Whether you’re just starting your Standup Career, or you’re a Veteran Comic, these five tips will help you prep yourself for a great set whether you’re doing a tight five in a dive or headlining a theater in New York.
Write Out Your Set By Hand
I do this before every set, mic, or show. It gets the material in your mind and refreshes you on any new punch-ups, tags, or adjustments you’ve made to the order of your set.
Being off book and familiarizing yourself with your material is the best way to feel confident about it. If not, don’t try to hide using your notes. Own it.
Personally, I have a terrible memory. You can write your set list down on your arm or a notebook if you want, but an audience cares more if you can command a room and be confident on stage than if you have all of your jokes memorized. They’d rather you be funny and check your notes, than bomb and never look at your notes once.
Honestly, just do the material enough, and you’ll have it memorized in no time.
Have a Pre-Set Ritual.
Physically grounding things: Take three deep breaths. Roll your shoulders. Shake out the jitters in the bathroom.
Do whatever you can to get out of your head and in the zone. But make it something simple that you can do in a few seconds, so if someone’s running late and the booker throws you on early, you have a surefire way to get in the mindset to go up.
Start By Getting The Audience On Your Side
Open Mics aside, your audience wants you to be funny. They’re there to have a good time, they want to laugh. Usually.
A good rule of thumb is: don’t Insult the audience as soon as you get on stage.Some comics can make this work with their voice and style, but winning them back is hard if it goes poorly.
Typically, you want to hook them by starting with one of your strongest jokes. One Liners, a sentence that gets across a crazy premise, or jokes that act as an introduction are all a great way to make the audience feel like they’re connecting with you on a human level, rather than just barking jokes at them.
Play to Your Audience. Every crowd is like a puzzle, and a good comic knows how to adjust the material to their audience.
Own Your Time
The rule of “Fake It Till You Make It” really applies in Stand Up. Body Language is essential to making an audience trust you.
Don’t hold the mic with both hands. Keep your shoulders down. Stay loose. Try to look as comfortable on stage as you can. The more uncomfortable you look, the more uncomfortable the audience will be.
If you can, try to make eye contact with people in the audience. That kind of connection will keep them engaged with you and your material.
If Something Bombs, Acknowledge It. Let the audience know that you’re not letting it get to you, they can’t all be winners. Comedy is all about tension and release, and there are few things tenser than when a joke bombs. Use that awkwardness as the setup for another joke.
Some Audiences just aren’t going to be your audience. Every good comic has bombed a thousand times – and that’s just in the first few months. You’ve got to roll with the punches and tweak your set for next time.
Try to Talk To The Other Comics on The Line Up
This one’s definitely a bit more hit or miss depending on the people you’re with, but most comics are just as anxious as you are before a show. Stand up is an incredibly isolating experience, and in my experience, most comics collapse with relief when they can admit how anxious they are to the other people they’re on a show with – because let’s be real. No matter how long you’ve been doing this, those pre-show jitters never really go away.