Yeah, I kind of did but not very well. I just stuck it to the side a bit rather than getting it completely out of the way.
As for my performance, yeah. I've really been experimenting there, everywhere from being overly animated to sarcastically deadpan. I'm trying to find something most natural to me and I'm confident I'll figure it out in time, yeah.
And I'm learning that I have a TERRIBLE memory. When I revamped my routine and cut a lot of stuff out, I rehearsed over and over again and it burned into my skull, so that was good, but I stopped doing that. I need to start again. I honestly didn't think I'd have to check the notecard this time but unfortunately I did. I tell myself that if I can at least get a laugh when I do it, it's acceptable ("I just don't care enough" or "Like you've never forgotten something important" seem to work.)
I'm constantly improving exponentially and at the same time finding new problems, so it's all very exciting. I honestly think the best way to learn is to just take yourself really seriously and go on stage at every possible opportunity, and you'll figure everything out on the way. Though it's going to take a looooong time, and I've got a looooong way to go.
You have a great personality ASR. I really loved the joke about "To Kill a Mocking Bird" being a "How to manual". Also, the "Biggers" joke was very funny too. Is it me or does the list of Movies (not the list itself - it's a great prop) sort of go on and on a little too long? Maybe just pick out the funniest 6-7 movie titles and then just say something like "I can go on and on" then put the scroll aside and hit them with a different joke. I don't know, maybe it's just me.
ASR: "I honestly didn't think I'd have to check the notecard this time but unfortunately I did. "
Me: I've only been on stage at open mics twice but I read early on that reading off a card is very unprofessional and sort of kills the illusion that you are just standing up there being funny. I have a crappy memory - I'll bet it's worse then yours, but I forced myself to memorize the stuff and if you forget something your audience won't notice anyway. I have 10 minutes of material and they only give me 6 minutes, so I can always forget to tell a few of my jokes and still fill my time slot......seems like I DO magically remember the ones I consider my best.
All in all I like your comedy and think you're better then most.
Thanks for the kind words, it's encouraging. Still waiting on some more bad ones, though. I need an equal balance of praise/criticism to feel good, ha. I like to beat myself up so I actually prefer the tougher constructive criticism.
The movie-porn list WAS really long, it's not just you. It's usually a LOT shorter, but it was my last joke and I figured I might as well stretch it out a little longer tonight since I was having fun. I don't generally do that, instead I just skim through the list (there's about four times as many as I read on there, it's long) and read certain ones I've highlighted. This time I read more than just those ones.
Question: I went to a comedy workshop that came to our campus and we were told that while list jokes are great excercises and useful jokes, but we weren't supposed to use physical lists. Like, just recount from memory. I can and have done that with the movie-porn list, but I really like using it as a prop because I find the unfolding of the list and the length of it to be a joke in itself. I'd like to hear if people think I should use the actual list or just speak it from memory?
I don't know if it matters if you have the physical list memorized or if you pull it out. I can't think of any specific examples but I know I've seen comedians read physical lists on TV.I'd like to hear if people think I should use the actual list or just speak it from memory?
I think this is the first question that should be answered (besides Am I funny?) before getting into stand up. If you are going to do comedy strictly for the audience you are going down a very specific road where I think comedy becomes a job. You might make money at that job but I sure as hell don't want to be doing data entry for the rest of my life just because it pays.One thing especially I need to figure out - Am I doing stand-up for me or for the audience?
I think Patton talked about a quote from Carlin where he said something like, "No one is here for the audience. The audience is here for you and you are there for you." And Steve Martin is a great example of someone who really brought the audience into what HE was doing, not the other way around (and he did stadium-sized shows!). Also, Chris Rock used to say that the reason why black comedy is what it is on BET, etc., is because that's what the black community is given. He is a firm believer in not underestimating your crowd's intelligence. If you give the people something they will respond, as long as you are confident and show some respect.
You have to strike somewhat of a balance - if you are doing blue material and the audience isn't responding AND you have unblue material make the switch. If you want to be known as a Blue comic and the audience isn't responding, I would say just keep going. There's no point in being someone you aren't.
And that leads me to my real advice on this question. If you are constantly performing to audiences that don't get your references or humor or whatever (and not because you aren't funny, but because they are like the Irish audience you talked about) then find that audience. Create that audience.
For instance, if you want to be known as a nerd culture comedian, put on a weekly/monthly show all based around nerd jokes. Book comedians with that type of material. Name the show something nerdy so people get the idea. And keep it going regardless of how many people show up. And don't put up anyone that isn't going to do that type of material. Eventually, you will find an audience that wants to come out because they relate.
We just started a monthly show in my town where it's booked by us, the show only goes 45 minutes to an hour and you can do whatever you want (sketch, video, stand up, etc.). It's not open mic like the rest of the nights in town so we are able to control the quality a bit more (and we don't have to worry about someone going up and alienating the entire audience for the rest of the performers) Then, afterwards, there is open Rock Band on the big screen for the rest of the night. It's BYOB and it's free. We've done one show so far with little promotion and we had a pretty good sized crowd that was very respectful, payed full attention to every comedian and then enjoyed themselves afterward by playing Rock Band or hanging out in the back drinking their own beer. We have the show in an artspace and when the show's over, we bring up the lights and that creates such a good vibe for talking. I've never had more fun doing comedy in my entire life and it's because I created the audience and environment that I wanted for my comedy.
I don't know if that's the way to do it, but I'll tell you this: If I never make it in the biz and don't ever get paid for doing comedy and I'm stuck in Columbus, OH doing data entry for the rest of my life - I don't give a crap, because I'm having so much fun doing what I want - and what other motivation would you have for doing comedy besides making people laugh and having a good time?
I don't know what people's opinions are on this, but I truly think that you should not do comedy unless it's going to be fun all the time (even in bombing). I've found that the only time I have fun is when I'm in my own world on stage just doing the stuff I think is funny. If I bomb, it ends up not affecting my emotional state because I know that I've kept to my standards. Of course, when I bomb, I still assess the situation and figure out how to work my material better, etc. - it's just not a chore anymore trying to get something to work that I don't even care about.
sorry for all of that - oh, and does anyone else have to poop whenever they get nervous? every frickin' open mic night I have to take a dump and that sucks in a bar bathroom...
Opposite for me, I tend to not be able to go to the bathroom. I find that as soon as I'm up there with the mic, all my nerves calm down and I forget I was even nervous a second ago.
That sounds like a sweet thing you have going on, Nathan. I'm jealous.
I sat around for the longest time complaining about the dumbest little things and I kept hearing, over and over again, that instead of complaining I should be putting on my own show. 5 years later and I finally built up the gumption to do it and there are two benefits to it. One - I get to do what I want, and Two - It keeps me actively thinking of videos to shoot or jokes to tell or whatever. That is the best part about having my own show. If I get discouraged for whatever reason I can duck out of open mic one night, but I can't duck out of my own show so it keeps me motivated to keep writing.
Oh, and the moment I hit the stage my nervousness sweats away as well - although my body doesn't know it and my hands can shake a tiny bit (but not always) and I get a supercharged adrenaline boost when I leave the stage which causes me to walk to the back of the room as fast as possible which is weird.
At my own show, I've noticed that when I show a video, I end up walking to the back of the room and keeping my head down. Even if the video is getting big laughs. I don't know what that is - if it's me being so humble that I can't even make eye contact for fear of someone thinking I'm too proud, or if it's some sort of embarrassment held over from my childhood or what. It's not like I sheepishly walk back to the mic or anything once it's over...
Right now I'm part of my university's Stand-Up Comedy Club, and we're constantly trying to set things up and find places to perform. We used to perform at this abysmal bar that constantly bumped and cancelled us, and the crowd was always terrible and never paying attention. We're supposed to be performing tonight, but they cancelled us again.
Recently, though, we've been taking action. Last month we performed a show at an on-campus frat-house, with a party afterwards. It was a lot of fun and we really got to just do whatever.
Last night was the first night we booked a real place on-campus, a lounge called Mugshots near one of the dorms. That's the open-mic my video was taped at. We're gonna' try to get it again next week, and we'd better because it was a good place.
But yeah, you've inspired me: next year I'll be living in an apartment that's pretty roomy, and I'm gonna' at least try to host my own shows there weekly. Every single comic in the club would pounce on that opportunity and it'd be all college kids and tons of fun. I also like the idea of showing videos and sketches... a lot. That'd be fantastic.
Wish I could get started with that now, ha.
Heck, search locally. Mirman did it when he was at college and ran a show and I quote, "There was a man who lived in a halfway house and was very funny but unstable who'd perform. And a man in a potato sack who performed at rallies. You can have a party afterwards. People like to be part of a community."
I'm not sure how far you want to go with it beyond giving you and your fellow stand up neophytes a chance for stage time but if you work the room right, you could get a good crowd and good community going.
Yeah, I never meant it'd be exclusive to the comedy club members. They'd be open-mic nights, though maybe with some quality control... but I can't really see myself denying anyone the chance to participate.
I'll have 3 roommates who may or may not be down with it getting to be TOO big of a thing, though. That'd be my only hindrance, but I'm pretty sure they'd be down with it and most likely help out. I'm just thinking if it's a weekly thing, which I'd like it to be, they might be bothered if it starts getting too crazy.
I'll start small and build it up, because this is definitely a good idea.
Right now, you're a fullback. Just put your head down and drive straight ahead--grind out a couple of yards every time.
So, other comics bumped you--guess what, they're gonna do that. So, audiences thin as the show goes on--guess what, they're gonna do that. So, you might have gotten a few more laughs had you gone up earlier--guess what, it isn't terribly important that you kill at an open mic.
You need to get on stage...a lot. You don't even BEGIN to know all that you need to learn at this point in your comedic development. You're not going to figure it all out in your second open mic...or your second dozenth open mic...and yeah, I'm as surprised as you are that dozenth is actually a word!!!
So, yeah...good that you're noticing all this stuff...and it's all part of the process--but don't get your expectations out of line. The show, at this point, isn't about you...but your participation in the show IS all about you. Eventually, that'll change...but, for right now, just repeat to yourself: SECOND OPEN MIC. Until the next one...then, repeat THIRD OPEN MIC.
And keep doing that until you can't remember what number it is...and that's when it starts to matter.
pg--Embrace the process.--seattle
PS--Both you and ASR should buy a copy of "Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy" by Jay Sankey if you don't own it already. It's not as much of a "how to" as Judy Carter, as much as it is a "What to expect while you're expecting to learn how to become a stand-up" kind of book.
that's why my night is monthly right now - starting small and trying to build a reputation
Granted, the traditional comedy "rules" exist because it's meant to be wisdom passed down from the experiences of those who have come before...but sometimes they're needlessly rigid for the sake of tradition or convention...and alt-comedy has ignored those kind of rules.
Of course, "reading from an actual list" (and it's cousin, "reading from an actual letter") have become so ubiquitous in alt-comedy as to become a self-parodying cliche in itself...even the whole "endless scroll of a list" idea (something I saw Carlin do in the 70's when he expanded his "7-Words" bit) which means that it seems like something alt-comedians would want to avoid. So, caveat emptor.
If you're curious or if you're sensitive about what other comics say/think, maybe you try it when you memorize it and see how it goes. If it works better with a list, then quit worrying about what other people think...
But you DEFINITELY want to trim down the length of the list and build in some rhythm to what remains. People get the concept quickly...so the deadest part of the list was where you included movies like "Boogie Nights" and "Zach & Miri" which would only work at the beginning of the list to explain the concept before moving on to weirder less-common-sensical items. Since they got it...those would be the one's I'd ditch.
One advanced idea you might want to consider is multiple small lists...and don't do them all at once. Have it be a running gag. I hesitate here, because it might be bad advice for me to give you because it's a weird idea to try to pull off when you're really just starting to understand basic stuff...but there MIGHT be a way to do this without resorting to just an endless list...or cutting it down to only three or four...
For the time being, cut the list down. Tighten it up.
pg--And I thought you were going to ditch the whole "Wal-Mart combinations" joke because it was so close to Louis CK's bit? Adding the contest aspect could be seen as giving it some separation, but honestly, I'd cut bait on that one.--seattle
PS--Watch the habit of explaining jokes in asides. It can work as a saver line, but it can also become a crutch...and needless, besides. I laughed more at what *I* was thinking of when you had "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" on your not-porn movie list than what YOU were intending, obviously, because you thought of it as a "poop joke".
PPS--I can't remember if I've offered this tip to you before, but it's a pro-tip regarding your set list. Every comedy show should offer a stool or a chair on stage--if they don't, you make certain that they do...same with demanding straight-mic's, but we're getting off topic here. When you go up to the stage, have a bottle of water with you. Put your notecard on the stool and put your bottle of water over it. When you feel like you've got to check your notes...you take a sip of water and you can surreptitiously take a peek at your set list. Ta-freakin'-da.
And again, there are some traditional comedians who wag their finger at even that sneaky trick and put a lot of emphasis on memorization over the end result of making the audience laugh...which is so pre-alt-comedy, don't you think?
Once again, good stuff from you and I appreciate it all.
Interesting idea about peppering the movie-porn jokes throughout the act. I have a friend who does that with his plethora of "My penis is like _____ because ______" jokes rather than just doing all of them at once. I might try that sometime. (Don't worry, I'm sure I can handle it, haha.) I've already tried memorizing the list and doing it without the physical paper up there, and I personally prefer actually having the prop. Though the peppering idea is another good alternative and I'd memorize it for that.
As for the list itself: I know exactly what you mean and fully agree. When reviewing it later I selected exactly which ones I'm going to continue listing and which ones not to bother with. It's usually a great deal shorter and for whatever reason I just decided to extend it since it was my last joke. More for me testing which ones got laughs then the audience.
I noticed the "explaining jokes" thing and I kicked myself for it later.
I haven't done the Wal-Mart joke in a while and wanted to try it again with my very slight tweaks. It gets more groans than laughs anyway and I've stopped liking it so I'm probably not gonna' bother anymore.
I haven't forgotten the water-drinking trick, but I just haven't had the chance to employ it. The places I perform at don't generally supply stools and/or water, ha. But when they do, hoo boy, I'm ready.
On worrying what other people think: I do it. A lot. It's a part of me, and I'll argue, everyone else. Some less than others, sure. I embrace it and point out the fact that I love being the center of attention and being accepted by everyone, because so few people admit that and I see nothing wrong with it. My point is that I do care what others think and although I don't need to know, I like to. So, yeah.
No stool? No problem!
Write your set list on the back of your hand. Keep looking at it! The goal here is to draw attention. Now roll up your sleeves to reveal ENTIRE BITS written down your arms. This always gets a huge laugh. From me. Nobody else seems to think it's that funny. Then start reading from other body parts. Bend down and take off your shoe and sock. Let the audience see that it's just a normal foot, then slap yourself on the forehead. Take off the other shoe, and show the audience that this foot has another bit written on it. Say, "I bet this bit will be a real stinker! On account of my stinky foot." Then wink at the audience a few times so the entire crowd gets a good winkin' at. Then look down your pants, and keep looking until they escort you off the stage. Or, for future reference, out of your apartment.
Last edited by Barmy Man; March 19, 2009 at 6:45 PM.
Okay, I watched your standup video, and may I say...you owe me 6 1/2 minutes
of my life back!! Seriously, I would've rather sat through a John Stamos film festival!!
I'd rather put on the DVD of "Punky Brewster-Season One" and hit "play all"!!
No, I'm joking.
I watched four of your "Roomhates" videos and was impressed by you and your
friends abilities. I thought they did a great job!!
As far as your "porn movie list" is concerned-yeah, shorten it. And I would add
little blurbs after each title to punch it up a bit. I like to talk so maybe this is why
I'm thinking about addtional material.
You broke the ice young man! Congrats!
Last edited by MJEH; March 19, 2009 at 9:32 PM.
"Except for MJEH. He is an irredeemable fiend who should be locked up!!" - Alex Mac
I find that most new comics tend to over-tag. Not all of them, but I'd say most. You need to think in an either-or sense with regard to the bit -- did they laugh at the main punchline? Because if they did, you've done your job. No need to make the bit overstay its welcome. And if they didn't, the last thing you want is to drag the bit out further. The people are obviously not going for the joke -- move on to the next one. Either way, signs point to a less-is-more approach on tags.
Of course, if the tag really develops the premise rather than just tacking an additional punchline onto the bit, it serves a structural purpose and may be worth keeping. And if it's just an additional punchline, but it's so good you can't bear to part with it -- well, you can make an exception for a really great punchline. (With the caveat that you watch the audience, because if audiences don't think it's a great punchline, it's not a great punchline.) But seriously? If there's a question, the answer is no.
As for "explaining" the bit -- no. Never, never, never. Not only are you dragging the audience forcibly out of the rhythm of the set, completely disrupting your own momentum, but you're basically saying to the audience, "you'd think this was funny if you understood it." And if they understood you, but didn't think it was funny, they're going to hate you. Explaining the bit is the soft version of saying "well, if you didn't like that one, you're stupid."
Same basic concept goes for saying "that joke was new," or commenting mid-set on how you're doing, or any of that extraneous stuff. (Heck, I'd even go so far as to say cut back on transitions.) It just makes you look disorganized and unfocused, and it disrupts the rhythm of the set. You get in there, you do the next joke, you do what you do. Maintain your confidence. It gives you the best chance of winning the crowd back, and even if you fail, you look like a real comic who's having a bad night, as opposed to some guy with no credibility.
Mind you, this is advice for new comics. I'm as aware as you that some comics disregard -- or seem to disregard -- these rules. Andy Kindler, for example, has built his act almost entirely on making asides and breaking character. The difference is, Andy Kindler has been doing comedy for years, and he has an innate sense of where an audience is, and he can work within that. If you're a new comic, you don't have that sense. No matter how funny you are, you don't have that sense. Even if you "break character" deliberately, it's going to come off as slapdash and disrespectful to the audience.
Paul F Tompkins and Jen Kirkman tell stories which are long, and seem to meander at points -- but they don't actually meander. They know what they're doing in terms of what details to include and what to leave out, and they're as capable of precise phrasing as anyone else. There's a difference between a bit which is conversational because that's how the comic writes/talks, and a bit which is carelessly written and contains a lot of extraneous words. (Also remember: there are very few (if any) really good storytelling comics who haven't been performing for at least 5-10 years, if not longer. And while I can't prove this, I suspect most of them started out in a more joke-based style. I'd stop short of saying "if you're new, don't tell stories"; maybe you're the exception. But I would say "stories are difficult, and require skills that generally take a lot of time to learn.")
And so forth. No matter what you do, you're going to build it on two fundamentals -- the ability to write concisely within your comic style, and the ability to capture and hold the attention of the crowd. If you don't have those, get them. If you think you have those, get more of them.
I think James Inman did the weird purchases at WalMart joke too. Maybe that bit is like the Aristocrats Joke - Comedians like to do it.
Does anyone know if the Comedian Darrell Bluett is still around?