starting stand up comedy
  • one of my goals right now is to preform at an open mic night. i have begun writing material and such. Have any of you attempted stand up yet and if so would you mind sharing your first time stories
    Post edited by greenerwrestling at 2012-05-24 22:25:04
  • Just for the experience, I think it'd be richly rewarding to try an open mic at least once. Unfortunately the fear of public speaking for me seems almost impossible to overcome :(
  • I've only done straight standup twice so far. The first one was a bomb. I didn't stand a chance, really. The only other people in the room were the other 8 comics waiting to go on. It was really fun, though. Before I ever tried it I heard Norm MacDonald talk about how funny it is to bomb so I wasn't worried about that side of things.

    The second time went pretty well. I need to dare myself to do it without notes, though.
  • PrezzPrezz
    I go to the open mic at the local Improv fairly often but have yet to get up. The other people there are very encouraging, but I have no idea how to develop some of my thoughts into actual jokes. I'll go up someday I guess.
  • I too want to give it the old college try. There are no comedy open mics around me, but there's a general one where I'll probably be the only person doing comedy. But I think I will do it pretty soon.
  • thanks for the feed back
  • I'm gonna try and do a couple open mics this summer. Most of what I've written is short punch line-y stuff. Hopefully it goes well.
  • I've been writting ideas and stuff down for like a year now im trying to go through and find the funny stuff but its just me putting it off. i will make my self go to an open mic in june though its time, im just afraid all my ideas arent funny at all.
  • I've done comedy several times, and it is scary at first but you just have to give into the experience and get through it. I am now working at a bar with open mic nights and I am slowly finding my way to a stage again.
  • I had planned last month that I was going to do my first open mic tonight. By my wording you can probably tell, I'm procrastinating on that idea now. I really want to, but like @showdeepflow said, I keep going through my writing and procrastinating on it, trying to decide what is the funniest out of what I have. I'm not scared of speaking in public, but I am scared that I won't make anyone laugh, when that is the goal of doing stand-up. Is anyone in Houston that is doing or has done stand up? I'd like to get a person to meet up with.
  • Do you guys think i should go to the comedy club for my first open mic or one of these rooms where its probably just 8 comedians standing around waiting for there turn?
  • I would say do it amongst a mixed crowed. Comedians are going to be a lot more critical than a "civilian". So, with "civilians" you'll know what has potential to be funnier. With comedians, you'll know what definitely doesn't work. You might also make some friends, who can help you with some of your jokes. Assuming some of the comics aren't all about themselves.
  • LonoLono
    I'm currently working on a set. I keep a small notebook with me & I'm constantly making notes & a new tags to bits I already have. For me this is essential because when I'm out & about is when I have funny thoughts & ideas, not when I'm sitting trying to force them. I can then expand on those ideas in front of my computer later. I'm working towards getting a decent 30 minutes of material to choose from. Open mic sets are usually around five minutes but I want to have material to choose from & also have enough that I can change up material if I see fit, you know in case upon observing the audience I think a certain bit won't fly or whatever.
    I know the best practice you can have is getting on stage as much as possible, but I'm going to make sure I have some solid material first so I don't completely bomb. I've heard a lot of stories of people bombing horribly their first time & it scares them away from getting up again until years later. I'm nervous & I'm sure that will show until I get comfortable speaking onstage, so I'm hoping to have good enough material to carry me a little & to get a few laughs to help boost my confidence.
    So I guess I'm saying having good material I'm confident in, is the essential first step. And to go up on nights when there is a decent amount of patrons, not on a slow night going up in front of mostly other comedians.
  • JayDP
    I did my first stand-up about four years ago in college.

    The most important thing is DO IT. And I think y'all know it too. But, if it does help, I am saying, you really just gotta do it. If you have literally an amount of material to fill the space then you're absolutely ready. You're sincerely as ready as you're going to be.

    You really really should not worry about bombing. If you do stand-up you're going to bomb. Which, of course sucks, but it should also be a bit of a comfort. EVERY comedian bombs. EVERY comedian you've ever heard of and love has bombed more times and worse than you can literally imagine and most of them still bomb every once in a good while. Sure, it sucks, but there's absolutely NO shame in it. You are not going to die, I promise. It's like a baseball player 'worrying' about striking out. It's no fun, but it's a silly thing to worry about.

    I started out doing it once or twice month, then once a week, and now (since I moved to Chicago in September) a few times a week and I still really don't fucking know how it'll go. I have loads of "material" but it's just riding a beast. The folks who get thrown off it enough and keep coming back to tame that beast are the amazing people you love to watch and seem to do it effortlessly. (Duncan and Rogan just to name a couple)

    All that sad sack business out of the way, you, in all honesty, probably won't bomb your first time. Most people do alright their first time. I'm pretty sure that's just a fact.

    As for more specific advice it's of course good to have 'something' prepared. But I would sincerely stick to just enough to fill that 4 or 5 or whatever minutes. And it's good to be in as comfortable a place as possible. An open-mic that you badger all your friends to come out to is just fine, but if it's something else, hey, that's great to. My first was in the middle of an Improv Comedy Marathon my college comedy group was putting on (that portion of course was decidedly not improvised.) And if you're doing an open-mic watch a few people. There's no shame in taking strength from "Well, jeez, I gotta be better than THAT fuckin' guy!"

    And my god, HAVE FUN! Because it really really should be. And you'll do better.

    This is the first step of the proverbial journey of a thousand miles. If it's a good solid beautiful step, wonderful! Enjoy it and tell all your friends. If you step on a rock, eh, so what? Get your footing and take that second step.
  • Like JayDP said, you just gotta do it. I will be doing my first open mic Tuesday night and I'm just ready to get it over with and see how my material works out.
  • ralphie may says in that video:
    your first joke should be your second funniest. grab them in 30 seconds. your last joke should be your funniest. scan the room - speak to the people all the way to the left and all the way to the right so they are all with you.

    havent done it myself. sounds like good advice.
  • I tried an open mic once in Los Angeles, about a year ago. Looking back, my jokes were terrible and were no real reflection of who I am as a person or what I think is funny. I was trying to emulate a comedian instead of just be myself on stage. The audience was made of up about 30 open mic comics. Despite the fact that I had no good jokes and no real stage presence, I managed to get a few laughs in between the long periods of silence and despair. It was definitely uncomfortable for everyone in the room, but the power and encouragement of each laugh is hard to even describe and will motivate you to keep stumbling through your jokes.

    It was really fun, a truly great experience. I have zero regrets. It was something I had always wanted to try and never thought I could do.. It was a huge challenge and I'm glad I stuck it through. I went to a few open mics around LA beforehand and watched awkward people bomb just like I did. I also watched good/young comics bomb. It was very encouraging.

    If I could do it again (and I'm not ruling that possibility out), I'd try to write some material that is more honest to my life and my silly sense of humor. Regardless, I think it's important to open yourself up and experiment with different forms of art, even just once. You might learn some things you can apply to other expressions later on.
    Post edited by justle at 2012-06-11 23:09:17
  • Also, the hardest part is GETTING on stage. I realized that once I was up there, a lot of my fears had been alleviated and it was just about whether or not the people sitting in front of me were vibing my jokes or not.
  • I jumped on stage on Monday and did a three minute set. I was really nervous after sitting through a lot of the more seasoned comics. I recorded it and listened to it yesterday and I am very happy with the set. I got invited back by the MC who told me that it was really good for a first timer. I am working on my jokes throughout the week. I am really happy I did it. I am very excited to do it again.
  • I did it for several years off and on. It's tough performing in front of apathetic comedians who are waiting for you to get off so they can get on.
    Am I Ambivalent? Well, yes and no.
  • I really want to try doing some stand-up also. I'm just a little too thorough in destroying anything I write before I can really get it where it clicks. I've considered doing "covers" of comedians with my own spin, but that feels so close to stealing material, it's ok with music though somehow. Honestly I've wanted to do stand-up for years, but always talk myself out of it. You've inspired me to get going and just do it.
    Maybe we could start a new comic club on here to share experiences and feel out any bits that are "close but lacking." It would be cool to see how others are approaching the situation.
  • DrRobb said:

    I really want to try doing some stand-up also. I'm just a little too thorough in destroying anything I write before I can really get it where it clicks. I've considered doing "covers" of comedians with my own spin, but that feels so close to stealing material, it's ok with music though somehow. Honestly I've wanted to do stand-up for years, but always talk myself out of it. You've inspired me to get going and just do it.
    Maybe we could start a new comic club on here to share experiences and feel out any bits that are "close but lacking." It would be cool to see how others are approaching the situation.

    For those of you who live in LA, you can perform practically every night if you're willing to do the drive. Many times there are so many comedians in attendance that the likelihood is low that you'll get to go on stage. It's basically a "put your name in a fishbowl" and the MC pulls out the performance order. Silverlake Lounge on Friday evenings (6PM to 1AM - show up at 6 for the raffle) is a good place to start - the audience is more enthusiastic and less jaded. Just realize that you might not get to go up on stage for hours. By then, the audience is pretty burned out.

    I'd recommend you go to some open mics without performing, just so you get accustomed to the way the things work. It'll be less traumatic when you DO decide to go up there. You'll also realize that there are some really funny guys out there AND some really BAD performers as well. You won't be the best, but you absolutely won't be the worst, either.
    Post edited by kulashaker at 2012-06-26 23:56:53
    Am I Ambivalent? Well, yes and no.
  • Yeah, I totally have the mindset of wanting to be a comedian, I just need to push myself to jump up on stage and just do it. I have about half a notebook filled with stuff.. most isnt full jokes, just thoughts. but I know half the battle is getting up there and just going for it.
  • I finally started writing this week on the daily after years of mental masturbation. Going to keep making an everyday habit of it and test some material out in August when I get back from my vacation. Thanks to this board for being full of positive, supporting people who are willing to have discussions like these.
  • I went up for my third time this past Thursday. It's been a rocky start but I'm enjoying the shit out of it. I really need to work on crafting actual jokes, so far all my material has just been just thoughts pretty much. The biggest obstacle is just doing it that first time, after that the fear is pretty much gone and then that's where the real work can being (ie, working on your material, crafting a stage persona, etc.).
  • EW
    Hi! (This is my first post on the forums, its nice to be here : )

    I went to my first open mic night a few weeks ago. It was fun! I performed a set and it was a blast, so much fun and so terrifying. As Joey Diaz has said, no ifs and buts, excuses, just do it, but I do have a few excuses for not having gone back since that first time (though I will again soon, I promise)

    The first is I see it as a lifestyle shift. Fitting it in to my work schedule is a challenge, because I have fridays and saturday nights off. Most open mics Ive looked at are on weeknights and I work late. I also live very habitually, I walk to work (though I drive, too), hardly go out (bit of a poor alcoholic; temptation and such) and open mics seem to be on the other side of town. So theres a financial/time hurdle. (gas, coffee or beer maybe.) There are also family commitments to wrestle with.

    So I need to make a way to get in the habit of making it out there across town, or when I move, move closer to the action.

    My first set was okay. I walked 5.5 miles both ways to get there and felt kind of zoned from doing that, but nobody needed to know that. I made a few mistakes in that I didn't see where my name was on the list, and so when I was called up it had snuck up on me and all my notes flew out of my brain, so I talked about otter pops for 45 seconds and then ragged on homeless people. No offense any hobos reading this.

    But the thing I think helped was after doing it having a better idea of how to write, and the basic idea to think in terms of comedy. Luckily my friends think I'm funny and I don't doubt them too much. When I go back I'll have some good stories, surprises and one-liners. But I know the reality will be much different, and I think the key is that the more you do it, the more you will be able to convey, accurately, how it sounds when you write the bit. So its a long process, but I haven't found any hobbies like it and will enjoy the challenge of the learning curve. And if anybody knows of some open mics in Seattle I'm all ears. Thanks all and bless.-
  • I've done some a fair number of comedy shows (@ the point of not worrying too much before going up) and here's what I would suggest:
    -DON'T BRING FRIENDS or anyone who knows you.
    -Don't go to a comedy club for your 1st few times; find a local comedy show at a bar.
    -Bomb a few times doing that.
    -Be cool to the other comedians you meet- they will help you find/do more mics; and they are generally supportive bc they've been in your shoes
    -Once you get a little wind in your sails, go to open mics with mostly musicians; you'll stand out and get good attention
    -Keep doing it
    -Learn to enjoy bombing
    -Also, I wouldn't get in the habit of drinking before going up. I did for a while and I had big improvements when I stopped
  • @chrisbones great post. thanks for the tips.
  • I've been thinking of going to an open mic quite a bit recently, but i feel like im not a good joke writer. sometimes i feel like it would be more fun for me to go up as a character than for me to be myself. in either case i need to think about this some more and do some writing
  • Awesome posts everyone. I've been thinking about doing comedy for a long time now. Going up on thursday to do my first bit. kinda nervous, but i realize I need to get over this first hurdle. I shouldn't bomb too much. hah
  • good luck @dwarfed. get those pussies wet
    the world was waiting just for you
  • today was my fourth go, and the first time I've really bombed. It's rough, but I know it'll only make me better.
  • anyone have advice on finding my POV?
  • I heard Rogan tell Redban a subject Brian tried was for black belt comedians and that Brian was only a purple belt. I think looking for a POV on your 4th time is overstepping. Imagine a dude who wasn't funny try to talk about the same stuff Stanhope talks about. It would be horrible watching some guy stomp around trying to make BIG points about BIG issues. The best POV you can take early on is to try to make a back story for your joke and make the story about yourself and that it happened recently. That way something goofy will seem relevant to you and your day-to-day existence. Make your jokes your point of view is what I think I'm saying.
  • At least that's what I'm working on doing for my 'out-there' jokes. This video of tj miller has some good examples of using your jokes as a POV. Also, the video seems like an open mic (a really good one) and not all polished.
  • I would say don't worry at all about your point of view. It's one of those things that is for the most part already in you and yet it's gonna take you years to chisel away everything which is not you and/or not necessary.

    I would say though to try everything. Short jokes, long jokes, personal jokes, puns, impressions, whatever. You don't necessarily have to go down like a checklist, but just do any joke or thing you think is or could be funny. That's how you find the things that are just uniquely you.

    And then time. Lots and lots of time.
  • For the past two months I've really been hitting the open mic night here in Houston, and it's been great. I'm learning a lot, and it's becoming easier to write. I've been able to tell what works and cater my weaker jokes to that style. My problem right now, is that I am having a little difficulty looking comfortable on the stage. In my mind, I am perfectly fine, but when I get down the other comics will tell me I did a good job, but I need to relax a little more. The only reason it bothers me, is that in my head I am perfectly fine, so I'm going to have to think more about how I look on stage rather than the words that are coming out of my mouth. All in all I really enjoy the challenge, and am having a good time meeting new people.
  • @StarIV I don't think that's a bad problem to have. I'm sure you've seen the opposite; no material and complete confidence. That's hard to watch. Good luck.
  • I just called and put my name down for time at my first open mic tonight. It's hours away and I don't think my heart is going to stop pounding until then. The last time I was on a stage performing anything I was like 7 years old. Thanks for all the smart advice words in this thread everyone and also thanks Duncan for being one of the influences that got me started considering doing this!
  • @StarIV I don't think that's a bad problem to have. I'm sure you've seen the opposite; no material and complete confidence. That's hard to watch. Good luck.

    Yeah, I would have to say watching people who don't prepare stand up and talk as if everything is fine is really awkward. That and I really have a hard time when guys who are great go up and the crowd just doesn't react at all. It makes me feel really bad.

    TND said:

    I just called and put my name down for time at my first open mic tonight. It's hours away and I don't think my heart is going to stop pounding until then. The last time I was on a stage performing anything I was like 7 years old. Thanks for all the smart advice words in this thread everyone and also thanks Duncan for being one of the influences that got me started considering doing this!

    Great deal man. You should record your set on your phone. That has helped me a lot. Good luck. You'll do far better than you could imagine. I'm sure.
  • Tonight I got on a stage and said words and people laughed at them. The best day of my life.
    The only thing I think I fucked up was I thought I was recording audio on my phone but i missed the button or something. Next time!
    Post edited by TND at 2014-02-12 19:41:42
  • @TND I'm glad it went so well. It really is a tremendous feeling. I hope to hear more stories of success in this thread. What area are you doing this in? What was the size of the crowd? Was it a bar or a comedy club?
  • Southern California, maybe 30 people (half were comics waiting to perform or who just did). Comedy club. The lights were fucking blinding, hahah.
    Post edited by TND at 2012-08-06 10:46:46
  • Hey family and friends!
    I've been doing stand up open mics for about 8 months now, and I just recently got booked on my first show, Where I am going from doing 5-8 minutes to 15 minutes. On the note of giving advice to those who are just starting (because id be pompous to act like I have any real advice to give) one of the few things I can say is not to over think your starting material. This may just be me, but within 2 months I had thrown out anything I thought was funny from my first 5 or 6 sets. So don't be over critical, and just get comfortable with sweet sweet bombing. As that happens more and more the fear of it fades and comfort on stage shortly follows. I started noticing that happening after being told repeatedly that I had to "slow down" which was a completely a result of nerves. I have massive anxiety, So if I can do it without a panic attack so can you. Now to self indulgently bring it back around to me, this show on the 15th and I have 10-15 minutes to fill. I want to go for 15 min and I believe I have the material for it but not the structure. I've been trying to work on grouping jokes into chunks in attempt to help bring comfort to the material, to give to improvise in a hope that more structure will help me remember a set without a notebook. Any one have any advice for the first attempt at doing a longer set?
  • You are free now. -Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • Listen to Jim Florentine go through his joke notebook from 1992. LOL. He's gotten a lot better since then.
    Am I Ambivalent? Well, yes and no.
  • I just did perhaps my last open mic ever. I've bombed before but never this bad. It's been 3 days since and my guts hurt every time I think about it. The first thing I did was make a joke about bald people, in an attempt to mess with the guy hosting to show. I thought he would think it was funny. He was not even in the room though! To make things worse, spread all over the room were clusters of friends formed around angry bald guys. What I mean is small groups of 3-4 people (protons, neutrons) hanging with one bald guy (the nucleus) per group all over the room. Every bald dude's face was red in anger. I felt horrible. Their friends couldn't laugh. No one could. I tried to address it but messed that up too. I can't believe I insulted people who were willing to listen to me talk about nothing.
  • Don't let that ruin it for you. It just wasnt your crowd. That's going to happen from time to time. It could have been the exact opposite scenario: you were in a room with nothing but dense rainforest like hair eased people who want nothing more than to hear the bashing of their follicaly challenged brothers. When your mouth opened up, the words spilled out and tears of joy filled their eyes.
    It just wasnt the right crowd. Now you'll be more aware of the people you're performing in front of. Start watching the crowd. Listen to the things they laugh at and vice versa.
    Keep it up man.
    I have faith.

    Part of me likes to think that the next stream of great comics will come from this forum. Wild dream or distinct possiblity?
  • @StarIV I wish you were right. They were a great crowd. I honestly wasn't thinking and said insulting stuff right off the cuff. I don't have hair loss issues but i could imagine it's a drag to be mocked for it for doing nothing but being nice enough to watch shitty open micers practice. I only do stand up for my own enjoyment as a hobby. I've realized i'm not instictually funny enough to make it work as any sort of a career. I started doing it because I like stand ups who do podcasts. I've come to realize I like conversations more than stand up. I don't know. I can't show my face in that room for a while.
  • I'd say chill out. Give it some space if you need to but it's really not a big deal. It always sucks to bomb hard. I can usually shake off a crappy set pretty easily (if unhappily) but a couple months ago I got steam rolled like I hadn't in years. I didn't even have the fall back of "Oh shit, I accidentally offended the audience, whoops"; I just was. not. funny. I had to walk around the block for 40 minutes and really didn't bounce back totally for a few days.

    In the end, so what? Nobody died, nobody got a hurt. If you go back there there might be a handful of the same people, if that, and they probably won't even remember or care. And even if they do, so what? Your job is still the same: be funny. If you're funny THAT'S what they'll remember.

    Causa Duncan I read the Bhagavad Gita semi-recently and one of the things that really struck me is how well the notion of Karmic Yoga really applies to stand-up. You just do your work and don't worry about the fruits of it, positive or negative. It has nothing to do with anything. Your only job is to do your best. Ya did your best didn't you? You had a perfectly innocent notion of messing around with the host and got unlucky. You have zero to be ashamed of.
  • @StarIV where and when does Houston have open mics? I've been thinking about doing an open mic for years but every time I check out comedy clubs here they don't have any...and most of the clubs have shut down (laugh spot, laugh stop, etc...).

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