Every couple of weeks I get emails from new comedians asking for advice. To be honest I tell most of them to GIVE UP because I don't think the world needs anymore jokes about Chewbacca or Scooby Doo ... but if you're a beginner and you're determined to stick it out, you might find something of help/interest in here. Remember: there are no rules to Stand-Up Comedy, these are just some things I've learnt...
(I'll add to this list every couple of weeks so keep checking back)
- If you're given the choice between a brand new radio mic or an old fashioned mic with a lead - take the microphone with the lead every time.
- Just because something gets a laugh doesn’t mean it’s funny.
- NEW MATERIAL BUT NO GIGS? Try your new material out in conversation - unless you’re talking to me. I HATE it when people do that. It’s so obvious and so rude and I so hope it dies when you finally say it on stage.
- 2 GOLDEN RULES: 1) Don’t over run. 2) Don’t annoy the barstaff.
- PROMOTERS: The comedian goes on first THEN the band. Never the other way around. A comedian can’t follow two guitars, bass, drums, pyrotechnics and stage-diving ... no matter how sharp his/her observations about cats and dogs are.
- If your topical material needs the prefix “do you remember when...” - that means it’s no longer topical material. (Goodbye George W. Bush, goodbye charity wristbands, goodbye Shannon Matthews, goodbye, so long, fare well.)
- A lot of comedy comes from negative emotions - try and do some pieces that come from love and joy and happiness and silliness ... but disguise them as hate.
- ON TOUR - buy sandwiches before the show! Nothing kills the ‘good gig buzz’ more than a hotel that doesn’t serve food after 11pm.
- Congratulations! - You've had a new Baby. My condolences! - To your set. Seriously, shut the fuck up about it. You're baby isn't as funny as you think it is. Did it pee over its head? Did it? Is that what it did? Did it pee over its head? Oh fuck off.
- NEW COMICS: Don’t spend too much time worrying about or preparing for hecklers. It very rarely happens nowadays and if it does, the club usually throws them out. Boom! Sorted.
- If you get paid for doing what you want to do - you’re a success.
- Comics who say they are ‘dangerous’ and ‘on the edge’ and ‘tell it like it is’ are always full of shit. They are never dangerous, they are nowhere near the edge and they don’t tell it like it is - they tell it EXACTLY like every other bland hack Bill Hicks wannabe.
- Never throw ideas away. Jot them down and stick them in a box. You’ll use them eventually.
- NEW COMICS: Start your own club. And don’t book established comics who told you not to start your own club.
- Be economical with your words. Don’t go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. And on. And on.
- Just because you make an audience laugh, it doesn't mean they'll buy you a drink after the show. No matter how long you hang around the bar looking 'approachable'.
- New Comics - you've got to move to a city or big town where you can get up onstage every night of the week.
- You learn more from a bad gig than you do from a good gig.
- When the promoter/MC tells you "not to use bad language because this audience doesn't like it" - they haven't got a fucking clue what they're talking about.
- New Comics - look at the audience. Let them see your face. Make eye contact with the audience.
- There should never be a BIG GAP between the performer and the audience. If there is, the stage/room is set up wrong!
- A 'comedy hat' sounds funny but, believe me, they NEVER really work onstage.
- Don't tell anyone you're a Stand-up Comedian until that is your sole source of income. Seriously, if you spend 40 hours each week working as an accountant and only 20 minutes each week onstage, you're an accountant!
- Slow down. And then slow down some more. Let the audience hear and appreciate what you're saying. Don't be so keen to rush to the next line.
- Write a new joke on Twitter every day - and watch a new comic tell them onstage the following week.
- Lunchtime comedy gigs are like outdoor comedy gigs = dreadful. Stay away from them. Both as a performer and as an audience member.
- Always, always, A-L-W-A-Y-S refer to musical comics as prop comics. Especially if they are within hearing distance.
- No matter how well you do, the audience always want to tell you about another comedian they really, really like. Usually from a TV show you really, really hate.
- Start with a good joke, have several great jokes in the middle and end with a strong song. Sorry, did I say "song"? I meant "interpretive dance".
- New Male Comics - just because every other act on the bill uses the term "a bit rape-y" or "rape-y eyes" doesn't mean you have to. Obviously you're going to but I'm sure you could do something more unique if you tried. Oh, wait a moment... no, you couldn't.
- Try a new joke three times, if it still doesn't work - throw away the audience.
- New Comics - stay and watch the headline act. Buy her a drink. she'll be hanging around the bar, looking 'approachable'.
- Avoid using words in the set-up that are in the punchline.