There’s More To Stand-Up Than Good Writing


On my Facebook page I posted a status update that said the guys in Regina suggested that I write “smarter”.  Some of you may not understand what I meant, so I will explain that now.  Plus, in my opinion I do not think you can be naturally funny and do stand-up, but more about that later.

In my first several shows I mentioned that my laughter is sporadic, not consistent.  I have done my core set of material enough times to know that some people laugh at some of it, some of the time.  The material is funny, it just depends on the audience, the location and the day.  The guys in Regina were confused by my material.  They mentioned that for some of my stuff I inadvertently lead with what should be the punchline.  Yes, I wasn’t aware of this at first because I just started churning out material thinking it would be funny just the way it is.  But now I see their point, because I lead with something that eventually should be the punchline.  Now the audience is a bit startled, because they didn’t expect that to come out of my mouth at the start of the joke, and it also gets their attention because now they listen more attentively because they suspect that the punchline will be better than the opening line.  So I use a punchline as an opening line without knowing it, the audience is confused, then deflated for that joke when the ending isn’t as dramatic as it should be for laughs.  Am I making sense?

I won’t give you a specific joke that I do, but for those of you who have heard my material before, I am rewriting some of those jokes, and you will notice the difference the next time I perform.  I think part of that writing smarter will come from setting up jokes better, but that comes with time.  Fine, I will say one thing…I have this bit about being Ukrainian.  I say at the start “I am Ukrainian”, then I get into my joke.  People aren’t sure whether to laugh or not, but most of them have this confused look on their face like “so, you are a Uke.  Big whoop.  now what?”  I think to rewrite that means to have a more conversational tone with the audience, sort of harkening back to my radio days.  The rewritten opening for that joke should be…….

“Any Ukrainians in the house?  Oh, aren’t Ukrainian grandmas the best cure to break that New Years Resolution of dieting?  There is so much food!”

As of this writing, I am not sure if that is the was it will be written, but you get the idea.  I need to make my sets more conversational, pick someone in the audience, or focus on a few different people in the crowd and talk “to them”.  Plus, if my material is more conversational, it will hold the audience’s attention longer, and will allow me to rework the material to make it fit a more conversational type of routine.

Now, I have a question to ask.  Do you remember watching The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air?  Do you remember the episode with D.L Hughley?  Will had his friend who was in town visiting and was a stand up comic.  Will went with him to an open mic, and Will got up and tried to let his natural humour resonate with the audience.  Do you remember what happened?  He never got a single laugh.  Why?

Is he naturally funny?  Yes.  Did he have confidence on stage and speak clearly making eye contact with the audience?  Yes.  But he was missing comedic timing and just the overall delivery of his stuff.  First I will start about the delivery.  You can have the greatest joke in the world, but as I am finding out, if it’s written incorrectly (whereas the joke itself is good, but the parts are in the wrong order making it hard to follow) the joke will fall flat.  I guess it’s sort of like writing a story.  You need the proper introduction, then the body (setup) followed by the conclusion (punchline).  It’s story writing for a comedy audience is the best way I can describe it to you.

Then there is the issue of comedic timing.  As you read in my last post, I did one joke where I needed to stop in the middle of it because the audience was laughing in the middle of it.  That is called comedic timing, learning to “respect the wave” as Shawn put it (from The Comedy Grind in Regina).  he said you need to let the laughs carry you.  Wait until they are done before moving on, as that timing can build to the punchline.  At the start I was so intent on making everything fit into 10 minutes worth of comedy that I didn’t stop and think that somebody might actually laugh in the middle of my joke.  With time and experience I will learn to deliver the material slower, more confidently, and allow time for the laughs to sink in.

Well, I am not sure if I did a great job explaining that, but I hope it gave you more insight towards the writing process as I make my way through the world of comedy.  Next posting will be about where my material comes from.

Thanks again!


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