When I started off the process of training to be a stand up comedian to raise money for cancer research UK, I had not really given much thought to what it is that actually has to be done to make people laugh. And by people, what I am talking about is a group of complete strangers who turn up to a venue, pay some money, and expect to be entertained and made to laugh. It is a strange concept when you stop and analyse it, and it is also a pretty terrifying thought, that you as an individual are going to stand up on a stage in front of 450 people at the frankly iconic Glee club in central Birmingham and try and make them laugh.
One of the very first things that James Cook, the comedian who trained us for 8 consecutive weeks before we were allowed on stage said was this. No matter what happens if they laugh or they boo you off the stage, just remember that every single one of those sat watching is just glad that it is you, and not them standing on that stage. Yes 99.9% of the population would not subject themselves to this experience. So, no matter what well done. Yes, very good and all that, but it counts for nothing when the time comes and it is your name called onto that stage. That is the moment of truth, the day of reckoning, when you walk out onto that stage and before those uber bright lights, take a deep breath and start your routine, not knowing if people are going to laugh or not.
So, what is the journey like from utter novice to standing on a stage and speaking words to try and make people laugh. Well I can only speak for myself and tell you that the learning of how to be funny, ie write your own material, practise delivering it rather than just reciting it ( As James pointed out if you do that you may as well send the audience an email asking them to laugh at the following points, marked in red). So, good point obviously well made, and of course it is not just the writing that you have to do but it is also the actual performing. One of the really useful things that James encouraged was watching lots of good stand up comedians, find out who makes you laugh and why. What styles of comedy resonate and what do not.
It also comes down to very basic stuff like learning to use a microphone, not talking too quickly, not being negative about yourself on stage. After all they don’t know you from Adam so, if you go on stage and say oh, I’m really nervous, or I won’t be funny, then guess what they will probably not find you funny. Confidence and body language are as vital as what you say and how you say it. You have to own that space for your 5 minutes of glory or shame. After all you can have the best material in the world but if you mumble or talk too fast then it wont work. And then there is the whole construction issue, the set up, the punchline, then onto the next and the pause for laughs, hopefully. Comedy takes effort, practise, failure and sleepless nights, with absolutely no guarantee that it is going to work until you get on that stage. And if it does work it feels amazing, if not then what the hell, at least unlike 99.9% you had the courage to try it, so either way winning at life.