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The Tricky Tactics of Stand Up Comedy

by Samantha Parrish about a year ago in comedy

The formula to the funny

I’ve explained it before about how I did stand up, and how it was an entertaining, but anxiety ridden world to dive into and there was a lot to learn and it wasn’t easy like people expected to be.

When I did stand up it was exhilarating being able to do something I thought I'd never do.

There were other jokes I wanted to do but I unfortunately had to stick with the algorithm and the protocol of what had happened. I also chose a venue that really didn’t fit the criteria that I was doing which made it a bit hard to write the jokes or gamble on the jokes I wrote beforehand.

I do have some comedic moments, and some people have told me that I can translate easily into stand-up comedy, but it is not an easy transition to make people laugh. Just because you make one person laugh doesn't really equivalently go through, that the same type of joke is gonna make everyone else laugh.

I originally made the video above to have my one last hurrah, to do the jokes I never got to do. After everything I learned in stand-up, I combined all the knowledge I was taught to perfect the routine for this video.

As I made it, something occurred to me, that it could be used as a study for people that want to do stand-up comedy. I'll be using that video to point out certain segues and tips and tricks to write your stand up.

Writing The Jokes

Writing the material is the biggest part which takes it apart from just being comedic no one thinks about writing the material. It’s a key part for the formula to funny.

Write down some topics and go from there. But choose the topics that you feel can be used to your own brand of comedy. Don't talk about something that you crafted to be funny but you don't feel that it's your type of comedy.

  • Talk it out-loud so you know how it will be performed. It's different then thinking it in your head.
  • It helps if you write it over and over again to help memorize your lines or the structure of your jokes.
  • If you have to, bring your script to the stage. I had mine in the video just because I wanted some little reminders of what my structures was. No one would judge you for it because your learning.
  • Put on a timer to see how long your joke went on, some clubs have a time limit.

The Venue

The flow is very hard to figure out how to be funny, but then transferring that formula of your funny to an audience is the real issue. As I’ve said before with the way I talk, it is very comedic, but it doesn’t easily translate into being a comedian. Sometimes quirks don’t necessarily translate to that, and some of that might not be the fault it just could be that it wasn’t the exact type of venue that got the joke. There are some comedy clubs that just have automatic theme of jokes. Some clubs have rules and regulations of what you can and can't do which could defiantly put the pressure on to quickly rewrite the jokes or see if it can hold up to the rest of them. My kind of comedy I did was very tricky to convey to the crowd and it was test to see if it could hold up. When I performed some of my material, there were some light chuckles from the crowd that did like some of my material, but I could tell it needed some work done.

It's tricky to find out which places would be perfect to go with your routine. I opted to go to the same one three times as opposed to trying out different clubs. But if I did try out different clubs, then I can't learn which jokes did well. I could have done the same jokes at different clubs and not know that it just wasn't funny. Going to the same place gave me the constructive criticism and to play around with different styles of jokes. With the same comedians that came by, I got to hear from them how they graded the joke.

Reflective Narrative

It’s almost fitting that the first joke I talk about in the video is about mirrors because if you notice a lot of stuff and comedy is it has to have a reflective narrative. Not so much that it feels repetitive . Because you’re telling a story, you have to make sure that you get your basic parts of your story. Because what you say in the beginning is kind of like an Easter egg, to use that and then tweak it in the end for a play on that joke . So in a way you’re twisting your own narrative to use that joke in a different context that still feels the same in it's identity.

When I said the bit about the mirror saying “you’re out there and I’m in here” and then time it later on with me saying to my mirror “well you’re in there and I’m out here.” I made sure to say it with enough space in between so that way the audience has absorb that joke and will remember it.

The Middle

The big thing that I had to learn was to have a good middle and when I did that video I was very proud of myself. I finally was able to get a good hook in the beginning and then get a good solid job that was pretty funny and translate that into my hardest joke which was the movie joke in still in circuit same transition into the final joke about what it was like to do stand up and having that last joke about when I did stand up was a good climax to have. There has to be a gradual increase to save the best for last.

If you self-depreciation comedy, then how the joke opens to the transition needs to have a comparison to how you opened. The middle could be a simile to continue the self-depreciation bit, adds on to the construction of your joke for the story flow. The middle has to have a good hook.

I view any sort of writing a story a high school essay formula. There has to be a good beginning and a good translation to flow into the next paragraph. Then finally get to a good segue to the middle and then have the final paragraph and then a great final thought that has to be the equivalent of the beginning or a witty call back to the beginning so that people will remember the first joke and I will come as a surprise that it was used as the last joke.

The Acceptance of The Outcome

No matter what jokes you write and what performance you do, there needs to be an acceptance that no matter how the night goes, if it’s gonna be a bad one, it will have to be a bad one if the mojo isn’t there.

My first two times I did stand up was terrible. The first time going up, I wasn’t ready on a mental level from a personal problem that hindered my performance before I was about to go on. The second time was being caught off guard when I wasn’t ready so I had no time to go over my materials and I had a lot of dead silence on the stage. I was struggling to maintain a casual and calm demeanor to deliver my jokes and I forgot half of the dialogue that I was going to do and I was very frustrated. When I was done with the second performance, I literally got off the stage and just crashed into the leather seat because I was so anxious and frustrated and even though people did tell me I did a good job, I knew deep down I really didn’t I knew I did not give it my all.

As much as it’s nice to have a positive prediction as to what might happen the whole outcome is still up in the air about how it’s going to go I did not predict that the first time I did stand it was gonna be hindered by something personal and then the second time was going to be hindered by my lack of preparation. But it’s those experiences to learn from, sometimes you have to have a bad night to get the experience to know what to do the next time whether it be the writing of your jokes or how you have to go about to prepare.

I am a very anxious person and I’m very articulate about how I want to do things. As I’ve said in the past, people told me to do stand up because I'm funny, but they have no idea that I really want it to be good because I’m the one that has to go home and think about the performance I did and I will be ridiculing myself about it.

It’s nice that someone has faith in you to encourage going into comedy, but the other person might not know that it takes a lot to up on stage if there is stage fright. Sometimes it’s not really a natural feel and if you want stand-up comedy to work, it’s gonna take some time. The thing is is that the person telling you to go into stand-up, is not going up on the stage. They don’t really know what you’re feeling especially if you are an anxiety person like me or it’s not easy to just snap your fingers and go and throw caution to the wind.

The Humor Homework

If you can really study a lot of comedians transitions or how they are able to come full circle to their own joke if you watch George Carlin’s segment about losing things that had a great segment about losing stuff that came right back from how he opened the joke to how he ended the jokes.

Study that Segue. As I said before it was hard for me to find a middle transition or a segue to a middle transition.

This is gonna be a really weird piece of advice, but if you watch some of the drag queens on RuPaul’s drag race, look at how some of them perform. I say that because it can also give a sense of comfort that most of them are jumping into something that they’re not familiar with. You can see how they are critiqued so it offers a few main factors of critiques in case you are very worried about the criticisms. Some of the contestants on the drag show do take it to a comfortable extreme to see how they push themselves to perform the jokes. You can see if it paid off for them or not, that way you can use that as your own gauge to know how far you wanna go with the joke; how you can still tweak it and correct it. Also keep in mind that some of the queens may not have been comedians and they have just been comedic and had to find that transition or push themselves to make a performance out of just a couple quips.

One thing to keep in mind is the level of crass. I’ll admit I do enjoy using vulgar language for a joke because there is an odd sense of comfort with using the word fuck or shit in a joke. Strangely it does help remember the joke. But at the same time it is set of restricted words in some comedy clubs that will not allow you to say the F bomb or an S bomb. Unless you can really sell the joke with the word. Sometimes the cuss words can be used as a crutch and there might be a heavy reliance upon there. I have done that myself in the first couple tries I did the video , I did heavily use it to help me remember my routine. But it didn’t help me in the performance because it was a fail-safe when I got nervous.

So upon watching the video now you know where the flow looks like. There’s a certain jab that you want to do you but you don’t know how to execute it. It's hard to know what a joke looks like when it is performed, to think about it is one thing, but to visually see it verbally performed in the narrative is another. If you look at my "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot" joke you can see what a long joke like that looks like so you can see how to go about it to write or perform. You might want to do something along the lines of what I did to stretch it out and put some jabs and quips in there or just keep it minimal.

Everyone has a way of being funny, it just takes time to find out what your kind of funny is.

I ended up finding that I do a variety of self-depreciation humor with minor vulgarity. Your style might be a combination of other different types like mine to have your own brand of comedy.

Personally, what I took from doing stand-up was knowing what it was like to talk in front of a crowd. At some point if I have to stand in front of a crowd to talk about my book. I'm familiarized with it, in a way, stand-up did prepare me for what that would be like. Sure I'll still be nervous but I know how to talk in front of a crowd, to be calm and casual.

I hope my little list of my insights and experiences has helped the doubt or anxiety you have about wanting to do stand-up.

Not many comedians really explain the the process of writing jokes or thinking of the aftermath, most just say, "Go do it, get up on stage" without explaining the before or after, which I feel is the most important parts that could help a comedian.

Brainstorm, find your funny, oh and the most important part-

Have fun! Your being funny, you should have fun with being funny.


Samantha Parrish

I'm here to teach you something new or expand your mind in a neutral aspect.

Instagram: parrishpassages

tiktok: themysticalspacewitch

Oh and I wrote a book called, Inglorious Ink, now available on Amazon

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