Comedy is hard. I have been a stand up comic for nearly five years now and I admit the road has been far from easy. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve undertaken in my life. To some, stand-up seems easy enough. Come up with some jokes and use them to make an audience laugh. To others, telling jokes on a stage with a spotlight on you seems like the closest thing to dying. But stand-up is more than just delivering quality jokes or engaging a crowd. Jokes are a critical component, of course, but there are numerous aspects to a quality, comedic performance.
When I first started comedy, I learned very quickly that writing was a critical part of the trade. If I wasn’t writing consistently, my jokes wouldn’t hit. As much much as people think of comedy as a performance, the foundation is in the writing. And it’s not just writing one joke. It’s writing a bit, taking it up, redrafting it, performing, adding to it, trying it again, reworking it until eventually you have something you’re happy with.
When I hear people use the word “grind” I often think of the joke writing process. It’s a grind writing quality material. You have to identify and remove anything surrounding the joke that doesn’t work until eventually you are either left with something or you’ve ground it all up.
Through the process of joke writing, my progression on stage has consistently gotten better. When I first started, I used to fumble my words and my joke structure would be hard to follow. This led me to writing more and making the mistake of memorizing my jokes which, when delivered, came out clunky and cringey. I was like a robot on stage and if we’ve learned anything from Chat GPT, robots aren’t funny.
Watch and Learn
Another thing that helped me early on was watching other comics. Pros, amateurs, even people bombing on stage. I learned what to do, what not to do, and what to never EVER do. However, what began as beneficial quickly became detrimental as I tried modeling my voice around the comics I would listen to. As much as I love Louis CK, Patrice O’Neil, Norm MacDonald, and Dave Chappelle, they are one…