Be a Comedian

Localize Your Material

Joke references that make the audience think you care.

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It’s important to have material that travels. The technique to localize can help you take jokes or bits and tailor them to different geographical areas and use known people to make them more relatable. It’s very simple and effective. First go through your material and make note of all the references to cities, landmarks, hotels, stores, bars, restaurants or politicians, crime bosses, and so forth. When you get to the club, get the local paper or ask someone at the club for ideas so you can fill these in with regional references. This can really improve the response you’ll receive. Here are several examples, if you have a joke that involves a restaurant, learn the name of a well-known local eatery. Then instead of saying, “I was at this restaurant the other day . . . ,” you can say, “I went to Ho



Handling Hecklers – Part 1

Tips to cure an audience disease.

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Being mercilessly heckled is the third most common fear associated with doing stand-up comedy. Just the prospect of being heckled deters some beginners from getting on stage because they don’t know if they’ll be able to cope with it. But, as with all things, the reality isn’t nearly as frightening as our fantasy. When handling a heckler, your goal is to remain in charge of yourself and your show. Handling hecklers effectively is a skill that is only acquired through a great deal of stage experience. In the meantime, here are some helpful hints to stave off the scourge: Most Hecklers Think They’re Helping Most hecklers are misguided, not malicious. They like you and want to help, so they yell out comments they think make the show funnier. They’re not familiar with concepts



The 10 Problems of Memorizing Words – Part 2

First, read Part 1.

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In my last article, The 10 Problems of Memorizing Words - Part 1, I discussed five of the problems. Here in The 10 Problems of Memorizing Words - Part 2, I’ll explain five more problems associated with memorizing the words of speeches, presentations, or routines. Memorizing Words - Problem 6 Even if speakers remember the words correctly, they still aren’t a very effective means of communicating. The following is the work of University of California at Los Angeles professor Dr. Albert Mehrabian, in the book (Silent Messages published by Wadsworth 1971), and it demonstrates the relative effectiveness of the three ways



The 10 Problems of Memorizing Words – Part 1

Are you using the right mental software?

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Memorizing words of a speech, presentation, or routine is the most common type of rehearsal, and exactly what creates recurring performing problems. I’ve identified 10 problems which are caused by memorizing the words and their consequences. When rehearsal is done by repeating the words over and over, they get encoded in the internal self talk voice. Then in order to recall the words, the speakers must go inside their heads and listen to their self talk say the words before repeating them to the audience. Memorizing Words - Problem 1 Most people do not understand that normal memory is done by recalling pictures, sounds and feelings. For instance, when someone tells a story, they remember what they’ve seen, heard, and felt which gets expressed through body lang



2 Specialty Tips for Writing Jokes

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Writing jokes is the grunt work of being a funny person. Anything that helps make it easier is always useful. Here are two tips for writing jokes: Calendar Day Jokes Writing jokes and bits for all of the important calendar dates such as Christmas, Halloween, Secretary’s Day, Black History Month, etc. is a very helpful tip for building a repertoire of material. For instance, Will Durst, who lives in the Bay Area, can always call on this joke: “In San Francisco, Halloween is redundant.” An Mexican born student, Maria G. Martinez, studied with me for several years, so every Christmas she’s pull out this ditty: “Here in America, you have so many Santa Clauses. But in Mexico we have no Santa Claus - they are all here looking



Comedy Pros Don’t Write Prose

Jokes are meant to be said, not read.

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Comedy Pros Have the Freedom One of the major errors made by beginner joke writers is they have a tendency to write flowery literate dialogue. It may read great, but when it coming out of the mouth of a comic it’s stiff, pretentious, and inauthentic. People in real life just don’t talk that way, unless they’re a Literature professor from Cambridge sporting a tweed jacket and an uneven mustache. To avoid this trap, here are two tips for creating realistic dialogue: Comedy Prose Use Grammatically Incorrect Language People don’t talk like they write, so you should write like they talk. Proper grammar and syntax have nothing to do with making a joke funny. In fact, correctly worded jokes seldom flow as well as jokes written with the f



The Silence of the Bombs

Whoever said “Silence is golden,” wasn’t a comedian.

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Bombing is the number one fear associated with doing stand-up comedy. When your show isn’t getting any laughs, life stops being a movie and you’re thrust into the awareness that you’re really here in front of people. A flush of tingly heat spreads over your face, all you can hear is a deafening roar of silence. Then your internal self-talk starts screaming, “Why am I doing this to myself!” Your mouth feels as if it’s stuffed with cotton, your heart is thumping in your chest, and beads of perspiration snake down your face. You’re experiencing what comedians call flop sweat. If this description is enough to scare you away from wanting to be a comic, quit now because bombing is an inevitable aspect of being a funny person. Accept it and prepare yourself to deal with it resourcefully.



Comic Timing – Discussing the Undiscussable

Follow the followers.

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I’d. . .timing. . .damn. . . I‘d like to. . .timing. . .oops. . . I’d like to discuss a subject that I don’t bel...timing?. . .lieve. . .shit. . . I’d like to discuss an aspect of comedy that I don’t believe can be meaningfully discussed - timing. Like love, happiness, and sushi, comic timing defies analysis. There have been many attempts to define it, but most were futile. Years ago in their book, How to Be a Comedian for Fun and Profit, Harry King and Lee Lauger wrote, “Timing is knowing when to stop speaking in the midst of a routine in order to allow thinking time for the audience to prepare itself for the laugh that is coming up.” Not much of a definition, but it is a great piece of advice. The only thing that’s certain about comic timing is that it’s esse



Be a Comedian – Tip 34: Never Make Fun of Someone’s Laugh

Encourage you lead laugher.

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In my previous blog, Be a Comedian – Tip 33: Stop Using Comic’s Clichés - Part 3, I discussed those overused greeting comic’s clichés comedians use when they don’t think about their reasons for doing what they do on stage. In this blog, Be a Comedian – Tip 34: Never Make Fun of Someone’s Laugh, I’ll explain how not to kill the laughter in the room. Be a Comedian - Tip 34: Never Make Fun of Someone’s Laugh This is an unwritten cardinal rule. When you make fun of someone’s laugh, not only will that person stop laughing, but the rest of the audience will too because they don’t want you to make fun of them. A person develops a loud or unusual laugh to get attention, so he or she often becomes the lead laugher for a crowd. If you squelch that person, you’re likely to stifle the entire audience. You’re on stage to make people laugh, so let them laugh.  The one exception is when the pers



Be a Comedian – Tip 33: Stop Using Comic’s Cliches – Part 3

If another comedian says it...avoid it.

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In my previous blog, Be a Comedian – Tip 32: Stop Using Comic’s Clichés - Part 2, I discussed those overused physical comic’s clichés comedians use when they don’t think about their reasons for doing what they do on stage. In this blog, Be a Comedian – Tip 33: Stop Using Comic’s Clichés - Part 3, I’ll try to persuade you to greet the audience with something other than a question where you don’t care about the answer. Be a Comedian – Tip 33: Stop Using Comic’s Clichés - Part 3 Greeting an audience is a very important part of a show which usually gets delegated to a comic’s cliché, like, “Hi. How you all doing tonight?” Do you really care how they are doing? No, so don’t ask. Comic’s Clichés are all the commonly used phrases comics repeat because they heard other comics use them. Then again, it’s very awkward when a nervous comic runs right to the microphone and goes into his



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