I’ve noticed that a lot of the comic-written articles on this site are by comedians who have been around in the circuit for a long while. That’s what gave me the idea to post an article by a comedian who can be considered new to the scene. Comedian Lisa Yost first came to mind for this type of article after I first saw her perform at a show that I attended. I remember seeing her when she was just starting at the raven lounge, trying out her jokes. It was until more recently that I noticed that her material has definitely been worked on and turned into a more polished, tighter set.
I’m happy to say that the following article can be beneficial to those who are also young in the comedy scene or even contemplating performing comedy for the first time.
Please enjoy the following article by comedian Lisa Yost.
7 Things I’ve Learned Doing Stand Up Comedy (So Far.)
When asked to contribute an article, I was hesitant. I consider myself a newcomer in the scene, and I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say. More importantly, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to say it. There are a lot of emotions and thoughts I have towards comedy, but I wanted to write something that most people could agree on, or at least relate to pretty easily. Please keep in mind this is just an article, and my thoughts are about a topic and a passion which inevitably holds different meanings to many people. Lastly, I’m aware I have a long way to go, and I still have a lot to learn.
Not everyone is going to like you. That’s just a fact of life. Word hard, and don’t be a pain. Keep in mind it’s going to take time for other comics to notice you. Just because you have one good set, or one great bit, doesn’t mean you’re automatically funny. You need to be consistently writing strong new material, consistently killing it, and consistently wanting it. Additionally, even if you do start to get noticed or somewhat funny, guess what? Some people still won’t like your style. Deal with it and move on. Just cry later on your drive home listening to some Taylor or Katy. That’s what I do.
You never know what to expect. You expect that new joke to go over well and it bombs horrendously, or the show you were looking forward to get cancelled. You have no control over it. You have to roll with the punches and having a bad attitude will not help you develop your relationships amongst your peers and land you more gigs. Never have any sense of entitlement, be grateful any spot or show you are offered. Unless of course, if the place is a total dump, then you have every reason to freak out right?! Don’t these people know who you are?? (That was a joke by the way. Sorry, I’m paranoid.)
Stop comparing yourself to other comics. It takes a long time to develop your style/material/presence. When I first started, I was self conscious of the fact that much of material was based on dating, relationships, and the inevitable topic of Facebook stalking. (Sorry, I’m really good at it). I would hate myself for it. (Not just about me stalking guys on Facebook, but making jokes about it. These are 2 separate issues.) But when I got an applause break for telling a joke about how I killed my cat to get a guy to call, did I feel weird and desperate? Yes. But did it feel awesome as a comic? Yes. And I realized what was more important to me. Plus, I would never kill my cat to get a guy to call me. I love my cat way too much.
It’s important to push yourself to get better. Take any show. Go to an open mic you’ve never been to before. Go to an open mic where they only do music and see how you do. Try to do a few minutes of only crowd work. Make sure you are always writing and thinking about new material. Know what it feels like to be faced with an awesome crowd, be ever so tempted to spit out your polished jokes but make the decision to do your new jokes, and go home feeling proud.
But don’t be too hard on yourself. It takes balls to go up there and get up on stage. Sometimes, I’ll see a comic I’ve never seen before and I’ll think, “Holy *&%$, he is funny.” Then I Google him later, find his website and discover how he’s been doing stand up for 4 years. Oh, well…that’s why he’s hysterical. That makes sense. Push yourself to get better, but there is no way you can fast-forward your progress. Also, enjoy the highs when possible, because it’s going to crash immediately. But all in all, take pride in the fact that most people will never even attempt once in their lifetime to get up on stage, and feel the rush and satisfaction of being such a specific type of performer. I mean it’s probably due to the fact that these people had wonderful fulfilling childhoods and have healthy relationships with their parents…but still – whatever.
Don’t forget about your old jokes. Much of my material bombed for months on end when I first started. I even got heckled once. Pretty bad, too. He screamed out, “Do you write for the cartoon CATHY or something?!” For all you younger people who don’t know what CATHY is, you can Google it and get the picture. I was mortified. At the end of the night, I was standing in the back of the room, watching the audience members leave. As they would walk by and glance at me, it was as if their eyes were saying: “You really shouldn’t be doing this.” I soon felt worse, as the other comics started to exit the room and their eyes were saying to me, “You REALLY shouldn’t be doing this.” I took a break from working on certain material for a few months just because one really bad night. Eventually, I did return to it, yet I wasn’t optimistic. But to my surprise, it worked better this time around. Almost the same exact jokes I did that night I got heckled, now had the ability to make people laugh. You have to go back and revisit old stuff that didn’t work before because the more experience you get up on stage, the more control you have on the wording, pacing, and delivery. Also, if it’s something you find personally funny, it’s your responsibility as a comic to explore why that is, and share your discoveries with an audience. (Ok, so if you’ve been working on the same joke for about 6 months and you’re not getting ANY positive reaction and you are constantly getting heckled…then okay, maybe you should retire some jokes. You do need to have an IQ level higher than 100 to properly gauge your joke potential. Forrest Gump was successful with many things but he was never a comedian.)
Last but not least, remember to smile and have fun. I tend to get negative and sometimes not enjoy myself when I’m actually up on stage since I put too much pressure on myself. Guess what? Crowd notices too, it brings other comics down, and you won’t do well if you don’t have fun with it. Be present when you are up there and soak up the atmosphere and crowd. Really, what’s the point if you don’t have fun with it? We all know we’re a bunch of weirdo’s for taking up this calling, this hobby, this unexplainable “thing”. No need to turn it into a therapy session outside of an open mic. (I’m very guilty of doing this, and I’m working on it. Sorry to everyone who has heard me whine.) Just resort to drugs and alcohol like the normal comic does. I’ve recently discovered that whiskey is a real nice thing.
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