It’s easy to make someone cry. Or at the very least, make them feel sad. Drama is relatively objective, meaning that we all tend to think the same things are sad. That being said, it’s really hard to make someone laugh.
In contrast to drama, comedy is highly subjective. It’s much harder to make people laugh, but if the universe aligns just perfectly in your direction, you could make a whole room laugh. At the same rate, you could tell the same joke with a different group of people and get nothing. That’s just how it goes.
Given its subjective nature, why would anyone want to perform comedy? You have to get up on stage with a daunting crowd looming back at you, hoping that at least one person will find something you have to say funny. Honestly? I could not tell you.
I’ve always loved making people laugh and have always loved attention (an annoying quality in real life, but a great quality in comedy), but I never thought about doing stand-up comedy, that is, before I got to college. I don’t even remember making a conscious decision of whether or not to do it. Before I knew it, I was on stage. And people were laughing!
When we’re recruiting at club fairs for people to join our campus’ comedy community, the number one response we get from people is “but I’m not funny.” That’s a complete lie.
If you find yourself saying this, the last thing you want to hear is: “We’re all funny in our own unique, special ways!” But let’s be real, I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. That’s why I think you — yes, you — should try stand-up comedy at least once in your life. Not convinced? Here are some lesser known benefits:
1. You’ll Better Your Public Speaking Skills
Stand-up comedy is, in most cases, extremely laid back. When you remove that paralyzing fear of no one laughing, you’ll soon realize that standup is just like telling a story to a group of friends.
This informal way of speaking gets you comfortable in front of a crowd so when it’s time to do bigger, formal or professional presentations, it’ll be an absolute breeze.
2. Your Confidence Will Grow
Similar to your public speaking skills, your self-confidence will grow 10 sizes after performing stand-up comedy.
You just did something that so many people think is impossible! What else can you do? Anything, probably! You’re unstoppable.
3. It’s a Great Creative Outlet
As a kid, I was really into theater, but was ready to give it up by the time I got to college. When I did, I missed that feeling of performing in front of an audience.
Because I also love writing, stand-up comedy is the perfect blend for me. I can enjoy the performative aspect and can enhance my creative skills by writing the material I perform. It’s a great option for actors or writers who are looking to take their repertoire to the next level.
4. It Will Change Your Worldview
Most of the time, standup will be self-deprecating. Most comedians you hear will talk about the misfortune they had on the subway, or something they find annoying about themselves or other people. There doesn’t seem to be much positivity in the realm of standup.
Despite this, you’ll start to use comedy as your silver lining. Every time something less than stellar happens, my first reaction is to ask, “Alright, how can I make this funny?” Standup allows you to see the humor in everyday occurrences and therefore, dwell less on the negatives.
5. You’ll Make Funny New Friends
At the very least, you’ll meet a ton of other people who share the same interest of making people laugh. And who doesn’t want funny friends?
Sold yet? Great. Here are some tips for anyone looking to get started (which, as the title suggests, should be everyone).
Watch as Much Standup as You Can
Trying to perform stand-up comedy without ever watching it would be like trying to write a book without ever reading, or trying to produce a movie without ever seeing a film. Netflix has a diverse collection of stand-up specials and can be a great place to start. Some of my favorites are Iliza Shlesinger, John Mulaney, Demetri Martin and Donald Glover.
Keep in mind that comedians with televised specials are seasoned professionals who have spent years and years practicing comedy. If you’re a beginner, don’t be intimidated or discouraged. Everyone starts somewhere, even the best of the best. For that reason, I also recommend taking to YouTube and watching the sets of amateur and up-and-coming comedians as well.
Start With a Story
Unless you have pages of one-liners tucked away, one of the best ways to start writing a stand-up set is to start with a story. It can be something as simple and seemingly uneventful as going to a concert.
Whose concert was it? Who did you go with? What did you observe about the other people there? Fill in the blanks and the jokes will begin to write themselves. And remember, in stand-up comedy, you CAN stretch the truth. In fact, you SHOULD.
Don’t Steal Jokes
It’s just not cool. Even if you can’t remember where you heard it or a friend told you, just leave it out.
Don’t Try to Memorize
Plenty of comedians starting out with having their script, some notes or their iPhone to help them on stage. Your main priority is your overall performance. Don’t worry too much about memorizing your set.
You Can’t Please Everyone
Some people will find you hilarious, while others will not. That’s just how it is. No two people will have the same sense of humor. When performing, just focus on making just one person laugh and see where you can go from there!
If stand-up comedy this is something you really want to do, work has to be put in but I promise it will be worth it!