How to Be a Comedian – The Most Common Mistakes New Comedians Make On Stage

How to Be a Comedian Part 6 – Common New Comedian Mistakes

This How to Be a Comedian Series summarize the free stand-up comedy guide available on this site. For those looking for a more in-depth program, sign up with your name and email in the box to the right. This will allow you to both download the entire How to Be a Comedian Series as well as give you access to the first hour of our stand-up comedy course.

Here’s a link for those that need to go back to the first article in this series: How to Be a Comedian Part 1. The last performance article addressed preparing for a stand-up comedy performance. This article will deal with the the actual performance.

How to Be a Comedian: The Most Common Mistakes New Comedians Make On Stage

Let’s go over just a few “new comedian mistakes” that you should watch out for in your performances. The less of these mistakes you make on stage the better. But don’t think you have to have a flawless performance your very first time. Just know that these mistakes exist and you’ll be much less likely to have them (and much MUCH more likely to find them in your set and fix them after your first couple performances).

Don’t Try to Memorize Every Word

In my experience, this is the most common mistake new public speakers make. This is the easiest way to lose your place in a set. The first distraction you get you’ll completely lose your train of thought. Instead, remember your main points and have them on your set list to remind you. On it should be 1-3 words per line that will spark the next idea in your head. At that point you should be able to start your next bit. Carrying a set list with you is highly recommended for people just learning how to be a comedian. It will free you from (some) of the worry you’ll have on stage if stage fright is a concern for you.

If you lose yourself again, take another look at the next line and continue. Audiences will forgive you for taking a look at your set list (especially if you’re still learning how to be a comedian). What’s important is that you show confidence the entire time. When you look at your set list, do so casually. If you look comfortable the audience will be comfortable. Don’t make a leaping grab for your set list because it tips the audience off that you are out of control, which makes them feel uncomfortable. Don’t worry about if you’re going to remember the next joke or not. This worrying is what WILL make you forget it. Stay in the moment.

Don’t Play With the Mic Cord

You might to be nervous, especially if you have limited stage experience or haven’t worked with a microphone before. But you don’t have to show it by twiddling the mic cord in your hand. The audience’s attention will be on the mic cord, not you… If you have access to a mic and mic cord (or a banana and string… whatever), practice your set while you’re holding it. Hold it until it starts feeling natural in your hands. As you learn how to be a comedian over time you’ll get use to the microphone and the cord until you no longer even realize it’s there.

Don’t Jump Straight Into Material

It’s beneficial to have your first line be something other than your first joke. Give the audience a second to finish doing whatever they were doing between comedians. Maybe they want to comment on the last comedian or figure out what they want to order. If you jump straight into material, part of the audience is going to miss your setup. If they miss the setup they’ll probably miss the entire joke. The last thing you want is to come out with your best joke and have only 60% of the audience hear it. But don’t fill this time with silence because you’ll find the audience will keep talking to each other. That’s why so many comedians start off with “How you guys doing?” or a line like that. It doesn’t really MEAN anything. It just grabs their attention in the beginning. Just like with the microphone and mic cord, as you learn how to be a comedian you’ll eventually get use to opening up your show in a more natural, conversational way.

Hold The Mic To Your Mouth

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But you wouldn’t believe how many new comedians completely forget about this. They’ll hold the mic chest level like it’s a beer. Oftentimes the comedian won’t even make an adjustment until and audience member screams “We can’t hear you!” The audience is VERY FORGIVING of this. All they want to do is hear. After the first 2 lines with the mic down they knew you were still in the early stages of learning how to be a comedian anyways. They are ready to be supportive.

Speak To The Entire Audience

Many new comedians stare straight forward while doing their set. It’s very easy to forget about the audience members who are sitting to the side of the stage instead of directly in front of you. Don’t leave them out of the show. Make sure you turn your head to address both the audience members on the far-left and far-right side of the room. This will help keep them involved in the show instead of feeling like their on the outside looking in.

If you find yourself making any of these mistakes, don’t worry. The audience absolutely LOVES new comedians. They understand that you’re still learning how to be a comedian. You instantly have their respect just for trying it out. Don’t be afraid to let them know this is your first time on stage. The audience will quickly dismiss these trivial errors. These common mistakes will not make or break a set. They are all cumulative. If you do one it’s no big deal. Two, the audience might think you’re new. The more of these mistakes you make the worse off you’ll be. So remember them, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right every time. One day this will all seem completely natural.

How to Be a Comedian Courses

Our stand-up comedy courses go in-depth on these skills (which we only briefly covered here) as well as introduces you to many more key concepts to writing comedy, performing, and comedian marketing. We offer the Faster & Funnier Stand-Up Comedy Course, a Creativity For Comedians Course, Comedy Coaching, and package deals that suit your needs and will teach you how to be a comedian that can destroy on stage in the shortest time possible.


Jared Volle