Stand up comedy course: Week 3

Tonight was the third stand up class. Just four more to go untill the graduation show case, and just seventeen days until the stand up night at my Toastmasters club.

I talked about my experiences in the first class here, but I have decided not to write up the rest of the classes as they take a hands-on-approach rather than being very theory based. We’re mainly writing and honing our jokes and I don’t really want to ruin the surprise by posting them before they’re finished.

I’ve been very busy trying to put some material together. This mainly consists of sitting in Starbucks with a pad of paper brainstorming, then typing anything that I find funny into Google docs, then I make little additions and modifications as they occur to me.

Tonight was the first time I performed my jokes in front of my three other class mates.

The last hour of the each session is reserved for work-shopping jokes. Each student performs their new material on stage. They get their most important feedback from the audience’s laughter (or silence). Afterwards everyone is given the opportunity to provide further feedback, usually ideas to enhance or extend the joke.

Everyone else in my class has performed before. They’re all returning students taking the course for the second or third time. They’re all comfortable on stage and plowed through their new material without notes. It was a bit intimidating.

I hadn’t memorised my jokes/routines so I had to read mine off a piece of A4. I had printed everything in minute writing, so I didn’t get much of a chance to look at the audience. I got through them as quickly as I could. I delivered each joke desperately hoping that someone would laugh. Some of them hit. There is a little pause between delivering the punch and people laughing. That pause is excruciatingly awful, but when the laughter eventually came I felt fantastic. I had several jokes fall flat, but my classmates made a few suggestions to make them funnier, and I’ll just cut the ones that have no hope.

The ability to get imediate feedback is fantastic. And listening to other people’s jokes puts you in the right frame of mind for spotting underlying assumptions and subverting them. I asked our instructor send out everybody’s emails so we can get together on facebook. I’d like to do more group writing.

Most of the jokes I have written have turned out much more dirty than I originally intended. I don’t mind having mildly offensive material. But my inclination towards shock value was unexpected (especially as I need some clean material for the Toastmasters stand up show). Most jokes are about subverting expectations. An easy way to do this is to take an inocuous setup and swing the punchline in the direction of sex or another taboo subject. I mentioned this to my instructor who responded “you’re in the right place my friend”. It seems everyone in the class has a slightly dirty mind.

Joke writing is an interesting process. You can start off with an idea, work on it for a while and end up with a joke that has nothing to do with the original idea. I have a joke about Sarah Palin that started off as a joke about acupuncture. I have a joke about Hooters started off as a joke about peodophilia in the Catholic church (see I told you). Every joke is like a fiendish brainteaser that you can spend hours trying to solve.

I’ve got enough feedback to start removing the duds and honing what’s left. I’m going to put order them into a set and add segues and hopefully memorise it in time for next week’s lesson.

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