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This post could also be called: Ravings of a lunatic. I should note that this is not a true blog post in the sense that It’s been completed and edited. It is simply an example of comedy driving me mad and is meant to be read in conjunction with this post.
So yesterday I wrote a new bit and it bombed. I thought it was funny, and maybe it is. It’s hard to tell…
Last night I was performing for comics only, and I only got a smatter of chuckles over the five minutes. I had a good time, and I felt more myself, and I relished the experience like I said I wanted to, but they didn’t laugh.
Did you think this was funny?
What did work?
It’s important to keep in mind that the room was 90% comedians. They are typically harder to get a laugh from. However, other comics did get laughs. Specifically, the guys who did the sex, rape, paedophilia, and generally more subversive stuff got A LOT of laughs. And I thought, ‘Maybe to get laughs from this crowd I need to bring out that kind of material for this audience.’
But I’ll never do rape and paedophilia material. I don’t find it funny, and even hearing the word ‘rape’ makes me uncomfortable.
What is my goal?
This might seem like an easy one. Mike, your job is to make people laugh. But which people?
I’ll explain. In a comedian-dominated crowd, the subversive material is often more successful. But subversive material won’t make it to the Comedy Network, which is my goal. I want to have a Comedy Network Special.
Chris Locke gave me this advice: work the same material you think is funny in all rooms. And I’m following that advice. In every new room, I’m doing my A material. And although the material has bombed twice and been a hit once, I’m becoming more comfortable on stage. I’m finally relishing the experience, enjoying it more, having fun.
But I’m going to be returning to the same venues one more than one occasion, and these venues are going to be dominated by the same comedians. And I want to be able to make them laugh.
Thoughts going in…
Comedy was simpler a few weeks ago. This is what I thought would happen:
• I’d go and perform A material
• People would laugh
• Bookers would throw petals at my feet as I strolled along Dundas West
I’m learning it’s not that easy. Why? Because I initially assumed that I would get laughs from my A-material wherever I went. That’s not the case. Sometimes you get laughs with that material, others time you don’t.
So the challenges that come from that are:
• How do I know if A material is A material if some crowds laugh and others don’t?
• Do I treat the laughter or lack of laughter as evidence of good or bad material at comedian-dominated crowds, given that my experience is that they enjoy more subversive topics (i.e. rape, paedophilia, etc.)? On top of that, do I think they enjoy that because the majority of comics at these open mics are young white guys that whose subject matter gravitates towards rape and paedophilia?
My goal is to get a Comedy Network Special by moving up the ranks in the main rooms in Toronto. My initial reaction is that these are the big rooms in Toronto:
• AltDot Comedy Lounge
• Laugh Sabbath
• Joanna Downey’s Eton House Spirits Bar & Grill
• Yuk Yuks
It should be noted that I’m only 2-3 weeks in, and I haven’t gotten to know everyone. I have to perform A material and kill at each and every one of these venues. In that way, I’ll get rebooked by the main bookers and get noticed. At least I hope that’s how it works. God help me if it doesn’t…
My goal is to make comedians laugh and non-comedians laugh. Now, my instinct is telling me that I need two types of material:
– Comedy Network
– Returning to an open mic for the second type in front of the same comedians
I’m brainstorming the different strategies that I can use:
– Keeping writing material that I think is funny and try them out in open mics
– Write material that I think will work in open mics and use them in a structure
– Try both comedy network and non-comedy network material in an open mic and whichever one gets a laugh, continue on that vein
Ok Wait, Hold on
I’m not entirely sure that I can trust the response that I get from an all-comedian audience as evidence against or for a bit. That adds another dimension to this problem.
For example, let’s say I have Bit Clean and Bit Dirty. Bomb means no laughs, Kills means laughs.
But, can you take the reaction that you get from a comedian-dominated crowd as evidence regarding whether A material is a keeper or not?
If the answer is yes – than A material should get a great response 8/10 times.
If the answer is no, then what do I do? The material would still be strong, but it just wouldn’t work with that crowd. At the same time, that crowd is not whom I creating material for. I’m creating material for the Main Rooms, the rooms not dominated by comedians; the producers of Comedy Network Specials.
If the answer is no, then I have two options:
– perform and hone the A material at these open mic, comedian-dominated crowds and not give a hoot whether people laugh or not. Because I’m not performing for them, I’m performing to hone my craft for my target audience.
– Create material that works with that crowd.
Where to perform what material
Let say we have 3 comedian-dominated venues called Open Mic A, Open Mic B, and Open Mic C. let’s also say that we have a main room, called Venue Main Room. In all places, I’d work my A material/
This is the format that I’d use to perform my material
Venue A – Set 1
Venue B – Set 1
Venue C – Set 1
Venue Main Room – Set 1
Venue A – Set 2
Venue B – Set 2
Venue C – Set 2
Venue Main Room – Set 2
I’M TRYING TO DECIDE WHAT I HAVE THAT IS FUNNY, AND WHAT I HAVE THAT IS NOT FUNNY.
What is the decision-making criteria to decide whether to throw out material?
I’ve heard 3 strikes. Let’s assume that’s true for now, before my head exprodes. That’s right, exprodes. I’m trying to keep this blog accessible to as many cultures as possible here.
Based on the feedback I’ve gotten from comedians and bookers, there are main rooms – Absolute Comedy, Yuk Yuk’s, Laugh Sabbath, Eton House, Spirits, and AltDot. That is where I’m going to use my A-material. To use my A-material, I will workshop it at open mics.
That said, when I return to certain open mics, should my goal be to make them laugh, EVEN IF IT MEANS WORKING SUBVERSIVE MATERIAL IN A WAY THAT I’LL NEVER USE IN A MAIN ROOM?
Ok, here we go…the ideal situation is that you have material that will work in both rooms. Now, should I just hone A material
I asked [link] Diana Love a budding Toronto Stand-up Comedian who was recently was featured in a Comedy Network Special, if she had any advice for someone like me who wanted to emulate her success. She said
So the question is this: what is my goal when going into these open mics? To make people laugh? Or, to add to my portfolio of clean material that could be used on a Comedy Network Special? But could I get noticed by Comedy Network if I do material that doesn’t get laughs but would get laughs for their crowd.
Fuuuuuuz. Chris Locke said do what you think is funny, and work that in every room.
Now, I have my five minutes of A material, and I want to hone it. That said, if I’m doing these open mics, is there a way that I can
Visio chart that ho…
Comedy paradigm shift
sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t
maybe to warm up the crowd, do jokes rapid fire until one hits
then continue along that vein
but cataloguing becomes tough
and knowing what you’ve performed for whom becomes even tougher
but then again, maybe there is a way to do it
by having mini trio’s of jokes all with strong intro’s
these are strategies to work with the Open Mic, comedian-dominated crowds. With the Absolute, Yuk Yuk, and non-comedian filled venues, it’s straight A material.
Most of my ideas on the art/science of comedy have been focused on the bit. How do I start a bit? How does it develop? How can I write things that make people laugh?
But there’s something that I’ve completely ignored: is there an overall structure to the set that can be followed, a structure that bits themselves could fall into?
After listening to a Joe Rogan podcast with Adam Corolla (sp?), Joe said that he wanted the guys opening for him to come out strong and not fool around. Come with the strong stuff first.
It reminded me of a book I read during a Consumer Behaviour course. It was on the topic of consumer psychology. They did studies looking at how consumers walked around in malls and identified different strategies shop owners could employ when designing the consumer experience (I think this is called ‘User Experience’ or UX now in the industry).
One of the ideas put forth by the book was the warming/introduction area, which is the are that the consumer first enters in. you want it to be open, inviting, warm. You want it to be uncluttered so the consumer can enter freely. For example, you don’t want the employees cluttering the entrance like guards whose sole duty is to vigilantly greet consumers. You want them to enter at their leisure, drawn in by your wares.
Perhaps there is a applicable theory when it comes to doing a five-minute set.
clean joke dirty joke clean joke dirty joke – decide then set it up!
rapid fire jokes to warm up the crowd – net a rapid fire 45-second set; it’s like shopping mall experience, warm area…what was the name of that book?
get them laughing, then introduce a series of premises via a joke -> and go with the one that gets a laugh
rapid fire jokes until one hits, then continue along that premise as a story
then rapid fire again until one hits
Everytime that I go into a new venue for a new booker, I’m doing the A material.
But, if i’m returning to a room for the same booker, for those crowds it’s tougher. They like the subversive stuff. Rapid fire jokes