Stand up comedy course: Week 1

I have signed up to an eight week stand up comedy course at the Mad House comedy club in San Diego. We will meet once a week for seven weeks to write and rehearse our routines, then on the eighth week we will perform at a real comedy club. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, mainly after seeing my university buddy Tom Elliott explode onto the London open-mic scene in 2009.

I intend to document my progress on this blog, and I may even post a video of my performance… if people laugh.

The first meeting was Monday night. Our instructor, Joe Charles, is working stand up comedian with ten years experience. He’s a funny guy and was nice enough to give me a lift home afterwards (not being able to drive in San Diego is a pain in the ass). Check out this clip of him:

(Click here to see this 1:02 video on YouTube)

Fear of Public Speaking

The class kicked off with introductions from the the teacher and students. Everyone in the group has some speaking/performance experience. Joe stated that this would be helpful as public speaking is a common fear, which we had all taken steps to overcome. He described how most people’s desire not to stick out from the crowd is an evolutionary trait: if you stay in the middle of the pack, you remain safe while the old and the weak get picked off by predators. Today it is those who regularly step outside their comfort zones who are successful.

No Secrets

2% of stand up comedy is about being funny. The rest is networking and taking years to hone your skills. There are no secrets, only hard work.

Your Character

You stage persona will probably be an invented character or an exaggerated version of yourself. Joe describe his persona as “me at a higher decibel” i.e. true stories, true feelings and true vulnerabilities, but exaggerated and embellished for comic effect.

The Rules

Joe’s three rules for stand up comedy:

  1. Don’t steal material
  2. Don’t run the light – If you go over time there’s less time for the other comics.
  3. Over tip the wait staff – Staff can influence the management of the club. If a last minute slot becomes available a waitress may be able to sway things your way, so it’s good to have them on your side.

Shopping List

  • Voice recorder – To review performances. What was that funny improvised line? Did things really go as badly as you remember?
  • Index Cards – For organising routines
  • Book: Step by Step to Stand-up comedy by Greg Dean (amazon US UK)
  • Pocket notepad and pen - Carry a notepad and pen everywhere. Jot down your ideas, otherwise they will vanish forever.

And Finally

Joe made lots of interesting points about stage use, mic technique and writing. I’m looking forward to discussing these topics in more detail as I gain more experience.

Our homework for next week’s class it to create four lists containing our top ten  loves, hates, fears and embarrassments, then explore five of these items with a detailed mind map. Tune in next week to see how I got on.

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 9, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I totally love yopur blog. Well laid out and really good to read.
    I am new to the world of blogging, but really enjoyed this.

    I run a London comedy club and would love to link to this at and would love it if you took
    a peek at my blog there. If you find it half as good
    as I did your I would be really pleased.

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