Special Report: Why Do New Comedians CHOOSE To Struggle Needlessly?
If you attend ANY stand-up comedy open mic ANYWHERE in the world as an audience member…
What you will witness over and over again is that the overwhelming majority of comedians (new and not so new) struggle to get laughs.
But it’s actually worse than that — most new comedians are not even remotely funny and tend to fall into the “moderately to severely awful” category.
This is NOT something that I am just making up or exaggerating about — anyone can verify this for themselves by simply suffering through any stand-up open mic anywhere in the world as an audience member.
And here’s what makes the situation even worse, as unbelievable as it may sound…
New comedians actually CHOOSE the most difficult and ineffective methods possible to create and develop a stand-up comedy act. Why would they do that?
In this special report, I am going to explore why new comedians make the awful choices that they make — the choices that cause them to struggle needlessly to get the laughter results they want.
I am also going to provide you with a series of questions that you can examine and investigate for yourself in order to avoid the terrible choices most new comedians make when it comes to the process for developing stand-up comedy material that actually generates big audience laughter.
And just to be clear — everything that I have to share with you in this special report comes from FIRST HAND experience.
That’s right, I too made the choice to struggle when I first started my stand-up career and I had plenty of help to make the awful choices that I made.
Once you have suffered through through a comedy open mic as an audience member, it is very easy to come to the conclusion that most of the new comedians who are there trying to get laughs:
- Just don’t have enough comedy talent or…
- They somehow need to learn how to have more comedy talent.
Either conclusion would be mostly FALSE.
Most people who take a shot at stand-up comedy have more than enough talent to entertain audiences and generate the laughs they want when they step on stage.
How can I say that? It’s easy because…
Most people consider becoming a comedian because they are known for their sense of humor and having the ability to cause others to laugh when they are engaged in casual conversations with friends, family coworkers and people they meet.
The people they know and meet will commonly make the remark “You should really think about becoming a comedian”.
So you tell me…
If a person can cause other people to genuinely laugh when they are not thinking about it, not planning it, not “writing” it in advance — just responding, reacting and interacting with others in an easy and automatic way…
Why do they struggle to get laughs on stage as a comedian?
The short answer is that the information that they use to create and develop a stand-up comedy routine is completely off target.
The Most Common Approach Is The WRONG Path
Everything that a person knows or thinks that they know about how a stand-up comedy routine is created, developed and delivered is shaped by:
- Television and other media
- Print media
- Online resources
- Books and other educational resources
- Other comedians and entertainers
At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, what would you say if I told you that…
Before I go down this rabbit hole, know this:
I don’t expect you to believe a word that I have to say and here’s why…
The programming that you have been exposed to (which is the exact same programming that I fell victim to when I first started stand-up) has very deep and powerful roots and is actually difficult to overcome regardless of the validity of information that I have to offer.
So all I can really ask you to do is to evaluate and investigate FOR YOURSELF what I am about to tell you and honestly answer the questions that I present along the way.
It is obvious to me now that one of the major reasons that new comedians make the tragic choices they make when it comes to developing comedy material for the stage lies in the FALSE belief that making people laugh as a comedian is vastly different than making people laugh in everyday conversations.
So the first question I want to ask is this:
What are the primary differences between making people laugh in everyday conversations and making people laugh when a stand-up comedy routine is delivered to an audience?
Seems like a simple question, does it not? Don’t be fooled — the vast majority of people CANNOT answer this correctly and that’s because…
They have been conditioned to believe that generating audience laughter as a comedian is vastly different than what happens when making friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances laugh when interacting with them.
I want to point out something that is very important about that question before I move forward.
Notice that the question focuses on causing people to laugh — specifically I am referring to the process of:
Talking and expression which causes people to laugh out loud as a result.
So what I want you to do right now is to take a few moments to consider how you think stand-up comedy material is supposed to be developed — from the concept stage to the finished material.
Once you have done that, it seems to me that we need to nail down the real differences between making people laugh in everyday conversations and making an audience laugh when delivering a stand-up comedy routine in order to determine what is going to work and what is not going to work.
I’m going to start with the most visible differences and work my way through all the differences to see if there is anything that can help understand why new comedians struggle needlessly with their stand-up comedy material.
Visible Environmental Differences
Let’s start by examining some of the obvious environmental differences between making people laugh in everyday conversations and generating laughs from delivering a stand-up comedy routine.
Using a microphone. Comedians use a microphone because they communicate with audiences and those audiences need to be able to hear the comedian outside their usual voice range.
We don’t use a microphone in casual conversations because the people we talk to in casual conversations to are close enough to hear us without the need for a microphone.
So the related question that I want to ask is this:
Does using a microphone have an impact on whether or not a person is funny and has the ability to generate audience laughter when they talk?
I submit to you that simply using a microphone has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not a person is funny or not or if they can generate laughs from what it is that they have to say and express to an audience.
Again, using a microphone is merely a means by which larger numbers of people can hear what is being said by the person using the microphone.
If simply using a microphone was all that was needed to be funny, every comedy open mic comedian would slay audiences every time they picked up a mic. Trust me, that is NOT the case — not even remotely close.
MOST comedy open mic comedians are NOT funny at all and as I pointed out earlier, tend to fall into the moderately to severely awful category.
This is not hyperbole — again, you can easily verify this for yourself by attending ANY comedy open mic ANYWHERE on the planet.
A major factor for why most open mic comedians flop on stage is revealed in this special report.
Addressing the audience from an elevated stage. A stage is nothing more that an elevated platform that allows a larger number people to see a full body aspect of comedian (or any other performer for that matter) that they otherwise cannot see as well if they were performing on the same level as a seated audience.
Keep in mind that body language — even subtle movements of any part of the body, arms, legs and face — is a major factor in laughter generation when expressing oneself to others.
However, does speaking from an elevated stage where the audience has a full body view of the person speaking have any impact on whether or not a person is funny or not when they talk to the audience?
No, it does not. Again I will refer back to the vast majority of open mic comedians who couldn’t get a laugh from an audience if their mom was being held hostage.
Using stage lighting. Stage lighting is used to improve visibility and help focus the attention of the audience on a comedian in an otherwise darkened space.
Just like using a mic and standing on an elevated stage — does the use of stage lighting have ANY bearing on whether or not a person is funny when they talk to an audience?
And once again, no, it does not.
The reason that I bring these environmental differences up is this:
While these things fall into the category of being significant differences that are clearly visible when it comes to delivering a stand-up comedy routine and conversing with people we know and meet on a daily basis…
These differences DO NOT have any bearing on whether or not a comedian is funny or not or if the stand-up routine they deliver will generate frequent laughter.
Now let’s talk about the audience.
It’s an unfortunate fact that most new comedians are under the impression that audiences are somehow vastly different from the people that they interact with everyday.
So how are audiences different from friends, family, and coworkers? Here’s how:
- Audiences contain more people than the group of people assembled at a home, for a get together somewhere or coworkers gathered together talking on a break.
- Unlike with most casual conversations, most audience members won’t know you like your friends, family and coworkers do.
- Unlike most casual conversations, most audience members don’t know each other.
- If an audience is laughing, the resulting laughter can be larger and last longer than when there are less people are involved (like in casual conversations)
The important thing to note here is this:
Audiences are simply groups of people, usually strangers to one another, who have assembled for a purpose.
Audiences have no special powers. Outside not being as well acquainted with you or the others they are assembled with, they are no different than the people you interact with everyday.
Most importantly, audiences collectively have no special empathy or understanding for a person who is sucking on stage while attempting to be a comedian.
If anything, they initially have less empathy because they do not know anything about the comedian until they start performing and displaying their comedic skill (or lack of it).
Interesting side note: While the environmental factors that I mentioned in the previous section certainly won’t make a comedian funnier, they do help focus attention on a performer — whether they are killing the audience or flopping like the vast majority of new comedians do.
It could be said that audiences are collectively smarter than any comedian standing on stage and largely more objective than the people that they know and interact with in everyday life.
Audiences are not “required” or compelled in any way to laugh just because a person who has been identified as a comedian takes the stage.
Audiences are not “tasked” or obligated in anyway to “get the humor” in what a comedian has to say. Their expectation is to be entertained by the skill of the comedian delivering their act.
Now it’s 100% true that some audiences can be more responsive with their laughter than others.
But it is very rare for a comedian to completely slay an audience for one performance and completely flop for an audience of a similar size and composition in a different performance.
So let’s go back to the first question that was the focus of this line of inquiry:
What are the primary differences between making people laugh in everyday conversations and making people laugh when a stand-up comedy routine is delivered to an audience?
A professional comedian can travel from city to city delivering their stand-up routine to all manner of audiences and generate similar high level laughter results no matter where they perform.
If they couldn’t do that, they wouldn’t be a professional comedian for every long.
So, here’s the important question for this section:
Does an audience make a comedian funny or is a comedian funny for the audiences that they perform for?
The point that I want to make here is this:
Other than to verify with laughter that a comedian is funny, audiences have no bearing on whether or not a comedian is funny before they start delivering any part of their stand-up routine.
Let me put this another way…
People (whether it be in conversations with friends or a stand-up audience) laugh at things that they perceive as funny — this is true on an individual basis or collectively as a part of an audience.
In stand-up comedy, it is the comedian who is responsible for delivering the “funny” that causes the audience to laugh — audiences merely verify that stand-up material is funny by laughing.
Note: Not every audience member has to laugh in order for a comedian to be “killing” because there is usually always someone who won’t care for a comedian or what they have to say.
However, a comedian is “killing” an audience when the majority of audience members are laughing at a stand-up comedy routine.
Because of the contagiousness of laughter, even those who don’t actually like a comedian will laugh because of the laughter from the other audience members.
Audiences also verify that stand-up comedy material is not funny by not laughing or heckling if a comedian is offensive or not funny for an extended period of time.
So let’s recap the differences that have been covered so far and their impact on how funny a comedian is:
- Using a microphone doesn’t make a comedian funny.
- A stage doesn’t make a comedian funny.
- Stage lighting doesn’t make a comedian funny.
- An audience is comprised of a larger number of people that do not make a comedian or their material funny before they deliver any part of their material, but do verify that their stand-up material is funny by responding with laughter.
So stated in the simplest terms possible…
Laughter occurs in both casual conversations and when delivering a stand-up routine when something that is said and expressed is perceived to be funny and responded to as such with audible laughter,
It seems to me that if there are any differences to be found between causing laughter to happen in a casual conversation and a stand-up comedy routine, we need to look a bit closer at process that actually causes the laughter to happen.
The Laughter Generation Process
When it comes to spoken word comedy that generates laughter, there are two parts to the process that happens whether a person is standing around around talking with people that they know or they are standing on a stage delivering a stand-up routine:
Part 1: Some sort of baseline information is provided. This can be anything — an experience, opinion, observation, idea, etc. In stand-up comedy, this part is referred to as the set-up.
In casual conversations the set-up can be provided by anyone involved in the discussion. In stand-up comedy, the set-up is provided by the comedian.
There is no real “mystery” surrounding set-up information — in the most basic terms it’s really just the “stuff” we want to talk about.
Part 2: The punchline. This is the statement, remark, quip, observation, opinion, etc. that is expressed related to the set-up information being discussed that causes laughter to happen.
There is no difference between a punchline used in a casual conversation and a punchline used in a stand-up comedy routine.
If there is a difference to be identified it would be that in a casual conversation with multiple people, more than one person can express set-up information and punchlines during a discussion of any particular topic or subject being discussed (referred to as a dialogue).
In a stand-up comedy routine, only the comedian is providing set-up information and the corresponding punchlines relative to that information (referred to as a monologue).
But the process for generating laughter from verbal communication in casual conversations or when delivering a stand-up routine is EXACTLY the same — some sort of information is conveyed and punchlines relative to that information are delivered.
So it should be obvious that a person who can generate laughs in a casual conversation should also be able to generate laughs on stage as a comedian, right?
Up to this point, it should be fairly easy to see that when it is broken down piece by piece, there doesn’t really appear to be much difference in the process between generating laughter in a casual conversation and a stand-up comedy routine.
That is of course, unless you have been conditioned like most people to believe that delivering a stand-up comedy routine is vastly different from generating laughs in casual conversations.
So I will bet at this juncture you are asking this question:
So what are the differences between causing others to laugh in casual conversation and delivering a stand-up comedy routine?
Let’s talk about this and please note:
What I am about to share with you is NOT addressed by any other comedy “expert” or resource.
The Real Differences
Once you eliminate all the factors and conditions that don’t have any bearing on laughter generation regardless of the environment the laughter is generated in…
There are three significant differences between laughter generated in casual conversations and during the delivery of a stand-up comedy routine, specifically:
Punchline frequency. Professional comedians learn to structure their stand-up comedy material in order to generate an average of 4-6+ audience laughs (punchlines) per performing minute (or more accurately an average of 18 seconds of laughter per performing minute).
While there can be a lot of laughter in a conversation with friends, it doesn’t usually hit the average of 4-6+ laughs per minute mark and if it does, it is not for an extended period of time (5+ minutes) nor as a result of a single person talking.
There are instances when someone can be in a casual conversation with a group of people and get “on a roll” where they are talking about a particular subject, topic, experience, observation, etc. and virtually everything they say results in a laugh.
This particular situation is as close as a person will get to delivering a stand-up routine off stage during a casual conversation and is covered in the Episode 1 excerpt on this page.
Commonly Recognized Subject Matter. When we talk with friends, family and coworkers, a good portion of the things we discuss may only be known or recognized by those people, along with any humorous or comedic value associated with these topics.
Subsequently shared experiences, events, observations, etc. that would not be easily recognized or understood by people who don’t know us or who have no knowledge of these things have no point of reference to get what is “funny” about what is being talked about.
If you have ever said something like “I guess you had to be there” after you relayed what you thought was a funny story and got no laughs, this is usually the cause — the people you are talking to couldn’t recognize, visualize, relate to or fully understand what you were referring to in the story.
Subsequently, they couldn’t “get the joke” or recognize what was funny about the story you were telling because the points of reference they needed were missing.
This is yet another thing you can easily investigate for yourself by reviewing online videos of your favorite comedians. Now that you know what to look for….
You can easily see that comedians tend to talk about things that are easily recognized or can be related to by almost anyone and they don’t usually talk about things that only a few would see the humor in.
If a comedian does talk about things that would not be commonly known by an audience of strangers, you will also notice that they tend to “teach” the audience about the topic or subject in a way that is funny.
Premeditation. Much of the set-up information in casual conversations is spontaneous and not usually “mapped out” in advance.
In stand-up comedy, all the set-up information and the related punchlines are known, mapped out and rehearsed in advance to provide the appearance of spontaneity when that stand-up comedy material is delivered.
One need only attend the same professional stand-up comedy show featuring the same comedians two nights in a row to verify this.
And believe it or not…
You have been involved in this same sort of premeditation yourself when you told stories about your life and experiences to new people you meet.
And you tell those same stories over and over again, year after year. Kind of sounds like what happens with a stand-up comedy routine, doesn’t it?
So when you break it all down, the reality is this:
A stand-up comedy routine that generates laughs is actually a modified and preplanned version of what you already do when you talk and express yourself to cause others to laugh.
But that’s not what most new comedians believe…
The Foundation For The Struggle
The common and largely accepted approach to producing stand-up comedy material is that it is “written” from thin air by applying the right “joke formulas” and attempting to talk about things no other comedian has talked about before.
I believe this approach to not only be massively flawed but also keeps really funny people from every developing a stand-up act that generates any noteworthy laughs at all.
So here are some questions that you might want to answer for yourself to help you determine if the “conventional” approach to developing a stand-up comedy routine is really the path you want to take.
How did you “write” the comedy material that you used the last time you were involved in a conversation with friends, family or coworkers? Did you stop to “write” something down on paper or use your phone to get the laughs you generated? Did you need to develop any sort of “special” writing skill to be able to do that?
EXACTLY what “joke formulas” did you use to get the laughs that you got when talking to friends, family or coworkers? What process did you use to select the “joke formulas” that you used?
Why EXACTLY do you feel compelled to “write” stand-up comedy material when you don’t “write” anything to get laughs when you talk to friends, family and coworkers?
Did you have to transform into some sort of different character than who you are naturally in order to get laughs when talking to others that you know?
Outside knowing that a punchline is “the funny part of a joke”, what do you really know about punchlines relative to you, your sense of humor and how you express yourself to generate laughs when you talk to others?
Related question — how does knowing that a punchline is the funny part of a joke with a “unexpected twist” help you in any way develop funny stand-up comedy material?
What is it EXACTLY that makes creating and developing a stand-up comedy material seem difficult?
Note: I ask that question from the perspective that you constantly produce stand-up comedy material spontaneously without really thinking about it on a daily basis when you talk to the people that you know if you are making those you talk to laugh.
Do you feel that the things that you talk about in everyday life that gets laughs do not rise to the level of being good enough as a basis for stand-up comedy material, even though the funniest comedians talk about the most ordinary, mundane or observable things imaginable? If so, why is that?
Do you still feel that developing stand-up comedy material is vastly different (and difficult) than what you do to get laughs when you are talking with friends, family and coworkers?
Final Thoughts And Recommendations
The answer to the question asked in the title of this article is this:
When I started out as a comedian, I completely embraced what the “experts” said to do.
And as a result, I sucked so badly that I almost quit because I couldn’t get anywhere close to the level of laughs that I needed to make any real progress as a comedian — despite a massive amount of work and time that I invested to try to “get funny”.
Yet, I could make an audience of strangers laugh so hard in a classroom environment that it would disturb other classes (this happened on multiple occasions).
I did that without “writing jokes”, learning joke formulas, becoming a different “character”, finding a “hook”, or any of the other so-called “must do” stuff “required by the experts” to make it as a comedian.
Long story short — I was able to overcome the programming on how a stand-up comedy routine is “supposed” to be created and developed and I have been showing others how to do the same for over two decades now.
With that said, here are some things that you might want to do if you are serious about becoming a comedian and don’t want to take the hardest path possible and suck on stage for extended periods of time:
1. Make sure you attend a couple of comedy open mics as an audience member. Verify that what I have revealed in this special report is correct.
2. I have quite a bit of free training content that is immediately available for your review right now (no sign up required) on the Stand-up Fast Track Course page that includes:
- The first lesson in the Success Primer course — A Closer Look At Your Comedy Talent is available.
- There are 5 free lessons available in Rapid Training Module One.
- There’s over 90 minutes of sample audio from the Stand-up Comedy Secrets for Beginners audio series bonus that you can review.
Again, you can access all of that from the Stand-up Fast Track Course page.
3. If you want to know a little bit about me and what I was able to accomplish once I was able to overcome the programming that every prospective comedian is subjected to, you can find that here.
Once you have reviewed the free training content that I have provided, do this:
If you have not been to stand-up comedy open mic night, go ASAP. Make a note of how many comedians actually get noteworthy laughs when they hit the stage.
Ask the open mic comedians what method, process, books or other instruction they are using to develop their act (HUGE Hint: If what they are using is not working, you want to avoid that).
Use any search engine and make a note of ANY stand-up comedy information or education resource that:
- DOES NOT focus on or address your comedy talent and how to use it effectively on stage as a comedian.
- Tells you that you must “write” jokes using some sort of “one size fits all” joke formula approach.
- Conveys that you need to learn acting, become a “different” person/character or develop some sort of “hook” to get ahead as a comedian.
- Tells you that you need to develop a different or better sense of humor for stand-up comedy.
- Lets you know that you need to be prepared to suck for an extended amount of time in order to become a funny.
Once you have done that, then decide for yourself if that’s the path you want to take.
And if you want a much better path to take, I believe that you can figure that out for yourself as well.
No matter what, I wish you the very best in your stand-up comedy adventures!
Author and Creator of the
Killer Stand-up Comedy System and
Related Training Resources for
Comedians and Speaking Professionals