How To Write A 5-Minute Stand-up Set
The 5-minute set for comedians comes with a lot of pressure. Most open mic nights and related shows only allocate five minutes for each comedian and within this time, you're supposed to totally wow your audience and leave them choking in laughter, or you can fail epically. Relax, every great comedian has heard crickets at some point in their careers. It's always a learning opportunity where you get firsthand experience of what you did wrong. Now, for most people, presenting solid jokes what amaze the audience in five minutes doesn't seem plausible, but five minutes is just enough time if you know what you're working with. It all boils down to the material and its delivery. Hence, here is how you can write a 5-minute stand-up set.
Develop your set
This is your material, it is what non-comics call a skit and it is the collection of your jokes starting with the beginning, an intermediary part, and the end. Your set can revolve around several topics, niches, or experiences. The possibilities are limitless. When developing your set, start on a personal note. This is because most five-minute stand-ups usually feature new comics and the audience will want to know something personal about you. It could be anything from your unusual hair color to the size of certain body features. It could be true or false, just personalize it. Also, on a side note, self-deprecation is a much-appreciated element of comedy. So try as much as possible to make fun of yourself while sharing these details. This chunk of self-deprecation could encompass several bits, depending on you.
After this, move on to something else. You can write about what you find funny about the city you're in or the people in that city. Regardless, this should be a new topic and you do not necessarily need to segue between chunks. Develop your material accordingly. For a five-minute set, two to three chunks are ideal as there's limited time. Now, as a tip on developing your material in general you can apply either of the five steps to write stand-up comedy. However, for a five-minute set, connecting the jokes might not be necessary. But try as much as possible to compress them. This way, your audience will still be laughing after the time elapses as you’d been dropping joke after joke in rapid succession.
Work on the delivery
Whether you're an expressive comedian or your style is more introverted, your delivery could either incite or deter laughter. Hence, whatever you need to do from practicing in front of a mirror and people to build confidence or trying Improv, do it. A lot of great comedians consciously put themselves in uncomfortable situations just to build their confidence and this reflects in their performance. In addition to this, you will need to maintain eye contact with your audience while performing gimmicks or acting out the jokes to help submerge them into the reality you’re painting for them. This way, they can picture the event through your body language or gimmicks and find it funnier.
5-minute sets are much shorter and this heightens the pressure. You’re expected to deliver jokes worth quoting to the audience in such a short time and hence you have to be well prepared. However, by applying the steps in comedic writing alongside perfecting your delivery, you will leave the audience howling with laughter by the time you’re done.