Top Famous Funniest Comedians. Are You Funny Enough to be a Comedian?
Comedy Videos Jokes. Comedy Clips. How to Turn Your Ideas Into Comedy?
Are You Cut Out for the Life of a Comedian?
The life of a comedian is not necessarily easy. While those on the outside of the industry see someone on stage that makes them laugh, there is much more to it than that. You need to practice all the time to get your routine down to a fine art. Then, since most entertainment occurs at night, you have to stay up half the night to entertain your audience. If you are a night owl, then you won't find this a problem, but if you're a lark - a person who wakens early in the morning, then it could pose a problem.
And there will be rejection, especially when you first start out. Very often audiences get drunk as the night wears on and then they may start to heckle you. Be prepared for a few rotten eggs or tomatoes. It may not come to that these days; more likely it will be boos, jeers and catcalls. The only thing to do is treat the hecklers with even more humor. If nothing works, then retire gracefully rather than getting angry which will do no good at all.
Traveling is another thing that most comedians must do to both further their careers and get gigs. If you don't have a lot of different routines, you can hardly expect to play at the same pub every night. So you'll be traveling all over your home city and then maybe to other cities. This will mean uprooting the family - if you have one. Or - more often - leaving them behind
Many comedians tour the country doing gigs booked by their agent, if they have one. They are apart from their families, and they have to pay for accommodation and food whether they are successful or not. Even if the club they play up puts them up, there is still the cost of travel and food.
Another problem may be the times of the week that entertainment usually occurs. That is, at the weekends. That's when most workers have the time off, but you'll have to work. This could be hard for your family and if you have children, you'll miss being with them over the weekend, when they are free from school pressures.
And when the school puts on presentation nights or concerts in the night, you won't be able to attend them - a great disappointment to your children. So being a comedian is not all roses; you work very hard, travel a lot and get not much sleep. You'll surely be doing it all for the love of it, rather than any other reason.
Are You Funny Enough to be a Comedian?
Just how funny are you? There are plenty of people out there who think they are funny, but they suck. Then there are people who really are funny - apart from their work as a comedian. They are constantly joking around and playing gags on others. Laughing and making others laugh is their normal, everyday life.
There are also people who are really funny onstage, but in their private lives they don't crack jokes and raise laughs every minute. In fact, they may be serious people - some are even shy, quiet people you would never dream of being comedians. Others are funny all the time, whether they are on the stage or off it. They realized that they had an innate ability to crack people up and they love doing it. Still others are really funny people, but they are not comedians and don't aspire to be on the stage at all.
But all successful comedians have one thing in common. On the stage, they can make people laugh. Some only have to walk onto the stage and people start to laugh before they even speak. So do you have what it takes?
Many comedians start out writing their own material, but if they just can't see the funny side of things this may not be a good idea. A comedian might be able to present material in a way that makes people laugh, but if the material he or she presents is not all that funny, then success will be elusive - or non-existent. Many successful comedians depend on good writers for their material.
So if you really want to be a comedian, yet people don't seem to be impressed, it may be that the material is not right for you, or perhaps it is not even all that funny. In this case you would be well advised to use material that someone else writes for you. If you 'steal' another comedian's material, you could get into trouble.
The best reason for being a comedian is because you love doing it. If you get into the business to make money or become famous, you're likely to be seriously disappointed. Those things may come to you if you are good - and persevere, but don't count on it. If you are fulfilling an ambition and doing what you love to do, then it won't matter if they don't come, you'll still be happy.
Benefits of Reviewing and Editing Your Work
Every writer must review and edit their work and it is no different for a comedian who writes his own material. Reviewing your work will take out flaws, tighten it up and prevent your audience falling asleep from boredom. Editing will catch any mistakes before you go to air, as it were.
There should be two parts to your reviewing/editing process. Firstly, edit the written words, making sure the grammar is correct and the sequences logical. If your jokes are one-liners, ask yourself if they are too long or not clear enough. Will everyone know what you are talking about? What about the punch line? Can it be shorter? Is the major word right at the end?
If they are longer, story-type jokes, look at the introduction, the plot and the body, then at the ending. Does it all go in logical sequence? Can you tighten it up anywhere? Read it out loud to get the flow right. When you are satisfied that everything is as good as you can get it, act it out as if you were on stage. Sometimes when you need to match words to movements, either one could be too long for too short for the other.
Sometimes when you write your funny stuff, the best way is to just write it as it comes and pay no attention to quality. Forget spelling, grammar and everything else but just getting that stuff onto the page. Let it sit for a week without looking at it, then go back and reread it, if it still makes you laugh (or grin) then start editing it for the quality. Tighten it up, rearrange the sequence if you need to and generally make it more readable. Work on the punch lines to see if you can shorten them or make them stronger.
There are many things you can do to improve your writing. Take out adjectives and adverbs. Replace works ending 'ly' with something stronger. Go through it all with a fine-tooth comb until it shines.
For reviewing, you could get others to listen to it and see if they think it's funny. If they don't, ask them why not and get specific reasons. It could be a wrong use of language; wording, concept or length - or maybe they just never see the funny side of life. Ask someone else. If they say the same thing, throw it out and start again. Some things are just not funny.
Benefits of Testing Jokes with a Friend
So you thought up this hilarious joke that was ideal to include in your stand up routine at the open mic night - but it didn't raise a laugh and you were so embarrassed. What could you have done differently?
One main thing to do with material you write yourself is to test it out with a friend. In this way you'll see whether it is really funny, or only funny because of something you know about the situation you wrote up, but haven't put into the joke. If you wrote about something funny that happened to you or someone close to you, it could be the funniest part was the expressions on faces, and that is something that you can't really put into the joke - not unless it is to be acted out.
There could also be something else that makes you think the joke funny, that cannot be included for some reason. It could be something to do with the environment, lighting or timing that for some reason just doesn't come out properly in the telling of the joke. Perhaps you can rewrite to include this information, or it may be that it cannot be described adequately. In either case, you need to take a long, hard look to find out exactly what is the missing ingredient.
Friends will tell you whether the joke you have written is truly funny or not. They may be able to point out an error that can be fixed and so save you throwing the joke away. Friends are usually not going to try and save your feelings from being hurt. They will be honest and tell you if your joke sucks. Anyway, you'll be able to tell yourself, because they won't laugh if it's not funny.
On the other hand, your joke may be funny, but your friend might be in a bad mood, so pick your time for testing out jokes. If something makes you laugh when you write it, chances are that someone else will find it funny too. If your first friend doesn't laugh, try it out on a couple of others. People sometimes have different types of humor and what tickles one won't affect another at all.
To test a joke out with your friend may save you from a great deal of embarrassment - from bombing out in your routine - and thus help you on your way to becoming a comedian.
Comedy Teams - How to Work with a Partner
While many comedians work alone, many others find that a partnership is an excellent way of producing their show. Stand-up is essentially a one-man show, but other forms of comedy such as improv are suited to a duo. When there are two, the horizons are expanded and things can be done or said that would be impossible with just one.
When choosing a partner to work with, it's important that each one should complement the other. The partnership should be an honest one with both standing up equally for what they want in the show. If there is not honesty, then the relationship is likely to founder after a few years.
Contrary to what you may think, a comic duo does not have to be firm friends away from their work. Friends are often not all that honest with each other - their emotions get in the way. Or one might be offended by the other's vigilance over what material they perform. An attitude of "you should perform this because I like it, not because it's great material" can only harm the career of both in the long run.
If both focus on their work and each one feels they can trust the other to be as career minded and fair with their choice of material as they are themselves, then a good business basis is established and will likely last for years. Of course it does help if the duo have common tastes and outlooks, because they will then respect each other more. And if they share personal tastes, and values, then the business decisions will most likely be taken with regard to that and there will be little conflict.
It's important to work out guidelines to cover future possibilities that you can both agree to. These might cover what will happen if one wants to leave the partnership, if you go broke, or want to bring in another partner and other possibilities. Discussing and settling such issues is a necessary part of the business. Mutual support and honoring commitments are two good ways to make sure a partnership is successful.
While the above is what makes a partnership successful off the stage, you still need to be able to work together on stage. It will help the flow if you are in tune with each other's thought processes and it will help the comedy if you look and act quite differently. One usually plays straight to the other's comic. Very often a comedy duo will seem to be completely different to each other in every way - which is where the humor comes from, of course.
Do You Need a Comedian's Agent?
Many new comedians wonder if they should really have an agent. It all depends on how far you want to go with the comedian business. Do you want to make a proper career out of it, or is it only a hobby? Also, how far along the road are you? If you have just started doing gigs, have three minutes of material and only tried one open mic night, then maybe you don't need an agent yet.
But twelve months down the track when you've managed to get up to twelve or more minutes, you've done open mic and gone onto comedy clubs and even make a bit of money now and then, maybe you should get an agent. That said, it's not so easy to get one.
Don't forget that an agent takes a percentage of your fees for himself, so how much are you making? Can you do everything that he does, for yourself? Can you keep one ear to the ground to find more gigs, organize the bookings and travel details and do everything else an agent does? If so, you still may not need one.
You might be better off with a manager. A manager will 'manage' your career in comedy by getting the best gigs for you. He or she will see to it that you go where your skills are most appreciated, that the venue and the audience are suited to your act and generally make sure everything is a good match and that everyone is satisfied. A manager will be more likely to get you a better deal - in other words more pay.
An agent will probably just grab the first gig that comes along and shove it in your direction, whether it's a place that would suit you or not. Hey, you're getting a gig so don't complain. Stage time is important in the life of a comedian.
Many comedians get by without an agent or a manager, but when you start to rise to the top, it may be the time to get an agent, a manager - or both. It may be that an agent will seek you out, rather than you having to go and find one. If you have an agent, it is easier for them to sing your praises than for you to do it yourself, which often sounds conceited.
Most employers will go to an agent when they want to hire a comedian because that saves them time. The agent will know of several comedians that they can sift through. This saves them from making several phone calls and watching several CDs to see which would be suitable. So to answer the question - getting an agent will probably help your career more than hinder it, even if you do have to pay them.
How to Find Material in Everyday Life
Many comedians write their own material because they have a sense of humor that is unique. It may be a warped sense of humor, but they have the ability to see humor in many situations that most people would never dream of. To do this they often focus on the small trivialities of life that many people simply accept and never think about.
For instance take one of those little packs of silica gel that some in your shoes, your new stereo or any number of other goods. Read the label; it says DO NOT EAT! Did you ever think that the company had sent you a nice little snack? Would anyone? That can be used to create a humorous sketch of some kind.
They may take an ordinary event and exaggerate it out of all proportion. They may take the ending of an ordinary scene and twist it into something surprising - and of course, humorous.
Country life can be used to create any amount of humor. How ordinary is it to take a wheelbarrow of weeds from the garden down to the chicken run. While you are there it is natural to gather the eggs. All this is quite normal - so far. But take it a step further and find only one egg. Then try and carry the egg back and push the wheelbarrow as well. It can't be done, so you put the egg in the wheelbarrow. Then someone comes along and sees you pushing a wheelbarrow with one egg in it. The punch line could be any number of weird and wonderful comments.
It helps if you have a sense of the absurd and/or hang out with others who do. Some people find something to laugh at in every situation. If you have little children, your life should abound in humorous situations and comments. Children get the names of things wrong, or they get the pronunciations wrong and it can all add up to great hilarity in the family. With a bit of exaggeration, or a twist here and there, it can be written up into a comedy script.
Humor can spring out at you while just sitting in the mall, watching the crowds stroll by. You might see a young man waiting for his love (or his mum) in front of the jeweler's window. Nothing funny in that, unless the store is also advertising earrings - as hot studs.
There are countless situations that can be made funny once you start to look out for them. At least when you write your own material you can't be accused of stealing someone else's.
How to Get Discovered
The hardest of your goals to achieve may be to get discovered. You have to work hard to that end and set specific small goals along the way to help. For instance, your first goal could be to succeed at an open mic night or several. Then you would go on to doing gigs at clubs. You could even enter a talent quest either locally or on national television - or preferably, both. Leave no stone unturned.
For instance, you could videotape yourself doing a comic routine and upload it to your website or blog. This would certainly give you exposure and you never know, someone looking for what you do might pick you up. But don't leave it at that.
While your ultimate goal may be to get discovered, remember that you need to be extremely good and if you are, you'll rise to the top eventually. Meanwhile, you are honing your skills, getting more original jokes for your routine and gaining confidence and experience.
So don't want or expect to 'get discovered' immediately. It might be better if you're not, because sometimes, fame can come too soon and if you're not ready for it you could spoil your chances through inexperience.
A good agent will help you get gigs, and should be looking to help you fast-forward your career as much as possible. Try and get gigs at comedy clubs rather than other places that don't usually do comedy. The audiences at these places - if there are any - just don't usually appreciate a comic act and are likely to heckle you out of the place. You'd need a really thick skin to stick with it.
If a talent scout is out looking for comedy talent, it makes sense for him to go to a comedy club, not some place that is not known for showing comedy. Therefore, you should do the same thing and be where you know they are likely to come. Once you get a regular spot at a comedy club, you will begin to make contacts with other comedians and who knows what may result from that?
Once you begin to know who's who in the world of comedy, you'll begin to make contacts with important casting people. You must work on these relationships. Once they know you, they will think of you whenever a role comes up that they cannot fill with another regular comedian.
Meantime, continue to study and develop your abilities by taking courses and getting tuition in acting or writing or whatever areas you think may be your weak points. By the time discovery comes to you, you will be well prepared.
How to Get Your Sitcom Script Read
Once you've written your sitcom - or preferably several of them - you need to get them read. But not by just anybody; getting them read by an agent is a necessary step. Firstly, write a one or two sentence description of each, called a logline. This is what you pitch to the agents over the phone.
Make a list of all the agents who will accept unsolicited material. You can get this from the Writers Guild Association (WGA) online or look for those books that list literary agents. While no one likes rejection, it is a part of the process so don't be put off just because the first several say no to your script. Persistence is the key. Start off with all those agents who are listed as representing new writers and/or accepting unsolicited manuscripts.
Since many agents never read unsolicited manuscripts, you need to get the agencies permission to send it. Do this by phoning and asking if you can pitch your logline for a certain sitcom. Be succinct and to the point; no one has time to waste. Have two loglines ready in case they don't want to hear the first one.
Rehearse what you want to say, but be sure to keep it in written form close by in case you get nervous and forget. Never tell an agent how good you are, let your script do that for you. But you should aim to be funny or clever in your phone pitch - if you can do it well. If not, forget it. Agents are usually looking for ways to screen you out.
Once an agent agrees to read your script, send if off pronto and make sure you use his name in your cover letter. Keep a record of each agency you queried and what their response was. If they suggest a query by mail, be sure to do that - then you can call in another week to see if they got your letter. This is another chance to talk the agent into reading the whole script.
Mostly, success means contacts and you'll only get those if you hang out amongst comedians and writers and all those people in that industry. You might even consider moving to New York or Los Angeles and going for a job as writer's assistant. That way you can become one of the family and eventually it will be right for you to ask someone to read your script.
Taking a TV writing class is another good way to make contacts. You can even do one online to get your toe in the door. However you do it, never claim that someone has recommended you if they have not. This lie will be found out and it will mean the end of any chance you may have had.
How to Land a Gig
Landing gigs is of prime importance to a comedian. Without working gigs, there is no job and no chance of getting known. There are several ways to get gigs. It's a good idea to get an agent who will help you to get bookings (gigs). What you need to do is have one or more videos of yourself doing your routines. Whether these are taken live - while you are doing a real gig - or whether you have them done on a false stage, will depend on you.
If you've never done a gig, then you'll have to fake it till you make it. That is, set up a false stage somewhere and go through your routine with someone there to do the videotaping. Anyone with a digital camera can record a small segment of your routine, then you can burn it to CD and there you have it! Make plenty of copies and send them out to various comedy clubs.
Also make posters, brochures and flyers about yourself and your act and send them to everyone you can think of who might need someone to entertain them. Put them up on billboards, community notice boards or shop windows.
Look through the paper until you see something is on that you could perform at. Colleges are often ripe playing fields for comedians. There they have the money and the need for entertainment and there are heaps of them to choose from, so sending out your ads is sure to bring in some gigs, especially if you are prepared to travel. If you are just starting out, try for an open mic night somewhere.
You could start at any small gathering such as your local pub, youth night, or high school presentation. If you are confident of your abilities and not nervous, you could opt for a bigger gig. Send that video out to a cruise ship to see if you can get a gig with them for a night or a few weeks. The Manager of Entertainment is the person you should contact. Basically, if they like your routine, they'll hire you for a gig or three.
Another way to get a gig is to simply advertise in the newspaper. An inch column is not too expensive and you may be surprised at the offers you get. Be sure to have a CD ready to send out in reply to those queries. A CD will give the person who is looking for an entertainer an idea of what you are like much better than any advertising brochure would do. You need not give away all of your act, of course, but do enough so that they can have a fair idea what you are like. Then make sure they know how long your act goes for.
How to Perform Improv Comedy
Performing improv comedy is not for everyone because it is totally unstructured. Many comedians prefer the structure of stand-up, where they know in advance what they will be doing and saying. In true improv the performers often depend on suggestions called out by someone in the audience for their inspiration to create scene and material.
This interactive relationship with the audience also proves that the performance is unscripted. The actors work together to create a funny scene in a completely impromptu manner. There are usually no props, but furniture, doors, gates etc are mimed into the action. The actors must then be careful to remember where they are and use them (or pretend to) when necessary.
The scene evolves by each actor defining an element as they go along. These are called offers and must be accepted and built on by the other actors. They are also referred to as endowments. They can encompass anything from naming a character, to the addition (through mime) of furniture to the scene. If they are not accepted - called blocking - then the scene suffers as it is prevented from developing.
When an offer is 'accepted' (referred to often as "Yes, and ...") it is usually built on by that actor with another offer or endowment, thus the scene and/or the story is always advanced in some way. This is actually the cornerstone of improv acting. If an actor breaks out of character or deliberately blocks for a comic effect, it is called gagging. While this might be successful as far as the humor is concerned, it usually has the effect of locking the progress of the scene and so is frowned upon by many.
The mime that is used instead of props is called space object work, and the objects thus created, space objects. Actors are expected to respect this imaginary environment and must limit their actions to include it. For instance, if shot by an imaginary gun, they can't somehow survive, but must obligingly die or at least remain injured.
The challenge of playing improv is to create various characters quickly and spontaneously by the use of gestures, voice changes, accents or other devices. The comedian must be able to quickly decide on the motivation of their character and act in accordance with it. This type of acting is not for every comedian, but doing it hones your skills and makes you think quickly. Besides, it's a lot of fun and not too different to the games we threw ourselves into as children.
How to Pick the Right Audience for Your Comedy
Your comedy is a unique expression of your personality and will most often stem from things that have happened to you or strong opinions you have on various topics. The persona you choose to represent in your comedy - that is, the person you become in your routine - is also an expression of your personality, or at least a part of it. It might be exaggerated or twisted to fit, but it is there and it's something that you feel comfortable doing.
So when you are thinking of your target audience, you have to see what sort of audience would fit in with the sort of comedy you do, the kind of jokes you tell and the stage persona that you represent. If you hadn't thought yet about what audience is right for your kind of comedy, take the jokes apart and see what they are really about. The protagonists in your jokes will often give you a clue, but the topic and style of comedy is also important.
For instance, you may do satire; the kind of comedy that makes a humorous/sarcastic comment on the political situation and the politicians of the day. You could easily have beer type jokes to fit in with this type of comment and comedy. So what type of audience would like to hear that kind of comedy? Probably not families, especially if they have children or teens with them. On the other hand, college students would be most receptive.
But what if you liked doing romantic comedy? Think who is most into romance? Romance novels are aimed at them all the time. That's right, you would need a young female audience - in short, chicks.
When you have decided what sort of audience your comedy is suited for, then you have to find them. Here is where a good agent will come in handy, but you can also use your own common sense. If you are doing a stand-up routine at the local shopping mall on Saturday morning, there will be plenty of kids and teens around. With kids often come Mum and Pop, but not so many seniors or college students.
If you choose a gig at a tavern, you'll often have mainly male 30's something audience. That's not to say there won't be females, or younger and older age groups, but generally speaking the main percentage of audience will be otherwise.
If your jokes were take-offs of old-time shows, i.e., parodies, your most responsive audience would probably be senior citizens. They will know all those shows and so appreciate your humor much more than those who have never seen them.
How to Turn Real Life into Sitcom Scenarios
Frequently, a sitcom is based on real life; either a real life person or a real life situation or environment. Most inspiration comes from real life to some extent and sitcoms are no different. To turn real life into sitcom scenarios, you need to have sense of the absurd and/or a great sense of humor. Some people can be caught out in a sudden storm and have their umbrella blown inside out, a passing car splashes them and other disasters happen and they think it's funny. Others think it's terrible.
The way to turn real life into sitcom scenarios is often by exaggeration. Start off with what actually happened and add to it. Get caught in the storm, lose the umbrella - that's fine and normal - then add car splashes, sandal breaks, find you've locked yourself out of the car, get a parking ticket miss the last bus home.
Add a specific time to it that may not have been in the original happening. In the above example it could be Christmas Eve. Or you could be trying to get to your kid's school presentation. In this case the scenes would include all the funny, bizarre and even dangerous ways in which this was achieved. Then you could find that you'd mistaken the date.
The above demonstrates a twist to the end that people love. So in taking real life situations, you have to exaggerate them, add to the action, and change the ending. This applies equally to the characters. You can base a sitcom on humorous characters by exaggerating one aspect of their personality or character to the point of absurdity. Then you put them with another person who is their opposite and make them both want different goals, e.g. "George and Mildred." Where Mildred tried to be part of the wealthy set, while George didn't care about it. Of course there are many more modern sitcoms, but they run in similar vein.
A sitcom is an art form that imitates life. This is easily seen with the sitcom "In-Laws", where Elon Gold plays a Jewish student living with his in-laws. Gold really did have to move in with his in-laws and a lot of the comedy is based on true things that happened - with exaggeration, of course.
So to recap, you take real life, exaggerate the problem and add to it, then use over-the-top characters who are opposites of each other in their personality, their goals and desires and also in their looks, if possible.
How to Turn Your Ideas Into Comedy
Once you have an idea, how can you turn it into comedy? One way is by the use of exaggeration. Once you start making the end results more than they would normally be, the result is frequently humorous. Or it could be that the effort expended by your character is out of proportion to the end result - or perhaps the end result is not what he expected.
This can be seen in the Roadrunner cartoons where the 'baddy' tries with great effort to do the roadrunner in but his plans usually backfire onto himself.
The use of literary devices is also an aid to writing comedy. You can make use of ambiguity where there is unclear or double meaning to a word or phrase. Alliteration also creates a comic touch to the sound of your comedy. Euphemism can also be used to lighten a serious subject such as death. This can be referred to as 'kicking the bucket' or some of the other phrases we sometimes adopt for death and dying, while 'doing him' in is how murder is often referred to in comedy.
Your ideas really need to be funny to start with and then using the above devices can strengthen the humor in them. If your ideas are not funny - if they don't make you laugh when you write them - then you must ask if they will make anyone else laugh. If not, throw them out and start again.
Some writers start at the ending and work backwards. If you have a funny ending in your mind, you can write the second last line, then the last line, then go backwards from there in creating how this funny situation came about. Never have too many characters in your comedic writing. You are not writing a novel. Two or three for each scene should be sufficient.
When you are writing comedy, don't forget to make use of silence. It is often the silent pause that makes something funny, or even funnier. And if you want a pause, you have to write it into the script. Not everyone will realize there should be a pause there.
If you are a complete beginner, it would help you tremendously to take a course or study in writing comedy. Getting one-on-one tuition can hone your skills dramatically and with an expert to guide you, your career could take off a great deal more quickly.
Learn the Basic Structure of Jokes
Different types of jokes have different structure. The stand-up comic tells jokes that are brief and to the point. Often they only have two or three lines, commonly called the set-up and the punch line. The set up is what makes the audience think the way you want them to think, while the punch line provides the twist or surprise ending, contrasting to what was used in the set-up.
These jokes work because they deliberately change the meaning of the set-up to be something quite different to what was expected. The set-up should take something like 20 or 30 seconds to deliver, while the punch line should be even less. Often the punch line can have one major word in it upon which the whole sentence hangs, so in this case it should come last.
The elements of the joke must be told in their proper order for it to be funny. In longer jokes, there can be an introduction to set the scene, thus: - Three men walked into a bar. A man goes to the doctor. etc.
The set-up then follows this, with all the facts done in logical order, e.g.: -
- A man goes to a doctor. He says," (states the problem).
- The doctor says, " (states the answer to the problem).
- The man queries, '(Will this help?)."
- The doctor answers, '(The punch line).
The introduction is important in its role of creating trust with the audience. It usually starts off by saying something that is quite normal. It could happen. Three men often do walk into a bar; a man goes to the doctor - normal stuff. It should be fairly short because you don't want the audience to forget what you were saying by the time you get to the punch line.
The set up should expand the introduction and tell what happened next. This can be a bit longer, but not too long. Being brief is good; don't waffle on about unrelated things. So if we have the man going to the doctor we want to know why straight away. The color of his shirt doesn't matter.
The punch line is of course the most important part of the joke, but on its own it wouldn't be much. It's only when you work the two together that the audience will laugh - and actually they are laughing at themselves in a way because it was what they believed in the set-up stage that tricked them into laughing at the punch line.
A good joke can be told, but comedians often act jokes out, so watch for this in funny shows. Often they are simply setting the stage for a joke. Once you know what o watch for you'll recognize the intro, set up and punch line - all acted out.
Performer or Writer - What Do You Want to Be?
The performer gets a thrill out of being up there on the stage and delivering his lines so that everyone laughs. The writer may prefer to take time to get those funny lines just right. He may even perform them in his head, but he prefers to stay out of the limelight and watch someone else deliver the lines. So which would you rather do?
The performer needs to be an outgoing person who wants to make people laugh. Some people have this gift naturally. They are the ones who are surrounded by a crowd of friends and delight to tell jokes and make their friends laugh. But if you are not like this, don't despair. Sometimes it's the quiet ones who shine onstage. They find that another part of their personality seems to step forward and take over in a way they just don't feel comfortable doing in real life.
A writer of humor is likely to be the kind of person who would just hate to have everyone looking at him up there on the stage. It would be his worst nightmare. He likes to write when the idea hits and not be confined to a time-slot of five minutes at 9pm or earlier for his delivery. He may or may not love to tell funny jokes to his many (or few) friends, but he does love to write them. He sees humor in every situation - even when the cat throws up on the new doona on Christmas day.
The performer may not have a single humorous thought - ever. But he may be absolutely brilliant at performing someone else's humorous writing. He has an expressive face or expression that makes people laugh even if he only says one word. Or he may be the master of the straight face. He may be able to deliver his routine without any expression on his face at all and have people rolling in the aisles with laughter. He has that gift that when he walks onstage people start to laugh. He could read out a menu and make it seem funny.
So which one do you want to be? Or perhaps more to the point, which one are you? The skills for each are sometimes inherent - either you have them or you don't. That's not to say you couldn't learn to be a comedian or a writer, but if you find it hard to see humor in everyday situations, then you might find being a comic writer rather difficult.
Popular Clubs for Comedians to Join
There are quite a few clubs out there for comedians to join. The benefit for a comedian in joining a club or several clubs is that he is then available to work gigs through the club's connections. As well as presenting shows in various venues, the Comedy Club makes comedians available for conferences, parties, and receptions or other events where the addition of a comedian would spice up proceedings that would otherwise be slightly dull.
The Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) is another comedy club that not only hosts comedy shows, but also runs improv classes, so there is that added benefit for a comedian joining up. Classes are run in many time-slots and for many different topics. When comedians are known to belong to a well-respected club, they are more likely to be taken seriously - even though they really want everyone to laugh.
The Gotham Club in New York is considered by many to be one of the best. Many great comedians have worked at the Gothams; so if you'd like to join the ranks of the best - like Roseanne, Dave Chapelle and others, see if you can get a gig on their free mic night. As an amateur, you'll get the chance to hone your talent and when you start to rise to the top you'll get better gigs.
While the Gotham is in New York, there is also the Comedy Connection in Boston that many consider to be even better than Gothams. At least it offers its customers reserved seating, but of more interest to a comedian is their star line-up of such comedian greats as Chris Rock, Rosie O'Donnell, Margaret Cho and many others.
The House of Comedy at Niagara Falls hosts open mic nights all the time and any aspiring comedian needs to get his act on one of them to be recognized. House of Comedy also shows at Hamilton.
Comedy Clubs abound and you only have to go online or look in the phone book to find them. Once you become affiliated with a club, there are many benefits and just being around where the pros are will make you feel like a pro and start to act more like one. After all, being funny is serious business. There are also online clubs that you can join to ask questions and find information about the comedy business.
Tips for Structuring Your Routine
What kind of routine you have during your comedy act will depend somewhat on the type of comedy you do. Naturally, you want to grab attention at the start, but then you also want to keep the attention through the body of your performance.
While you want to keep your audience interested, you don't want them to be laughing non-stop (not quite) because (a) while they are laughing they can't hear what you are saying, and (b) constant laughter tends to wear the audience out. So while you come on with a big splash to grab attention, you can sort of fade in and out a bit.
What this means is that once you have attention and laughter, then let the audience calm down a bit while you start to spin the next joke. This gives them a bit of breathing space - not too long mind, or you might lose them. Make sure that once you've delivered the punch line and everybody is rolling in the aisles (you hope) that you give them time to get over that before you begin the next one. Otherwise they are going to miss the set up and so miss the next punch line.
But you can't just stand there grinning like an idiot until they finish laughing. Instead, watch how some of the pros do it. Some give a little grin and cough discreetly. Others begin the next introduction and then stop, pause and repeat it. Yet other comedians might pull a face, or walk around the stage a bit, or pat their face with a handkerchief. It only takes a few moments to pull the attention back, but that time is vital to the success of the ensuing routine.
Create balance in your routine by doing jokes of different lengths alternately, such as short, long, short or long, short, long, etc. This also helps the audience. If you have all short jokes, it tends to wear the audience out more quickly. To go from a short to a long and back to a short evens it out and helps the audience to concentrate.
It's a bit like asking a person to read one long length of manuscript with no breaks in it. They'll get bored easily and skip half. You don't want your audience to start getting bored if you do three or four long jokes one after the other.
Once you've come to the end of your routine you should go out with a bang, That is, keep the best joke till last. It has to be the strongest line and the funniest-of-all joke. Never try out something for the end that you are not sure is funny.
Tips for Using Humor in Motivational Speeches
Humor is a great icebreaker in speeches. It will connect you to your audience like nothing else - just so long as it is relevant to the topic in hand. But before you use any humor, be sure it really is funny. Firstly it should make you laugh, and then it should make your friends laugh. Only then can you use it in your motivational speech.
Relevance means it should have something to do with your subject matter. It must be used to enhance your topic in some way. If it can also be personal, springing from your own experience in the subject, then so much the better. Things that you once thought embarrassing can be spoken about with light-hearted humor once they have been relegated to the past.
It is poking fun at yourself that makes a connection with the audience. They laugh, but at the same time they sympathize because they know just how you felt at the time. Chances are they experienced the same thing, and so you are helping them to cope with it in their own lives when you can laugh at it in yours.
Be sure your humor is appropriate to your audience. Some people may be offended rather than amused by jokes that are racist or otherwise in bad taste. Choosing clean humor will ensure that it is not offensive to a mixed audience.
Humor and jokes should be kept short and to the point. While you know the back-story, it should not come out in your joke. If you waffle on, your audience will fall asleep and you won't be asked to speak again. For instance the story may take place in a train. There's no need to explain where the train was going or why you were on it. Just tell what happened when you were in that situation.
Jokes and humor can be incorporated into visual aids such as the leaflets you hand out or the overheads you use. It can be a comic strip or video, but whatever it is, using the right amount of humor will certainly enhance your speech and make sure your audience remains interested.
Humor can also help you to feel at ease with the rest of your speech. If you can appear human - even when you bomb out - and poke a little fun at yourself, you can often save the situation. Don't use jokes that are so old that everyone knows them. To create something new can be as simple as a wry observation about the building. If it's really hot you could say something like, "It's so cold in here, can someone turn up the heaters?"
Tips for Writing Comedic Articles and Essays
If you just love writing comedic articles and essays, go ahead. People love reading comedy. You might find your life full of humor and even make money out of writing about it. This often happens when a person is put into a different environment, for instance many humorous articles have been written from the point of view of a city person going to live in the Wild West - or vice versa. This is actually situational comedy as it arises from being in a different situation.
Or maybe you'd rather make humorous comment about the political situation such as we see in satire, or the many other types of comedy that abound. Whichever type you choose, stick to it for the same piece of writing. If you start off with a family comedy and the switch to slapstick or satire, your readers will be confused and end up leaving you.
Make your type of comedy appropriate to your proposed audience. If you were writing something humorous for children, satire or black humor would not be appropriate. If your audience were rocket scientists or inventors, family or toilet humor would not be appreciated. Writing for radio will not need lots of humorous activity, but for TV it will.
Choosing what makes you laugh will ensure that you enjoy what you are doing and this will show in your writing. Conflict is needed for most good writing and it is needed for comedy as well. Conflict can come from a person against the environment, a person who cannot achieve his goals, i.e. against himself, or a person against another person. The humor comes as the person tries his best to achieve his goal, or maybe he decides to ignore it - whatever it is.
Exaggeration is another means of including comedy into your article. While it may not always be possible to exaggerate the environment, it is your perception of the problem that can be exaggerated for comic effect. However, just be careful not to go overboard and become silly.
Remember the rule of three. For some reason things that happen in threes seem funnier than if they happen just once. If you can work this into your humorous article it is a form of exaggeration that will make things seem even funnier. Watch funny movies for the rule of three and you'll see a person getting bumped three times, doing something three times - and failing on the third, and so on.
Know when to draw things out and when to quit. A sense of timing is crucial to most comedy. When something is said is often just as important as what is said.
Tips for Writing Sitcoms
Writing sitcoms is not the easiest of tasks, and is especially hard for a new writer to break into. If you feel that this is where your talent lies, then it's a good idea to tape some of your favorite sitcoms and watch them over several times. Write notes on how they are done.
Take particular notice of the story line, the balance between visual and verbal jokes and the structure of the scenes. Count how many times you laughed per segment. Jot down what makes the characters believable and appealing and the plot unpredictable.
Now do the same for those you don't like, and take note of what it is about them that turns you off. Is it the concept or the language? Or do you just hate the characters? When you write your own sitcom, be sure to avoid these things.
Sitcoms are really character comedies. That is the 'funny' comes from the characters reactions to each other or certain situations. While they are extremely funny, their material is not a series of jokes strung together. Since the characters are what makes a sitcom funny, they must be strong characters; interesting and believable as well as funny. When you are creating characters like this, you must be able to sustain them - keep them going.
You, the writer, are responsible for the characterization in your writing. It is not the actor who does this, but the writer. Remember too that this type of writing is not real life, though it may be based on it. That is, your characters may be based on real life characters, but yours have to be funny where real life characters are mostly not.
The characters have to be in sufficient contrast to each other for it to show up and create the funny situations. If they both like the same things, there won't be much contrast, will there? It's this contrast that causes a great deal of the humor. So you must have contrast, but it still has to be believable.
When writing sitcom, have no more than four central characters. You can have a few supporting characters but not too many. While you should know what your characters are like and what made them like it, this is their back-story and should not be part of the sitcom. Their dialogue and the story should be what describe your characters.
In short, it is the characters that make the sitcom even more than the story. If you can invent new characters, then a story line that's been done before might still work.
Top Comedians You Can Learn From
No matter what your career choice is, if there is a role model to learn from you will be helped in a way that is superior to all others. To see how someone else does things is the easiest and best way to learn because humans are natural imitators. If you want to teach your kids something, you show them how. If you want to be a great surgeon, ultimately you learn by watching the great surgeons operate.
It's the same with comedy. There are many great comedians out there from whom we can learn something. But it's not only their manner and styles that we can learn by watching. It's their life lessons. Jim Carrey teaches us that we can choose the source of our comedy.
He admits to being bitter and cynical as a stand-up - and everyone could see that he was like that. But he chose to make people laugh with his amazing face rather than his cynicism. Some comedians use their pessimism to make people laugh. Carrey could have done the same but he chose not to. So we know that we can also choose our comedy source - and the most obvious source is not always the best.
Woody Allen's' approach was to be himself - slightly unpolished and naïve. He taught us that if you are yourself, that is better than trying to fake it as someone else. He showed that naturalness has a better chance of succeeding than covering ourselves in a thin veneer of fake sophistication. Of course, some sophisticates are genuine and that's okay too.
Bill Cosby can teach the new comedian many things, but perhaps the most important is that cruelty is not necessary for humor and that clean jokes can make you famous and popular; you don't have to tell dirty jokes for success. You don't necessarily need props, but you do need flow and cohesion.
If you can't relate to any of the above, try Chris Rock. At least you'll learn that rocks most likely come back to hit the person who throws them. It you like to make taunting comments, remember that it is easier to make people cry than to make them laugh, and comedians do the latter.
Matt McDonald can teach us that to be a successful comedian we need to use a part of our own personality and crank it up - exaggerate it. If we try and be who we are not, then the fakeness will show through to the audience. But that parts of our stage persona can conflict with each other and that will be okay. It may even be good.
What is Your Comedic Style?
Comedy comes in several basic styles and each comedian usually concentrates on the particular style that suits them. That is not to say they can't or don't dabble in the other styles, but sometimes a particular style is so suited to a comedian - and they get so used to it, that they prefer not to change. Also, their audience expects a certain style of humor and so would be disappointed if they changed.
Black comedy takes the naturally tragic or serious circumstances of life and makes jokes of them. While some people find this distasteful or upsetting, others find that it uplifts them to be able to laugh about a situation that would otherwise have them upset.
If you feel like poking fun at the establishment and ridiculing figures of authority, then satire is more your style of comedy. But satire does more than just make fun of politicians; it is usually a way of disagreeing with a political view and offering another one.
Parody works well with many comedians. This is when they mimic another person, usually exaggerating them or their manner to the point of ridicule. The only trouble with this style of comedy is that the audience must know what the original was like before they can see the joke. Therefore, it's not likely to travel.
Many sitcoms are based on irony, where an unplanned situation results from a carefully planned scene. Many of the older types of comedy styles are still popular today, as we see with the Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin movies or short routines that were based on slapstick humor. They mainly rely on the use of funny antics and misunderstandings for their humor.
There are also the personal styles such as stand-up or improv (short for improvisation). These are more personality styles, because a comedian who is good at one rarely enjoys doing the other. The script for a stand-up comedian is well structured and he rarely departs from it. To do so would jeopardize the punch line or the humor of the routine. He usually works alone - or at least he takes care of all the funny parts, though others may be props in the scene.
Improv is largely unstructured with the comedian not relying on prepared material. With improv you must share the limelight and each one depends on the other a great deal. A comedian who has a disorganized personality will probably enjoy improv as they don't need to be organized with their routine. The downside is that one can say or do something that is not in the script and so the other is caught at a disadvantage. While the audience might enjoy his discomfiture, he rarely does.
Where to Start Your Trip to Becoming a Comedian
The best place to start your trip into the world of comedians is in front of your mirror. Here you can practice your jokes and comedy routines until they are perfect, with no one to put you down or laugh in the wrong places. You can watch yourself perform and try out various movements until you are satisfied with them - and then perhaps you can ask your friends what they think.
The only trouble with friends are that they don't like to be unkind, so unless you know they are honest, take what they say with a grain of salt. Performing in front of family and friends is good in that it gives you confidence in yourself. You'll know that you can stand up there and go through your spiel without missing any lines. This knowledge is invaluable for when you do your first performance in front of strangers.
Your first performance might be at a larger family gathering of a birthday party, wedding breakfast or some other celebration. Or it could be at the local pub, a nightclub or bar, many of which have open mic. nights. Take along a friend or some family for support and to videotape your act, and then you can watch it afterwards and see how to improve. Don't worry if the audience don't laugh much; most of them will probably be amateur comedians themselves, waiting for their turn. Since they are the competition, they may not be too free with praise and applause.
The next step up in your climb to comedian fame is the club. Clubs often run Bringer nights where anyone can do a routine on stage if they bring five or so others that are paying customers. These shows are usually slotted in early in the show, before the advertised acts.
Although you might be eager to jump in there and show people what you can do, it doesn't hurt to do some training. Watching other comedians perform either live or on DVD will help you hone your skills, but an acting or drama school will also give you skills that you may not pick up from watching others perform.
Besides, not everyone you watch will be a good comedian and you don't want to pick up any bad habits. Becoming successful at anything takes a lot of hard work and practice; being a comedian is no different. But if it is something you love doing, all that hard work and practice will seem like fun.
Why Comedians Need a Contract
Comedians need a contract to be sure of getting paid; it's that simple. If you have an agreement by word of mouth, how are you going to prove what was said, if the guy refuses to pay you? Of if he decides you should only have half the amount agreed upon? If someone employs you to do a one-night gig, then it is fatally easy for him to offer to pay you a percentage of the takings, and then decided there was not enough taken on the night to pay both of you. How will you be able to know what was taken on the night?
A contract will protect your rights and if you don't get paid, at least you have something to show in a court of law, should you decide to pursue that course. A contract will also make it clear what you will do, so it protects both the employer and you. It will be a form of reference if there is a dispute of any kind. Having a contract is the professional way to do business, and if you are not offered one, consider seriously if you really want to work that gig.
Agents and employers are the ones who should arrange for the contract. If you have to travel any distance and pay for your own accommodation and meals, then it is usual to estimate a 'per diem' to cover the costs. Add the estimated costs up and multiply by the number of days you will be away. Make sure that your expenses won't be deducted from your paycheck later on.
Asking for a deposit is considered a fair way of doing business, especially if this is your first gig for this employer. Later on, when trust has been established, you may not require a deposit. If rehearsals are required, you can ask for one third deposit, another third in the middle of the project and the final third at the completion. This could be important if the show is to go on for a week or more.
You should never pay anyone up front to help you get work. If you have an agent, he will take a percentage of your pay, but to ask for a fee upfront is extremely unprofessional. You should always have a contract with your agent and can negotiate fees to the satisfaction of both.
If the gig is a big one with many talents showing, the employer may wish to restrict or limit what you can do for his competitors. A contract will serve this purpose by stating that you are not to perform at the opposition's gig.
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