The road to becoming a stand-up comic is a winding and varied path, and may begin at any point in life. Whether you’ve always had a flair for story telling, long for a career change, or simply want to perform in public, doing stand-up can be a learning experience, hobby, or even successful job. While there are many ways to get your start as a stand-up comic, consider trying some of the following strategies.
Study successful and unsuccessful comedians. By visiting your local comedy club or watching a reality show such as Last Comic Standing you will see plenty of good and bad comedians. Learning what mistakes to avoid can be as important or more important than learning how to be funny onstage. Pay close attention to comedians who get a bad response from the crowd: are they resorting to clichés, not articulating their words or connecting with the audience? Doing your research can save you considerable embarrassment, and prevent you from making common beginners mistakes.
Consider taking acting or improvisational classes. While stand-up comics are not technically actors, you will learn how to read an audience and to react quickly. That way, when you are actually performing, you will be able to tell what resonates with your audience and what is falling flat. Improvisational training will teach you to not panic if you suddenly have to change your act without any preparation.
To build your stand up act, remember that connecting to your audience is a huge part of being successful. Telling stories that people can relate to and expressing frustrations that we all have will make people care about who you are and what you have to say. The trick to being a good stand-up comic is putting an individual spin on it that makes people laugh.
Once you have your act, rehearse it for people whose objectivity you can depend on. Do not bother showing it to friends or family who will tell you they love it no matter what. Chances are, if you can really make them laugh, you’re on the road to success. If they seem to be faking it or don’t laugh at all, go back to the drawing board.
If you feel confident in your act, test it out at a local open mic night. These are held at many comedy clubs bars, and coffee shops and usually welcome a variety of acts, from music to poetry to stand-up. While they may not be your ticket to fame and fortune, they can provide the most valuable feedback: honest reactions from people who do not know you at all. Pay very close attention to what they laugh at and what they don’t get. Always be open to making yourself a better stand-up comic.
Many comedy clubs will hold auditions throughout the year, or even new-talent competitions. Even if you know you don’t have the experience to perform on a big stage yet, auditioning can get you valuable feedback, advice, and mentorship. Go into auditions with self-confidence and no ego, remember that every bit of criticism can make you better in some way.
As with any creative or performance art, comedy is about doing what you love and being who you want to be. Making an honest, truthful act will often be more genuine, rewarding and funny than doing jokes you think will sound good. If you are brave enough to get up on stage and perform in front of people, you are definitely brave enough to make your performance honestly funny, at least in your opinion. While not every stand-up comic will be wildly successful, with training and practice you can certainly be on your way to making people laugh and having a great time doing it.