Here's an excerpt from the standup comedy show I did with the lovely and talented Katie Rubin at the Sacramento Center for Spiritual Living recently. Enjoy!
Don't forget to check out the earlier posts on becoming a comedian. They're good.
We're getting into some juicy stuff here. I'm holding your hand. You're not alone. I'm not leaving you. You can feel safe and secure in my comedy kangaroo pouch here, and you're protected and I'll be your marsupial comedy mama and all that. You're going to do great. You just have to follow my instructions, or you'll die. Just kidding. Follow them or… don't.
ACTION: So now that you've got the loosey goosey thing down with your material flowing, it's time to listen to that bad boy. Play back your audio and again pick out the good stuff. What made you laugh when you listened to it? Write anything down that seems like good material. Make notes about inflection. Make notes about where you want to expand. And then sit with your material and do some expository writing. We're using all the different parts of the brain to generate material, so sometimes you'll sit and type, and other times you'll hang out with friends. Other times you'll wake up and remember a joke you were telling on stage in a dream. Usually those aren't as funny in real life. I once dreamt I was telling jokes about teddy bears. Upon waking, they were not so hilarious. Sigh.
More on joke writing tomorrow!
Check out the earlier blogs for more secrets…
And let's not fool ourselves. Being a comedian is not so simple as follwing some blog entries and then saying you're a comedian, is it? Well, yes it is. All you have to do is follow the simple diagram. I promise you that with these key ingredients of persistence, seeing cutting edge live comedy, appreciating the masters of standup, and writing your humorous inclinations down, you will become very close to being an actual comedian. Or comedyan, if you want to be politically correct. Just kidding.
The next ingredient is that you begin to write some actual jokes.
ACTION: Sit down with the notes you've taken in your comedy notebook and begin to look critically at what is actually really interesting in there. Pick out a few ideas and talk them out, out loud. Use a voice recorder. You can do it alone or with friends who you feel funny around (in the good way.) Just babble and rant about these topics. Question things, be curious, really drill down and just get silly. Try on some different comedians' voices. Pretend you're Ellen, Conan, Seinfeld. Pretend you're Elvis and do your rant with a honkey tonk accent. The idea is to have fun and get loose and let your ideas flow.
Next: Even more incredible secrets you have to know before you can get on stage.
The first three Parts are discussed ways of interacting with comedy. Now it's time to jump in.
START JOKING AROUND. Keep a notebook with you at all times. During or after you've gone to see live comedy, start letting the jokes wash over you, flow through and around you. Start letting comedy be part of your dialogue with yourself. You should be listening to so much comedy that instead of waking up and hearing that critic voice saying, "Why did you go to bed so late? Why did you drink so much? Why are you so lame and stupid?" you should be hearing a voice that says, "You know what's weird about when you go to bed late? You get pissed off at yourself in the morning. It's like you're two different people living in the same body. I'm my own Odd Couple. 'Shut up Felix. That's not nice, Oscar.'" That's how it should sound in your head from now on. If it's not sounding like that, you're not listening to enough comedy.
ACTION: Start monitoring your thoughts. Write them down. Write anything down that frustrates or annoys you. Write things down you think are funny or incongruent. Write down bits of conversation you overhear or have that make you laugh. Keep a notebook by the bed, in the bathroom, in the car. Write it all down, especially when you think, "I'll remember that one–I don't need to write it down."
Up next: A really juicy comedy secret.
I suggested earlier that you go see live comedy, and now I'm going to suggest the opposite. Go see recorded comedy. Start listening to every bit of comedy you can get your grubby little hands on. Get satellite radio or your uncle's old comedy records or sit down with Youtube and start listening. Getting familiar with the art form and the history of comedy is such an important part of being a comedian. Just as reading Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickenson are integral to becoming depressed, listening to Emo Philips is integral to becoming a comedian.
ACTION: Listen to one comedy album per day or per week. Listen to it three or four times. Pick out your favorite bits and write them down, word for word. Write out where the laughs go and write why each joke is funny, to you or to the audience. Write a tag (an extra punchline) for the joke that wasn't spoken. Listen to comedians you like AND ones you DON'T.
Up next: more really important secrets of comedy.