This is a Part 2 of my review and commentary of, ‘Standing on the Danforth,’ a weekly comedy show put on by Jo-Anna Downey, a multiple Canadian Comedy Award-nominated stand-up comedian.
Improvisation: The Hallmark of all Professional Comedians
Debra DiGiovanni goes up, and she absolutely kills. Her style is self-deprecating, and her delivery is frenetic, which works well with the crowd. She’s great at riffing off the crowd’s reactions and above all, the jokes come from a genuine place. She’s a true comic for this reason: Jo-Anna Downey introduces her as the Winner of Best Female Comedian at the Canadian Comedy Awards and she replies as she walks to the stage, ‘ There were only six of us.’ Brilliant. And she didn’t even save it for the stage; she just gave that one up as an oblation to the Comedy Gods.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I believe that making jokes on the spot and riffing with the crowd is the hallmark of a great comic. I’ve noticed crowds appreciate it much more than rehearsed material. Case in point, Martin Lawrence vs. Heckler:
Scout’s Motto: Be Prepared
I’m noticing some comics peter out of material when a crowd doesn’t respond to their fare. As a comedian, I empathize with them when they’re on stage.
But at the same time,I think that you should have a lot of material at the ready. Who am I to talk, right? I haven’t been at this for 5 years. But something tells me that… ahhhh…I know what it is.
Two Different types of written styles
The style of comedy that I have delves very deeply into a subject, probably because my mind takes ideas and makes movies out of them. A lot of comics I notice make quick, disparately-topic’d jokes rather than building on a premise and/or telling a story.
A Demonstration, If You Will
For example, I have a new idea for a bit where I imagine that deleting items off your computer, while mundane to us, is actually a violent affair at the microscopic level. You think of it as just moving your mouse a few inches, but in reality there are little men flinging boxes of files into this room and that, throwing entire applications out the window and kicking them off ledges. I imagine those men getting upset when you decide to undelete something, because they have to go all of the way to the Recycle Bin, get the shit, and take it all the way back. They scream, ‘Make up your goddamn mind!’ But you can’t hear them.
Windows is like your semi-handy friend who helped you build the house, but fucked it up. When your computer crashes it’s like you have a leaky roof and you’re like, “Damn it Windows! I thought you said you fixed it the last time!” “Sorry dude, take this patch and it’ll help.” “That’s what you said the last time.” When you’re computer freezes up, it’s actually the angry little men that are completely exhausted and need a break.
I could go on and create a physical routine for that bit which would give me 1-2 minutes of material.
Back to the two styles…
I think that the comics delivering ‘one-off’ type jokes could get a lot more laughs and a lot more mileage out of sticking with a subject and exploring it. But maybe their mind doesn’t work that way. It just seems like a ton of work to keep on having to think of completely different jokes that only give you 25-seconds of material and deliver it rapid-fire, one after another. Maybe that’s why they go on stage with a notebook. The material is disparate and that probably makes it harder to remember. On top of that, when you’re always setting up a different scenario to deliver a punchline, the laughs come in spurts rather than in combinations.
BTW, I hope you relished the last sentence, which parlayed ‘punchline’ into the ‘combination,’ both boxing references. Feel that? That’s your body quivering with elation.
Anyhoo, it’s 8:43am and I’ve been writing for an hour. I’ve have to email seigneur Downey and beg her to let this habitant till on her stage. I promise the harvest will be plentiful.
Who’s a stud? You’re a stud!
PS – Have to make a presentation to clients today? Play this on the ride to their office: