Have you considered taking a stand-up comedy class? Stand-up comedy is more popular than ever and so are stand-up comedy classes. I’ve learned quite a bit from spending over $1000 on a stand-up comedy class. I have read many books on the subject, performed for over a year, and have had the privilege of speaking at length with some of the legends of comedy writing.
I’m not here to cut down people who provide comedy classes, or tell you they’re all the same. I’m here to give you a broad overview of stand-up comedy classes and what you can expect, without spending money on something you don’t want. Instead, I want you to have fun learning this great art form. I believe all great comedies are funny at first, but need direction to be the best. The right class can help you with this. Comedians are not born, they are made.
Can’t I learn it from a book?
On other subjects I understand where you’re coming from, but not in standup comedy, performing arts, and you need hands-on instruction. Writing jokes can be taught from a book, that’s right, grab a copy of Gene Perret’s Step-by-Step Comedy Writing or Jerry Corley’s DNA Breaking Comedy if you don’t believe it.
Writing comedy is necessary for every true comedian, unless you’re paying for a writer, but that’s not the main reason you’re taking standup comedy classes. Choosing to take a standup comedy class means that you want to participate in the performing arts, you want instant gratification from the laughter of the audience, and you want to be the star.
Things you can learn from a (good) standup comedy class: structure, stage manners, and networking with other comics. Standup comedy can be taught, but you have to do it.
It’s All Theory
Some forms of comedy such as sitcom writing and screenwriting are done in almost the same structure every time, stand-up comedy is not. Stand-up comedy is experimental, fun, and most importantly, it’s new (except comedians who repeat jokes for decades).
Before Steve Martin became a superstar, no one did comedy like him. Comedy is a one-liner series, and most comedians seem the same because there is nothing different about them. Steve Martin was one of the first comedians to create an anti-comedy, building anticipation for a punch line in such a way that it forced the audience to laugh. There are many examples of comedians bucking the trend.
To name a few there are Andrew Dice Clay, George Carlin, Stephen Wright, Richard Pryor, and Zach Galifinakis. You know and I both know these comedians rose to the top because they were consistent and original. Not everything the comedy gurus say is legal. Few or no successful teachers will always ask you to follow their formula for producing material. Remember #1, This is all theory even if it makes people laugh most of the time.
I love Steve Martin; He is one of my all-time favorites, and I can’t wait to meet him one day. Be Steve Martin, try new things, even if you fail you will learn what works and what doesn’t.
Learn Proven Methods
Even if you want to become one of the original comedians I mentioned above, you need to know what everyone is using to produce material today. #2 learning what is currently working can still work for you, or at least you know where to start. Many successful comedians are actually just a combination of learned skills, mixed in unique ways. Successful comedians take classes, some even become stars, but they all know what people make when they start out.
Learn everything you can, read comedy books, and start writing NOW. I don’t care if it sucks, writing is a process, it makes you better the more you write. Hear every comedian talk about his early days, they all have one thing in common, their jokes suck. your joke will be.
#3 Comedy classes can be taught by anyone, so be careful. Many people who do not know what success in comedy is, teach comedy classes. I don’t know everything about comedy, but then again you’re not paying me. When a teacher expects you to pay him $350 for a class, he must at least be an expert in the subject. Here are some investigative things you should do to determine the credentials of a stand-up comedy class teacher:
· View the teacher’s website.
· Does he give compliments on his behalf?
· Does he have their own professional standup video? Are they even that cute? This is important. How can they teach you to be funny in your own way, if not.
· No online videos is not a good sign. Stay away from these teachers.
· Do they teach at top comedy clubs, such as Improv or The Gotham? This is a sign that they have at least a moderate reputation. That’s good.
· Search the internet for reviews about teachers. Chances are if he’s bad, someone is angry enough to lose $350 because they wrote something bad and informative for you to read.
· Ask some local comedians if they take the class. If they like it, chances are you will. It is important to ask some comics, teacher friends will always say he is good.
I learned about an amazing comedy teacher in Dallas, TX named Dean Lewis by word of mouth. This is a very powerful form of customer review and is still effective. I always believe word of mouth over online reviews, because word of mouth is usually genuine.
If you’re in Dallas, Dean Lewis is at deanlewiscomedy.com. He is an excellent choice to start your comedy career and he has the credit. Dean is funny, a great teacher, and he is a very sincere person, which means more in my book. Take his stand-up comedy class today!
Superstars Don’t Teach Class
Let’s face Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, and Louis C.K. won’t be teaching comedy classes any time soon. #4 Comedy gurus tend not to enjoy great success in standup comedy. Don’t let this bother you, you can learn something from anyone who has enjoyed at least some success in comedy. I’m not saying this to cut down the comedy gurus, I’m just stating the facts.
A good comedy teacher should enjoy some degree of success, but if they make a lot of money from comedy, they don’t have to teach it. They may have won a few contests, made a few guest appearances on sitcoms, or opened up to national comedians. Somewhere between the open-mic comedian and Louis C.K. is where good teachers are. Success in anything requires many factors working together to make a great success, not just one’s material qualities.
Many things can be a factor in their success. A lot of funny people don’t make great comedians, and neither do you expect them to, but expect success to prove they know what they’re talking about. If one has enjoyed success in any field of comedy, there is something to be learned from it.
What You Can Expect to Learn
There are some basic things you’ll learn in comedy class that I don’t mind discussing here, one of which is terminology. Comedians describe the basic aspects of the performance process through the special language shown here.
Killing=When more than 80% of the audience laughs, more than 80%.
Dying = When no audience laughs 100% of the time.
Segway= Logical transition between two comedy parts.
Set= Your time on stage.
Act Out = Impression, or imitation of oneself or others.
Heckler= Someone stupid enough to interrupt comedians with a microphone.
A “Little”- Part of a comedy routine, generally about a specific subject and in the form of a story. Between the two bits is a Segway.
There are usually two schools of thought when it comes to the formation of comedic material; we currently refer to as “small”. One-liner and Act-out based writing. I’ll clarify what I mean here by saying “one line based.” I am not referring to a single sentence in the traditional sense, or a one-sentence monologue.
What I mean is to make one sentence and design a conversation story with one sentence deliberately placed at several points to amplify laughter. Acting-based shows require acting, and they usually don’t have a lot of “joke”.
Here I will give an example of a comedian you know. Robin Williams, Kevin Hart and Joe Rogan rely more on external acting than “joke writing.” On the other hand, Jerry Seinfeld, Daniel Tosh, and Dave Atell have a “joke”. Neither of these forms is bad, but you have to choose between the two.
Generally, stand-up comedy classes teach one way or another, not both. Remember one thing, when you become one or the other, it doesn’t mean you won’t do another style. If you write jokes, sometimes the action will work in your favor. If you act more often, it will be to your advantage to have an occasional joke. I don’t know a comedian who doesn’t do other styles.
All you need to do is contact your stand-up comedy teacher before you take the class. Ask if they teach action-based comedy courses or focus on forming jokes. Make your decision based on this.
They’re Not Always Right
If a teacher tells you not to use something you find funny, try it yourself to see if it works. Teachers can be wrong; especially in comedy. A national comedian once told Larry the Cable Guy that he shouldn’t take on the character, that it was a bad idea. He’s like $50 million dollars a year wrong. Make sure that you are listening and learning, but never stiff. A hunch is usually true; Don’t be afraid to act on it.
Not You Last Class
Before you take your first class on comedy, know that it can’t be your last. If you decide to become a comedian and want to be good, you have to keep learning. It is reading, taking classes, and studying if your material succeeds in front of an audience. If it doesn’t work, change it, but keep producing.
Start Writing Now
Choose the best class you can, listen and learn. You can do something before this class starts. You have to start writing now, don’t wait to be a so-called pro to start writing. Your brain will be trained to produce material consistently, so you can do even better as a student in class. You should also treat it like class, seriously. When you start writing, make sure to set a quota, otherwise you will start to slip.
Quotas can be time, or the number of words or lines. Don’t start with too high a quota, it’s very discouraging. You can also use Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t break the chain” method. Take a calendar and put an X every day you write, do it consistently so that it creates a chain. Now don’t ever break it.
Take the Stage Now
Search Google for open microphones in your city. You may have to drive, but get on stage. You have to overcome your fear of doing stand-up comedy, so start now. It’s not scary after you do it a few times. No matter what happens the first time, keep going. The first time usually won’t go well, so get rid of that. Start with one night a week, and then work your way up as many times a week as possible.