How to Be a Comedian
In this article, you’re going to be introduced to many concepts on how to be a comedian. Sign up for our newsletter to get the entire unabridged copy of Comedian Quick-Start Guide in a downloadable PDF.
Introduction to the How to Be a Comedian Series
This How to Be a Comedian Series is going to give you a quick step-by-step process for how to be a comedian. Since stand-up comedy is an art-form, learning how to be a comedian isn’t so much a destination as a continual process. The greatest comedians are continually pushing boundaries, learning new skills, trying out new ideas, etc.
My Own Journey: Learning How to Be a Comedian
As a long-time stand-up comedy teacher, my own journey of learning how to be a comedian has taken me through plenty of stand-up comedy how-to books, comedian biographies, comedy seminars, and comedy workshops. Eventually, ran out of comedy coaches and teachers and began pioneering my own path for how to be a comedian by studying psychology, creativity, and other subjects that I could apply to becoming a successful comedian. Eventually, I got my Master’s in Creativity and Innovation from Drexel University. Many of these principles have since made it into our stand-up comedy courses.
Where Many Aspiring Comedians Fail When Learning How to Be a Comedian
One of the greatest problems with learning how to be a comedian is that new and aspiring comedians want to treat stand-up comedy as separate from everyday life. I’m here to tell you that stand-up comedy isn’t a job… it’s a lifestyle (and a fun, rewarding one at that). Meet any veteran stand-up comedian and they’d agree. The best ideas very rarely come when you’re sitting at your computer. The best material comes from everyday life. So while you’re learning how to be a comedian, place plenty of emphasis on aligning your goals in comedy with your everyday life. When they align, it becomes much easier to perform the actions that you need to take while learning how to be a comedian.
Be Your Natural Self
I’ve always been a supporter of being your natural self on stage. The more natural you are on stage the more the audience is able to identify with you. Alternatively, the more unnatural you are on stage the more the audience dis-identifies with you, seeing you as just a “talking head.” Creating a bond with the audience is one of your first goals when you hit the stage. That’s just one of the many reasons why we want to align ourselves when we’re learning how to be a comedian. Imagine going to your friend’s house and thinking “If I tell a joke today, it can only be an observational joke.” That’s severely limiting. You would never do this because you’d want the flexibility to make any type of joke that happens to come up in the moment. It’s the same way on stage. You’ll have plenty of topics you CAN talk about, but that doesn’t mean that’s all you’re going to say on stage.
That said, when you’re just learning how to be a comedian you’re not going to have much choice but to talk about the limited number of subjects that you’ve written. Unless you feel comfortable improvising on stage, you’re going to be limited at first.
The Problem With Unnatural Behavior When Writing Comedy
Whenever we limit ourselves to using one (or even a few tactics) we will always come off unnaturally. Imagine how difficult it would be to come up with a funny joke in the hypothetical scenario above. Even if you do find an opening for an observational joke, do you really believe you could come up with just as funny of a joke while you’re limiting yourself? Even if you got an opening for an observational joke, the mere fact that you first have to check it against what type of joke you “think” you should be doing is going to make it suffer. You already intuitively understand this. But when people learn how to be a comedian they often forget the natural sense of humor that got them to aspire to learn how to be a comedian in the first place.
However, if you were just being your natural self you’d be far more likely to come up with a great joke or retort in ANY situation. Not only would it come out more natural, but you’d be able to come up with it much easier as well.
A Hypothetical Situation
Take another hypothetical. Image your sitting across the table from a friend and one of two things happen. Either…
1) You are having a natural conversation.
2) He abruptly says “Tell me a joke. You have 3 seconds.”
In which circumstance are you the most likely to make your friend laugh? When it’s a natural part of your conversation or when it’s an awkward moment where you’re on the spot? Learning how to be a comedian is much faster when you incorporate your natural sense of humor. I’m betting it’d be very easy for you to insert a funny line into a natural conversation with a friend and get a laugh than it would be for you to come up with a joke out of thin air unnaturally.
Being Your Naturally Funny Self
I’ve never met a comedian, new or otherwise, who got into stand-up comedy because they were NOT funny (big surprise, right?). If you’re reading this, I’m willing to bet that you have a good sense of humor that’s served you well in the past. That’s why you want to learn how to be a comedian in the first place. So why not trust that sense of humor by allowing it to naturally come out? When you’re being your natural self, great things happen. You’ll no longer be fighting with yourself while writing comedy or performing. If you’re constantly fighting to write or perform then that’s a clear sign that you’re in your own way… you’re not being your natural self. When you are, both writing comedy and performing become fun. You no longer have to fight to do it.