I'm a comedian and have agreed to do an hour and 15 minute show.
I've never done that long before and I'm worried about filling the
time. Any tips on how to make it easier? Also, I have a few props.
When should I use them? - Susan Carroll, Memphis, TN
Here's a few ideas you could do to help you fill some time, Linda.
When you first walk out on stage get the audience to applaud for the
host, the DJ, the band, themselves for coming out, whatever. Get in
a couple of these.
Look around the room and when you first go out find something
complimentary about it to say. If it's decorated nice ask who
decorated it and then say what a beautiful job they did. If the room
looks goofy compare it to some funny image. If it's obviously an ad
lib, even it it doesn't work super well, the audience will usually
admire you for being bold enough to attempt it.
Also, before a few of your jokes, get in some audience surveys and
have them answer with applause. For instance, if you are going to
talk about driving, ask if anyone else there had trouble finding the
place. When someone answers you repeat back to the audience what
they said. That will force both you and the audience to understand
their comment better, kill time and give you a better chance to
think up a response. Don't rush this, and if what they say is funny,
take a few seconds to laugh along with the crowd.
Hold on to your props until the audience is getting tired, and maybe
you're starting to lose them, then pull them out. The props will
grab their attention again. Also, the props are a safety net if you
go blank and start to run out of material. They'll give you a chance
to think and recover about what other material you still have left.
That's why you don't want to exhaust all your props too early. Also,
if you have proven you can talk to the audience first and be funny,
the props come off as an added bonus, not like you can't do stand up
Anytime the opportunity arises talk to the crowd a little bit. Get
the names of the people you talk to and refer back to them by name
later. "You know what I'm trying to say, Linda?" It will personalize
the show and get you a few more laughs as well as kill time.
If you know any really good joke jokes that everybody hasn't already
heard don't be afraid to throw them out in this situation. Audiences
like jokes and you can kill some time with them. If you're talking
to the crowd don't be afraid to throw in a few stock lines, too.
They work and that's why they became stock lines.
Whatever the event is for find out ahead of time and mention that in
a positive way in your act. At the end of the set take a few extra
seconds to thank the crowd. Tell the room the show is all for them
and how nice it is for them to have come out.
Mention to the person opening for you how much time they need to do
and make sure they understand. If they run a little longer you may
be able to do less time and vise versa.
Have an introduction written out on a 3 x 5 card for the host to
bring you up with. Make sure they can pronounce your name and give
yourself some credibility. Check out the mic stand ahead of time and
make sure you know how to comfortably adjust it.
Don't rush your act. When anything happens in the crowd, and in an
hour and 15 minutes something will, just set your material aside and
go with it. After that you can go back to what you were talking
Smile, love the audience and show confidence. Don't be afraid to
laugh at yourself.
Have a card with a word or two to remind you of your key bits. Have
this in your pocket (or on a stool next to your water bottle) just
in case you go blank and need to quickly look to remember what other
material you have. It's best not to use notes but glancing at them
is way better than just standing there with nothing to say.
If you have a CD or DVD, especially of one of your long sets, play
it several days in a row over and over. Do this while you're working
around the house or driving until you get all the material in your
Practice. Obvious, but do it!
Bring your master set list with you and review it beforehand.
Underline and visualize your bits (make real visual pictures of what
you're going to be talking about as if you were telling a friend).
Break a leg!
I have to do a show where the audience isn't expecting a comedian.
Is that a bad idea? - Rob Rubin, Oklahoma City, OK
Answer: Comedy doesn't
work well as a surprise and those can be hard shows. Sometimes you
might be put into that type of situation, though, and there's a few
things you can do to try to help improve it at least a little bit.
Try to get the people who hired you to at least list your act in the
program. At the room entrance have your photo displayed with the
word comedian or comedy. Have someone announce to your audience
before you go on several times that a great (give them some credits,
such as from the Comedy Store) comedian will be coming up in a
little while. In your introduction that you have someone deliver
again include the word comedy and comedian several times. At least
when you go up your audience knows that you're a comedian and they
won't be sitting there waiting for you to sing.
Question: How do you feel
about a comedian doing a private event where people are not
necessarily expecting comedy? Wonder if I should just not do these.
- Jacki Frederick, Honolulu, HI
Answer: When your
audience hasn't paid to hear your show, or they aren't expecting it,
or haven't been looking forward to it, they they can be a much more
difficult crowd. There's some tricks, though, you can use to help
Make sure not to go on until your audience is done eating. If they
are sitting at round banquet tables have the MC who brings you up
ask them to turn their chairs around to face you. Darken the room
and have light on yourself. If you can have a spotlight on you it
makes all the difference in the world! Give the MC a credible,
clearly written out introduction that's easy for them to read on a
note card. When you go up thank the MC for her introduction.
When you start be complimentary to the crowd. Get them to applaud
several times for themselves, for the event, and for the people
before you. You need to win them over in the first 2 minutes. Save
your best material for the end, but also use some of your strongest
jokes, and ones that start off conversational, in the beginning. If
you have a funny comment about the room, the event, or getting
there, use that up front. It shows your audience that you care about
them and are confident.
Make sure there's people seated at the front tables, and if not,
have those tables filled in. The tighter the audience is seated the
better. Make sure there isn't a big gap between you and the first
seats. Arrive early to see if you need to move the seats tighter
together and the audience closer to you. Get some information ahead
of time about a few of the main people in the audience. Personalize
a few jokes about them. This lets the crowd know that it's not just
a canned show but is about them and they will appreciate it more. I
hope this helps, and no matter how hard the situation is, always
have fun with it. It will show in your act.
I'm a new comedian and I wondered if you think stand up comedy is
- Eric Askew, Lake Forest, CA
Sometimes I get really tired of people and want to be home alone by
myself. I mean, I just don't want to see anyone... no one at all.
When I get like that here's what I do. I hang a big banner outside
on the front of my house that says, УFREE COMEDY HERE TONITE!Ф
Seriously, stand up
comedy is not as popular as it was 20 years ago, but people still
love to laugh. There's plenty of work out there, too, especially in
the corporate market. For that, though, you'll need to be
squeaky-clean and know how to perform in a corporate setting.
One of the main reasons
the clubs aren't doing as well lately is, unfortunately, so many of
the comedians always use foul language and they all start to sound
the same. Once customers have heard that a few times many stop
going. If you're clever, clean, funny and original you'll be in high
demand and definitely find lots of work.
Question: I've seen you perform many times at New Wine Church
in Fullerton, CA. Your act is always so funny and each time your
material is new and fresh. I've wondered, though, when you perform
in other places, is you act always so clean? -
Steven Maxwell, Anaheim, CA
Answer: Thank you for the compliments, Steve. Yes, my
material is always squeaky-clean anywhere I go. That's what I find
funny and what I enjoy myself. Being a headliner I'm always
scheduled to go on last. When I perform in a comedy club the acts
before me are sometimes on the foul side but I have no problem
following them because funny is funny. If they ever have to follow
me, oh boy... their language makes them look rather silly and out of
Question: How do you determine what is clean comedy?
- Susan Sullivan, Tampa, FL
Answer: TV clean is different than corporate clean. Corporate
clean should include no use of profanity, drug material, or sex.
Nothing offensive about race, gender, nationality, people's
appearance, or anything that would prevent anyone in the audience
from having a good time. Lastly, anything that comes out of the body
is not funny.
Question: I'm worried I might hire a comedian for our
corporate event and their humor might not be appropriate. In the
past I've been told an act was clean and that didn't turn out to be
the case. What can I do about that? - TK, Newport
Answer: One of the best things to do is ask to see a DVD of
the performer's act. If the video's off color it's a sure bet their
act will be, too. Don't accept a performer who's video is off color
but says he can also work clean. That almost always turns out not to
be the case.
Question: How important is lighting? -
Donald Hanson, Cardiff, CA
Answer: Though a good comedian can work in any situation,
lighting is very important and something in a show that is often
overlooked. The ideal situation is lots of light on the performer so
he stands out and you can see his expressions, and darker in the
audience so they feel comfortable laughing and less inhibited.
Question: I'm nervous because I have to present something to
my company for the first time. Do you have any tips?
- Albert Alton, Gardena, CA
Answer: Be fully prepared which will make you more confident.
Be in the moment and aware of your surroundings. You want to know
the purpose of your speech before you get up there. Who is the
audience you're talking to? What is the relevance to them at this
moment? Instead of focusing on how well you want to do, instead
concentrate on the points you want to get across. Be excited about
what you want to convey rather than what people will think of you.
This will help take some of your nervousness away and allow you to
put more energy into your speech.
You should also practice your speech out loud beforehand visualizing
what you're talking about and your audience. This allows you to be
more familiar with your material and lets you to break out of it if
you need to address something further or answer a question. Always
love your audience, and even when practicing, visualize your
audience in a warm way. Don't be shy on your performance day, rather
don't hold back and let your feelings about what you're delivering
Finally, plan ahead what you're going to be wearing. If a shirt
needs to be taken to the cleaners get that done early. Have your
clothes ready when you need them so you won't be frustrated on the
day of your performance. It's important to dress appropriately for
the event, but also make sure the clothes you choose will be ones
you'll feel comfortable in. You don't want to give a speech in a
pair of shoes that are killing your feet or feeling like you're
underdressed for the occasion.
Question: How am I going to memorize what I am going to say?
- Patti Ericson, Las Vegas, NV
Answer: There are a lot of approaches to this. You can write
out what you're going to say word for word. Then put your notes on a
podium. I would underline, print darker, or make a heading of the
key words. You don't want to bury your head in your notes. You need
to rehearse so you don't need to look at your pages the entire time.
Rehearse several days ahead and review, rather than just try to get
your whole speech in you mind the night before. On the Tonight Show
Jay Leno goes over his next night's monolog as soon as he's
completed his show. He then reviews it again the next day before he
delivers it. You'll retain more this way. Also, arranging your
material in a logical order (with a strong opening and a powerful
end) will help you remember what comes next.
Here's a trick. Make a visual picture of your first point (the
sillier the better). Then connect that picture with a visual picture
of your next point. For instance, if the first point is about a
shovel, picture a shovel. If your next item is about a worker, then
picture a worker holding a shovel. If you're following with
something about a soft drink, then picture the worker drinking a
soft drink. I know this sounds ridiculous but it's easy and it
really works. What were the 3 items? Shovel, worker, soft drink...
Here's another technique. Memorize just one point of your
presentation. Now take a break for ten minutes and do something
entirely different. Then come back and memorize a second point of
your presentation. Take another ten minute break. Come back and
memorize a third thought and so on and on. The US Army uses this
technique to teach soldiers to type (one letter at a time lol). I
know this seems ridiculous but it really works. I use this technique
myself all the time!
Question: How do I deal with the microphone? I don't have
much experience and it seems like it could be tricky.
- Eric Askew, Edmond, OK
Answer: Do not walk up to the mic and say, "Is this thing on?" That
will immediately show you're not comfortable with the mic. Take your
time and do not draw extra time to the microphone. The mic should be
adjusted so it's about five inches from your mouth and doesn't block
your face. If you need to shout or raise your voice move farther
away from the microphone so you don't hurt your audience's ears.
If for some reason the microphone doesn't appear to be on, pull it
out of it's holder and check if the switch on the side has been
slide over to the off position and turn it back to on. Make a point
to use the mic and don't be afraid of it. It gives your voice more
power and lets your audience know you're the one in charge.
Question: How do I inject humor into a corporate speech?
- Kathleen Miner, Torrance, CA
Answer: First off, whatever you do don't use an off color
joke. That would completely turn off your audience. Look for things
in your life that are genuinely funny to you, and thoughts that
you've said in conversation that have made others laugh. Write these
down immediately before you forget them, even if it's on a scrap of
paper or a table napkin. Later transfer them to a comedy notebook
that you need to begin keeping. Always keep a pen with you and
always write your ideas down immediately because you definitely will
forget them if you don't!
Ideas often take a while to evolve. They need to be recorded,
thought about, told to friends, and reworded. They grow and lead to
more thoughts. Writing them down in a notebook begins the process.
As they become refined connect these joke ideas to what you're
talking about in your presentation. Use them to help you make your
points. For instance, if you made a foolish mistake trying to sell a
product, relate that experience to give others a chance to laugh and
avoid the same situation. Always try to personalize your humor
because it will be more interesting if people think it's about you.
Make yourself the underdog in the story. It's way funnier if your
car broke down on the way there than if you arrived in your
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