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Do people keep telling you how funny you are? Do you always have the perfect joke in every situation, but nobody to tell it to? Have you always thought that you should give stand-up a try? Well, you probably also know that stand-up comedy is a notoriously difficult business – but it can be done. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’ve always wanted to try it out.
Be prepared to invest a lot of time in preparation
Of course, you’ll want to do open mic nights at local venues, but even if you secure a spot, you’ll be spending a lot more time preparing and planning than you actually are on stage.
“It’s a lot more time consuming than people think,” said Eitan Levine, a 32-year-old comic in New York City. “Writing, microphones and commuting to ‘stuff’ are amazing.”
Long before he got into stand-up – which led to his current lead, writing and directing videos for brands and YouTube channels – Levine began keeping a joke journal as a child. You will spend a lot of time writing and rewriting jokes, so better get a journal too.
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Interact with the comedy community
Sure, the stand-up community is fun – but it’s serious business too. You have to be ready and willing to network. The hardest part of getting started with stand-up, Levine said, is “literally just navigating the community.”
“Navigating open mic schedules and how sign-in works requires maps and Google Docs,” he quipped. “Sometimes at shows that you’re not there, you just have to show your face so that someone who might book you in a few months will recognize you. Knowing the gatekeepers and who you actually have a chance to get something from is a completely different part of it. “
Kelsey Caine, a 29-year-old New York comic who founded the Two Scoops Network, pointed out that getting into the stand-up world is a lot harder if you’re not a straight, white guy.
She said sexism was the most unexpected challenge she faced while trying to book shows and climb the comedy ranks. She also quoted what she calls “the sex offender thing,” adding sarcastically, “So many sex offenders do stand-up comedy. It almost seems like stand-up comedy is an environment where sex offenders joke about attacking people as a tactic to distract from how they are actually attacking people. “
Caine is right here. Comedy, like many other industries, has been shaken by sexual allegations wrongdoing in the past few years. Comedian Bill Cosby was even convicted of assault and imprisoned, despite his jail sentence being kicked out and his conviction was overturned earlier this year.
Know that everyone’s humor is different and you will almost certainly be exposed to jokes that offend or disgust you, but you don’t have to stay in situations that make you feel uncomfortable – even if it seems like the only way you can to stay or to pretend nonchalance to advance.
You can also find your own community. Yes, the comedy world can be isolated and guarded by some powerful characters, but times are changing! You can and should find your own community in which to learn, grow, collaborate, and laugh.
“Go to an open microphone … find a place where you can do comedy that is inclusive or it will eat your soul up,” Caine said.
If you love it, don’t give up
Even the biggest comic bomb in the world at times. It’s part of the process. Don’t give up on this dream because of a bad show or two (or 20).
“I think people don’t know how many shows you do that just suck, even after you make it,” Levine said. “Also, the concept of ‘doing’ doesn’t exist – it only changes meaning every six months. You have to really, really, really like this stuff to stay motivated to do it long enough to see “ROI” (which is in quotes because it’s more than just financial returns). The effort to get small victories in this world is insane. “
Show up for shows. Take notes on other sets. To make friends. Then crowd into the room whatever it takes and write a few jokes about what you’ve learned.