In my 13 years (and counting) of performing as a stand up comedian, I’ve learned that a lot of the skills I use on stage can carry over to other types of performances besides comedy, namely, public speaking, presentations, hosting, pole dancing, miming, puppetry, gay acapella, and selling yourself to Oprah. But specific to stand up performance, there are 7 simple yet effective techniques that I’ve learned that give me a better chance of having a killer set. Why 7? Well because 13 is too much and it’s bad luck. So here they are:
Commit to the act. If you’re playing a serial killer in your bit, commit to it. Kill the cat. There’s nothing unfunnier than an act out that’s done half-assed.
Like sexual predators, your audience can smell fear. If you can relax onstage, the more your audience will be relaxed. If they see you being comfortable, they will laugh more at your jokes.
3. Slow down or speed up.
Usually in small rooms, you can do rapid fire bits. The audience will easily keep up with you. Bigger rooms (and outdoors) require you to slow down your act a bit and annunciate every word you say. Maybe it’s the acoustics or maybe sound travels slower in a bigger venue.
4. Throw it away.
If a joke doesn’t work, throw it away. What I mean is to just perform the bit real quick that it doesn’t matter, kinda like a throwaway line. You blurt out the punch line then move on to the next joke before it hits them. Some of my weaker jokes become pretty strong when I do them as throwaway lines. It’s strange but true.
5. Don’t care.
Sometimes, it’s just best that you don’t give a damn. You just know that your material is funny and you don’t care if the audience gets it or not. It’s their problem. When you have this attitude, the audience mysteriously feels that they should laugh or it means they’re not in on the joke. Though sometimes this technique can also backfire. So you have to balance this attitude.
6. Acknowledge what’s going on.
If you’re bombing, just acknowledge it and show them that it’s no big deal. Doing this will relieve the tension in the room and allow the laughs to start coming in. If the waitstaff breaks a glass, say something about it. If the venue is a hole-in-the-wall, just say so but don’t expect the owners to be happy about it.
Before the show, visualize yourself killing. Oh, you thought I was going to say imagine your audience naked? That only works if you’re not doing a nudist camp. Athletes do it and it really works.