How To Take Material To The Stage

This is Day 16 of my 20-Day Writing Challenge. Today, I engaged in the hardest and most stressful part of comedy: taking new jokes to an open mic. It’s not easy, but to be honest, it’s also not as hard as it was before…

Memorization Troubles

One thing you’ll notice in the above clip is that I was pausing a lot.

I tend to favour writing longer bits, because that’s just how my mind works. The challenge is that there’s a lot to memorize, and the stress of being in the spotlight has a funny way of making you forget EVERYTHING.

What Material Should I Take On Stage?

To decide which bits I wanted to try out, I simply browsed through the bits that I wrote in the past week and asked myself:

  • Do I feel passionate about the material?
  • If/when I posted it on Twitter/Facebook, did it get any attention via Retweets, Likes, Comments, etc.?
  • Can I use it to further premises that I’ve already developed material for? (i.e. new joke about growing up poor, etc.)

That said, for me, passion is the most important decision-making criteria of all.

The Importance of Passion

When you’re genuinely fired up about something, it shows. For example, watch Quinn C. Martin totally lose himself in his bit about his first highschool dance (at 4:00).

You can’t fake passion. Moreover, when you care enough, the audience will care with you, too (as long as you’re likeable). Most importantly, if you’re going to spend time on stage talking about something, might as well talk about something you’re in love with!

Transitioning From Paper To Stage

For the sake of brevity, I’ll use my Pringles joke (1:30 – 2:47 ) as an example. Here’s how I originally wrote the joke:

Poor chips
Man…I used to love Pringles! But, I only got a dollar allowance. So, I had to get the dollar store version of Pringles. My favourite flavour was Sour Cream & Sadness.

Now, here’s the joke after Premise, Punching, and Tagging (click here for a tutorial) and then trying it out on stage.

jokes about pringles

Note: I use the web application WorkFlowy to manage my entire life, whether it’s comedy, my business plan, etc. It’s free, and I highly suggest you chickiddy check it out.

Looking Back

I got more laughs from trying out new material than I ever have this time around. It feels great because I used to walk on stage with what I thought was gold and leave empty-handed. After the show, Quinn told me, ‘You’re coming into your own on stage, man.’ That felt good, too.

The biggest thing about that night was that I lost myself on stage. I got so caught up in the bit that I forgot that the crowd was there and felt like I was living through the material as I was relating it on stage. I’ve never felt like that before.

It felt good. Really good.

When Do You Write?

One of the things that I’ve learned is that writing doesn’t just happen in your underwear on the third floor of a townhouse while you’re drinking instant coffee, shaking your legs out of habit.

No, writing happens when you’re on the subway and you start doubting your material and your mind works frantically to come up with something better. It happens when you’re on stage and your joke flops and your mind scrambles to say something funny. It happens after your set when comedians come up to you and tell you, ‘Dude, that line about xyz…gold, dude.’

I’m not the only one that gets lost during their performances (0:24-0:48 is human gold),

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About Michael Jagdeo

My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for blogTO.com.
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One Response to How To Take Material To The Stage

  1. Carlos says:

    Hey!

    Good to see stuff translate from the page to the stage. What was the crowd like that night?

    Just one thing… the video upload is called “Back in the horse”…. I think you meant “ON” the horse, not “IN” the horse…. small but pretty significant difference, especially in Tijuana. :-)

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