Rules of Standup Comedy

I’m writing this while it’s still fresh in my mind. I just got back from a so-so gig. Actually it wasn’t that bad, it was just that one of my new jokes bombed and so even though my staple bits got decent laughs, I felt like I had a horrible set. I committed a couple of rookie mistakes, which I would like to share with you, whether you’re an open miker or a working comedian.

Never open with a new joke. Never! I don’t care if you think the new stuff is killer; rarely does opening with a new bit ever work. I always forget this rule. Tonight, was a painful reminder that new jokes should be treated like newborn babies. You don’t just throw them out in the water and expect them to swim on their own right away. You got to let them grow up first, sandwich them between stronger material, and let them develop stronger punch lines. My mistake was a classic case of over-enthusiasm. The new material drowned and with it, my stage confidence. So I had to fight an uphill battle the whole time.

Second mistake that I committed was going over my time. This is a rule I almost never break. But tonight because of desperation and my ego getting bruised, I went about 5 minutes longer than I should have. I got my big closing laugh at the end but I should’ve been more disciplined and considerate of the other comedians by ending my set when I should’ve, regardless if I ended on a high note or a low one. I don’t like stage hogs and I was one tonight. I will be better about this in the future.

Lastly, I have to remind myself never to beat myself up over one lousy set. A great comedian acknowledges that he didn’t have the best set but will move on and improve in his next performance. That’s why you got to keep hitting the stag and keep working out.

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