How To Write Stand-up Comedy in 5 easy Steps
So you want to be the next Jerry Seinfeld or Kevin Hart but you don't know where to start. Well, you could begin by getting a pen and paper, a lot of it because the work begins. Comedic writing in stand-up is no joke and it requires a lot of commitment. Firstly, in stand-up with a live audience, you can't tell what might happen, live audiences can be unpredictable. Yes, you may have written the jokes and recited it to yourself in the mirror and a few people and maybe they laughed, but with a live audience, it could go either way. While the ideas for a set might come easy to you, finetuning them into tears-spilling jokes that incite an uproar of laughter requires a certain je ne sais quoi which not many writers possess. However, like most things, comedic writing can be taught. Here is how you can write stand-up comedy in 5 easy steps.
1. Watch the greats
Some people might be naturally funny, while others have mastered the techniques of being funny. Amongst the latter are great names in the comedy business and they all have their perspectives and styles of comedic writing as well as its delivery. By studying the past and present works of these icons, you can learn a thing or two about the trade. Also, do not limit yourself to the millionaire comedians, go to a comedy club or a live show to study the different acts on stage. Take note of their pitfalls as well as their comedic trajectories as a whole. Who knows, you might find an element you like enough to structure your writing around.
2. Gather material
Comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart, Chris Rock, or even Dave Chapelle always find a way to make an overlooked topic funny. Your material could be anything from Trump leaving the White House to popular family feuds. As long as it doesn’t include overly offensive topics and pieces, you should assemble all the topics you can in multiple niches and backgrounds too. Once you have enough material, you will need to compress them.
3. Compress the jokes
In stand-up comedy, it is a known secret technique that the closer the jokes are to each other, the bigger the laughs you will get. This is called compression and a lot of the big comics use it. The goal of compression is to trigger a laughter roll where the audience doesn’t have time to stop laughing as you keep hitting them with joke after joke, quickly too. Once this happens, each joke hits harder than the last and the audience becomes loose and more vulnerable to laugh at the next joke. To achieve this, your finetuning skills will be needed. You will need to analyze your developed material and figure out how you can compress multiple jokes without running out of jokes.
4. Connect the jokes
Multiple comics use this technique. It's all about mentioning a funny detail within a joke at the beginning of the session and then circling back to it at the end. Kevin Hart and Dave Chapelle mostly use this technique and the laughter is always resounding. By assembling your jokes you can connect them. This way, it seems like you're not just spewing random jokes from unrelated events but focused and centered. This technique also incites the element of surprise as your readers/audience might not be expecting you to come back to that detail and once you do, it will all make sense to them, and surprised, laughter will emerge.
5. Practice practice practice
Whether you're writing the comedic piece for someone else or yourself, you will need to practice because, with comedy, delivery is everything. Study your material appropriately, memorize it, pace yourself and apply the necessary emotions and facial expressions needed for each joke. Hence work on your delivery, then test out your jokes. This should not only be done in front of a mirror but also a small to medium group of people to build your confidence. Don’t be shy to ask for feedback after and then improve upon the grey areas.
The result of a great comedic script for stand-up is always laughter, lots of it. However, getting to this point might be anything but funny. There's a lot of research, commitment, and hard work that goes into the jokes that stick. However, some techniques serve as guidelines from which your comedic script can be developed. All it takes is watching, learning, gathering your material, fine-tuning it, and a whole lot of practice. You've got this!