Pete Walker's Stand Up Comedy and Open Mic Tips


Three-fouths of Americans suffer from Glossophobia. "What is Glossophobia, Pete?", I hear you asking. Well, besides being a word that makes me sound intelligemnt, Glossophobia is simply the fear of public speaking. As comedians, we are a special breed because we seek out something other people usually fear: speaking in public -- and without notes even.
Indeed, stand-up comedy is a unique, minimalist art form. With just your voice and, assuming you are not on radio, your body movements you want to make people laugh. As with most skills, it improves with practice and with watching others. But you can also benefit from some basic principles and time-tested concepts, so here goes:

How To

1. Always prepare. People think comedians get onstage and just start talking. This is a tribute to what we do: we make it seem like we are conversing comfortably with a friend. In reality, much work and planning goes into every joke. Ad-lib is a bonus on top of great material. You can also prepare for ad-lib -- out of scope for now.

2. Practice at home with a real microphone and tape yourself if possible.

3. Brevity is comedy. Unless you are telling a shaggy-dog story, which is supposed to be long and pointless, get to the point and the puchline. Remove any unneeded words.

4. Put the punchline last. And the "punch word" should be as close to the end of the punchline as possible. Words with p, b, k, etc. pack more wallop.

5. Smile! Let the audience know you are having a good time. Invite them to join in.

6. Get on with the material. Never, never, never start your open mic set with "How's everyone doing tonight?" This lame cliche tells people that you don't know what you are doing and don't have material. And its boring. Leave it to the host. Instead, you should go right into your material. After all, that's the purpose of open mic: to work out your (new) stuff.

7. Network. Believe it or not, comedy is a group effort. That is why many of us feel you must go to New York, where the comedy scene is vital. I personally love Philly and all of the support that you get here from clubs and a great buch of comedians.

8. Assert yourself. This does not mean aggressiveness, though that works for some. A comedian like Steven Wright, while extremely passive, drives his world view into your head with every joke. Do not be overly concerned with an audience "getting it". As long as your joke has relevance it is valid. They will get it on the way home and you will have made an even greater fan.

Types of Jokes

Disclaimer: My motto is to attack the powerful. Jokes about the homeless, gays, racial or ethnic groups, women ('rape joke' is an oxymoron) or the handicapped can be funny, but I do not believe they have staying power or are a road to success. Besides, there is plenty of material in the antics of our leaders, businessmen, clergy and media.

1. The twist. A surprise, often involves to whom you are speaking. "I tried to get my roomate to pay 1/2 the utilities. Mom wasn't going for it."

2. Face off. Involves a conflict, such as between Kevin Hart and his Family.

3. Fish-out-of-water. In my act, I am a older white man trying to speak slang, for example.

4. The callback. This is when you develop a concept (word or short phrase) early in the routine and then reference it much later. Audiences recognize and appreciate callbacks.

5. Rule of 3. You list three items, the last one does not fit the first two. "I'm looking for a woman who is educated, polite and grows her own pot."

6. The put-down. This may be difficult to master and takes a certain kind of person to do it right -- unless it is self-deprecating. The great Don Rickles is the best example I can think of.

7. Saver. This is used when a joke does not work. "It was funny in my bedroom last night."

8. Metaphore. Metaphore or simile is when you equate 2 dissimilar concepts. "Our romance is like a car. Unfortunately, it's stuck in neutral."

9. Sight Gag. Anything visual, such as trips, falls, acting out, etc. are sight gags. Katt Williams uses sight gags that leverage his diminutive height, such as the white people keeping their kids on a "leash".

9. Props. Some comics use the mic or a chair, others use actual physical props that they carry on stage, such as a puppet. This kind of humor is closely related to the sight gag.