ll find online will have a brief description of what goes on at that mic so find one you like, and make sure to call the venue the day of the mic to confirm that it is still happening.
I like to show up an hour before the sign up list goes out if I'm in a big city, and 15-20 in a smaller one. I show up early to get first dibs on the list. You don't have to sign up #1 just because you are there first. You can put your name down anywhere on the list that you want, the other performers will fill in the gaps when they show up. That's just a rule of thumb for me, all mics are different.
Next, you're going to want to introduce yourself to the host. Hopefully the host is there early as well. In my experience, a good host will approach you, and introduce themselves, ask your name, where you're from, how long you’ve been doing it. Its safe to tell the host its you're first time. They should tell you everything else you need to know about the mic.
Sometimes the host runs late and wont have time to talk before the mic starts. that's not really a big deal. However if you see them sitting around doing nothing, and they are anything but warm and respectful to you. I highly recommend you find a different mic to reward with your patronage.
This next sentence is probably the most important one in this whole post so I’m gong to make it in big fancy letters and do a page break for it.
You will remember the first time you do stand up comedy for the rest of your life. Don’t let an asshole open mic host into that memory.
Find a different mic if that happens, it most likely won’t, but its worth it to take the time to make sure you enjoy the experience.
Lets talk about writing that very first bit
It’s probably not a good idea to write up some brilliant commentary that really sticks it to all the bullshit in modern society. Going up on that stage the first time is terrifying. You probably don't have the chops to deliver the razor sharp comeuppance your favorite comedian does. Also that kind of stuff is easy to forget and lose track of, if its your first time. Avoid both of those problems by telling a story about yourself, that you've already told before.
The story about the time you got drunk and…?
The time your grandma mistook the ______ for a _____.
How the first time you had sex in a hammock and the first time you had anal are the same story.
The more embarrassing the better. Not only are embarrassing stories hilarious, humanizing, and relatable, its also damn near impossible to be more embarrassed telling the story than it was to actually go through the embarrassing thing when it happened in real life. On top of that, talking about embarrassing personal stuff on stage gets you cool points with comedians. We call it brave.
The last thing we need to talk about is what to do after you bomb or kill or or something in between. If you're something in between, good job. You're right in the majority. If you killed it, awesome. Its an unbelievable feeling. Congrats on getting able to experience it the first time out. And for you bombers. You're like me. I didn’t get one laugh my first time, and their were only 2 other people in the room. On the bright side, the only direction to go is up. Now matter how you did, its important to remember that it doesn’t matter.
How you did the first time you did stand up has no bearing what so ever on how good or funny you actually are. Just by getting up there in the first place you have already proven yourself to be braver and stronger than 99% of the planet. Did you know more people fear public speaking than fear death? Look at you, you savage rockstar. Kicking ass and overcoming fears like a boss. I’m so proud of you.
That's all I got for you, comedy is a solo path and I don't feel comfortable sitting here and trying to dump my opinions of it on to you. You're on your own journey here. With that being said here is a link to another video post of 10 amateur mistakes I wish I didn't make. Its less of a how-to on stand up comedy it's more of a list of things I wish I didn't do on my own journey.
If you liked this post or found it useful, subscribe to the site. Or share this with someone you know, interested in trying stand-up. I'm working on a video that where I will take you through all of the things I talked about. Right down to going to an actual open mic. A step by step video demonstration of what to expect, and how to prepare yourself for doing stand up comedy for the first time.
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