Having a Great Set Involves More Than Just Jokes
Recently, I landed a spot on RogersTV’s Toronto’s Talent, which is hosted by professional comedian, Quinn C. Martin.
I did great! But it wasn’t easy.
It involved some thoughtful research, practice, and reflecting on previous lessons learned. You’ll notice that a lot of the work that went into making this a great performance happened BEFORE I ever got on stage.
Here’s how I had a great set today…
Researching the Show
I watched a few previous comedians’ clips on the show, and noticed that the camera would focus on Quinn C. Martin if/when he was laughing at a joke.
Since there wasn’t going to be an audience present, I HAD to use material that would get Quinn laughing. I figured if I could get him HOWLING, it would reinforce to the audience members at home that the material was funny. Plus, regardless of how I did, Quinn’s a force in the Toronto comedy scene; I needed to make a great first impression.
Therefore, I purposefully reworked the following tag on, ‘Why Are White Girls Angry?’:
You can get any white guy you want. You can get any Chinese guy you want. Heck, Quinn – you can vouch for this – with a little extra weight, you can get any black guy you want!
You might also noticed that I played with the Rule of Three (x, y, punchline).
How To Handle Stagefright
In previous performances, I’ve started my set haphazardly, rushed through material, and delivered punchlines poorly.
To stay in the right frame of mind, I wrote a note to myself, took a picture, and set it as my desktop background (see image above).
In addition, when they called me up, it took them five-seven minutes to prepare the cameras and do the sound check. That gave me the time I needed to walk the stage, get a feel for the room, shoot the ish with the cameramen, and even deliver an improvisational line to them which got them on my side.
I’ve said that improvisation is what audiences seem to admire most in a comedian. While my improvisation won’t air because I riffed on the act before me, it got everyone in the audience laughing. As always, I wrote down the improv right before I went on (12pm) so I could nail the lines.
Getting the Audience Invested
Gilson Lubin told me that I had to give audiences a reason to care about what I was talking about; they needed to be invested. Therefore, I put a twist on my opening line to grab the attention of the Rogers’ staff:
First and foremost, I’d like to thank Lewin Hodges for booking me on the show, Quinn C. Martin your host, and everyone here at RogersTV for putting on Toronto’s Talent. I do have one beef with you though…see I’ve been gaining weight recently, and by recently I mean the past FIVE years, and I wish you would’ve told me five years ago that I’d be on TV, so I could mold this excessive amount of physiology into something that resembles marginal physical attractiveness.
Falling In Love With Being On Stage
On My Square told me to, ‘…fall in love with being on stage.’ I practiced a fair bit before the set itself, which meant that I wasn’t preoccupied with remembering my lines.
This freedom allowed me to relish the experience on stage. I began to enjoy myself. I heard the audience laughing and fed off of it. Most importantly, my mind was able to focus on HOW I wanted to deliver my jokes, where I wanted to look, who I wanted to point at. This, ‘freedom from the lines’ allowed me to become an actor on stage, instead of a reciter (if that makes any sense).
The results of today’s events are as follows:
- Great set, professionally taped and photographed.
- Quinn mentioned he would feature me on a future show of his.
- Made a good impression on the RogersTV folks, which could lead to any number of possibilities.
Lesson Learned: Tag Focus
In addition, I learned that I have material that works. What I need to do now is focus on building tags (follow-up jokes on a premise) to strengthen the bits themselves, so I can have a strong five-minute, then a strong seven-minute, set.
The alternative would be to write new bits that are funny but aren’t complete. Now that I’m going to potentially be on bigger shows (i.e. Jean Paul’s open mic on Thursday, Quinn C. Martin’s RogersTV show, etc.), I have to come correct.
It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Thanks for staying with me, homies. Please keep the questions, comments, and violent disagreements coming as they all help to strengthen my set, and my self.
Also, stay tuned and I’ll let you know when you catch the taping of the show!