As I’ve said many times in this blog series, learning how to be a comedian is more than learning how to write setup and punch lines. For top comedians, these skills are secondary to the ability to really engage audiences on a deeper level.
All stand-up comedians are funny… that’s not what separates them. In fact, you wouldn’t even be in this industry if you WEREN’T funny. But many people learning how to be a comedian get too caught up in the mechanics of comedy and lose sight of the bigger picture. When you’re being your naturally funny self off-stage, you’re not using setups and punch lines. You’re naturally reacting to the situation in the moment.
Learn How to Be a Comedian – Setups and Punch Lines
Learning how to be a comedian does require knowledge of writing and revising setups and punch lines… No comedy teacher would argue otherwise. Many comedy teachers are in agreement that the setup/punch line format shouldn’t be written INTO (i.e. you should sit down at the computer and say “It’s time to write setups and punch lines”). Instead, you should spend time simply writing and then go back through and identify the setup lines that you naturally have.
But this is still putting setups and punch lines front-and-center in your stand-up comedy writing. It does nothing to fully engage audiences in your stories, one liners, observations… or what have you. To effectively learn how to be a comedian you can’t ignore this side of the equation. The only way for an audience member to become a long-term fan of yours is through connecting with you on a deeper level, which doesn’t happen if you only emphasize setups and punch lines while learning how to be a comedian. In the very beginning of your career you should start learning how audiences really react to your humor. You don’t simply want them to laugh and then call it good. You want to understand why people do or don’t become your long-term fans and seek to find a way to increase the “conversion rate” of audience members.
That said, when you’re first learning how to be a comedian you have to start SOMEWHERE… and that somewhere is generally learning what high quality setups and punch lines look like, so you can identify them in your material. This is not so much the “best” place to start as the most frequently used starting point of teachers, books, etc. A much more effective starting point is in how audiences are engaged in the first place and how to bridge the gap between where you are and the end-result you want.
So how do we engage audiences in our writing? …
How to Become a Comedian – Writing Material That Engages Audiences
Writing what you feel is an action you can always take, even when you get writer’s block. Writing what you feel is key to learning how to be a comedian. This stand up comedy writing secret will help you write material that the audience finds interesting and engaging. If you’ve ever felt your material feels too factual or just plain isn’t interesting enough then you’re probably missing an interesting POV (point of view) because you aren’t writing what you feel.
Writing on a dry subject like “the airport” creates dry material that comes out very factual… which is near impossible for audience members to really get engaged in. When you’re learning how to be a comedian you’ll want to pay attention to how POV creates emotional material. Emotions get you away from hacky comedy topics and brings spice to your performance. It differentiates you (well… slightly, as many other comedians do this too). This isn’t just about learning “how to be a comedian”, it’s about learning how to be a comedian that can drive audiences to become long-term fans.
Discover how to be a comedian and learn tools, tips and strategies that will set you up for a successful comedy career at creativestandup.com