T Nation


Do any of you have an interest in stand-up comedy… mind you, it doesn’t have to be at all serious? If you’ve seen a few shows at your local comedy club or occasionally watch a Carlin or Miller special on HBO, that’ll do fine. As a fledgling (well, I’m not even that far yet) comic, this information will be useful to me. Writing material for a five minute set at open mic night is surprisingly difficult. Fortunately, I can devote a lot of time to doing this. Ah, but I still suck. On to the brief questions.

Are you sick of observational comedy? Jerry Seinfeld has cleaned up doing this, but is is getting stale?

Does a comic’s look bear any influence on your impression of his set?

How important is personality and mode of delivery? Do you like the dry, witty type or the outrageously loud jokester?

I go to my local Comedy club quite a lot,those comedians who are most popular are the ones who are not afraid of the Politically Correct Police.
The good ones seem to flow with their delivery,and seem as if they are having a good time.
As far as observational comedy I find that anything that picks on an easy target such as politics can be boring,some make the mistake of turning it into an anti tirade against the current administration.
Jokes are always good (told well).Good luck hope it goes well.

"Are you sick of observational comedy? Jerry Seinfeld has cleaned up doing this, but is is getting stale?

Does a comic’s look bear any influence on your impression of his set?

How important is personality and mode of delivery? Do you like the dry, witty type or the outrageously loud jokester?

  1. I am sick of Jerry Seinfelds observational humour being ripped off. Jerry is funny (sold out FOUR shows in 4 days here in Calgary) but those that mimic seem to be all gone…

  2. Yes you have to “look” like "something’…that something is dependant on what you would like the audience to think about you, eg:

Grouchy, pissed off at the world chain smoker

Fat, lets poke run at myself, lovable goof

Harmless, nondescript, I can’t believe that just came outta his mouth guy

and so on…

  1. Depends entirely on your material and your look, Steven Wright’s delivery from Eddie Murphy would not work. I would try your “bits” out on friends and at parties (sneak these in as part of your conversation, I recommend against hopping up on the kitchen table and breaking into improv…they most likely will not invite you back). A simple look, clever delivery and a “connectable” grain of truth in your humour will enable your audience to associate their own experiences with you and THAT will make them like you.

Good luck and for what it is worth, many of your posts are quite funny!


“The Four Levels of Comedy: Make your friends laugh, Make strangers laugh, Get paid to make strangers laugh, and Make people talk like you because it’s so much fun”

~ Jerry Seinfeld

I miss Sam Kinneson. sigh

But I love Steven Wright. :-))

Carlin is the man! I had watched a lot of his specials in the past, but I had never laughed as hard as I did when I saw him live last October. The beauty of it all is that he has absolutely no transitional material. He walks out and without even saying “good evening,” blurts out, “You know what you never hear enough about nowadays? Pussy farts!”

Meanwhile, old ladies and eleven year old kids in the audience are either in shock or laughing like hell. Classic.

CMC, if you have access to Kazaa or some other file sharing thing, try to find Jim Norton live in Cleveland (if you like dirty shit) or Comedy Central Presents Brian Regan. You’ll laugh your ass off.

Dave Atell kills me. Bill Dwyer cracks me up also.

 Carlin IS the man! 

 I LOVE stand-up comedy.

 My favorite is that bastard... whats his name, Dennis Leary? He has this song ' I'm an asshole (he's an asshole), what an asshole (a fuckin asshole)'. He's that irish guy - Now THAT is stand-up comedy worthy of a t-man. Nothing like balls-to-the-walls stand-up.

I agree with everyone on Carlin. In general, I tend to like the more “edgy” comedians, although everything depends on the personality of the person delivering the joke. What really makes a comdedian funny is the originality that comes from the uniqueness of the individual. Sorry to say it (since I know this isn’t what you want to hear), but I think you probably just need to be yourself.

Dave Chapelle…need i say any more, “killing them softly” was an instant classic. As for your act, Funny stories that are slightly exaggerated are always a fan favorite.

Comedy, oh boy, where to start.

While watching other comedians can teach you a lot (if you pay attention to their structure, and not just their jokes,) you really have to find your own style. It is too simplistic to say that all you do is get up on stage and tell jokes. Some get up and their whole act is just the telling of a story. Others do comment on society, both subtly and overtly, and others just go crazy.

One of the first things to decide is if you want to go “blue” or not. I know three comedians who are successful without getting overtly nasty. It does not mean that they are bland or innocent in their act. I saw Tom Burgoon (you have to see his act if you get a chance) follow a blue comedian who bombed. He was on stage less then 30 seconds and had the audience rolling with laughter.

The biggest problem with dirty humor is that too many people mistakenly think that it is being dirty that makes it funny. But the truth is that it takes humor and adds a shock value to push it up a notch. By itself it can become boring and stupid. The blue part becomes a crutch.

“I just flew into town, and boy do my balls itch.”

I get laughs with this all the time, but it is because it takes you down a familiar road, and suddenly takes a left turn. I am not sure this joke would work without the blue nature, (mild that it is,) but it is the surprise that catches a person off guard that makes it work.

Another thing to decide is your “Character.” You generally cannot just try to be just like another comedian. Often it is best to get up on stage and just be yourself. When Richard Pryor started out he idolized Bill Cosby. He tried to emulate him, but it just didn’t work for him. By changing his act to better suit his personality he became successful.

The biggest rule in comedy is that there are no rules. Sometimes the best thing to do is something different then what everyone else is doing. By finding a common rule and breaking it in a good way you can sometimes find success. Wendy Liebman was very popular a few years back by doing a unique delivery. She would say something completely normal, and right where you expect the sentence to stop, she would add a line to completely change the meaning of the previous sentence.

Another person I am acquainted with (i.e. I have talked to a couple of times, but wouldn’t remember me from Adam, (where did that term come from? (How many nested parentheses can I get into this paragraph?))) is T.C. Hatter, who is a clown, and does a completely silent act with his wife Marcianne. She plays music while he performs. This is another example of breaking the rules, and coming up with a completely unique act.

One thing though is never ever steal another persons jokes, routines, or act. It would become impossible to work with other comedians, and many clubs won’t hire people who steal their material. Unfortunately magicians have a reputation for stealing material, and have a little less respect with comedians. Though it does not help that if a magician has a good act it is easier to become a closing act.

Make sure you record every performance you have. You can find out what works and what does not. Make sure that your best material is at the beginning and end of any act. And when you add jokes, add them at the middle. If it bombs, nobody will remember. Also, any improvisation you do that goes over well will be recorded, so you can easily add it to your act.

Hope this helps, and good luck.

Jerry Seinfeld came out with a video called Comedian. It is a documentary that follows him as he goes from scratch to do new material. It takes him 1 month to get about 10 minutes of material. It also follows a comedian who wants to make it as a comedian and all the hard work that goes into it. Its gives you a real understanding what they go thru. Whoever thinks about becoming a comedian needs to see this documentary!

Lots of good feedback already so I’ll just point you to two of my favorite comics. Carlos Mencia is fucking hilarious, “blue”, as non-PC as one can get and sells out in every venue. He’s hispanic and makes no bones about ripping on his, and everyone else’s, heritage. He focuses on the stereotypes (if it wasn’t “normal” it wouldn’t be a stereotype), but manages to be insanely funny about it. He also has serious moments where he shows he is really, truly an intelligent, well-read man. I think this aspect is vital if you are doing “blue” comedy - otherwise you’re just boorish and crass. When the Columbine shootings happened, he did a bit on how stupid middle class white people are and how the media got out of control because this happened in white suburbia. The audience (of white suburbanites) was rolling in laughter. It’s because he speaks the non-PC truth in a very humorus way that people can identify with.

The other guy has a very clean act. Steve McGrew grew up in a rather trailer-park-trash section of North Denver and while his material focuses more on his background and relationships, he’s just as non-PC as Carlos but without the obscenities. He’s also got a bit on a country radio station as “Mudflap”. Damn funny stuff. I can’t stand country but I love his bit.

If you can, check them out. You’ll see two radically different delivery styles, looks and material - and both work very well.

My favorite comedian is Jason Rouse.

I love my stand-up. I own about every Carlin special to date; I have a Robin Williams tape in my car right now.


  1. I’m only sick of it if it’s not original and witty. Simple as that. If it’s clever and well thought, then it will be appreciated.

  2. Certainly. Those who look “funny” or even look as if they are totally “not funny” add to the material. Example: Carlin’s grey hair, beard and small stature add another element of suprise to his shock jokes. Steve Martin is another: he “looks” so serious, so normal.

  3. I obviously prefer the dry, witty type. Notice that Carlin never laughs or even smiles at his own material.

I tend to prefer George Carlin’s style, as well, though Dennis Leary is certainly funny.

To be honest, most standup comedy sucks. There are too many people out there trying to be funny on stage, and too much rehashing going on.

Eddie Murphy’s ‘Delerious’ is still funny as hell, though.


I saw Doug Stanhope a few months after 9/11. I had seen this guy before and he was kind of edgy and some found him slightly offensive…part of his act was to intentionally piss people off - which I find funny, even if I am in one of the groups he is trying to piss off…I get it.

However, that night he was really on his game. He starts into this whole bit about people should not wear the FDNY and NYPD gear that was so popular because all these people were doing was their jobs. They were not heros, they were just doing their jobs, etc., etc. Then, he says where were these NYPD clothes when they were putting 50 bulets into an unarmed immigrant and when they were shoving broken plunger sticks up a suspect’s ass? Did all of that just change over night? Did 9/11 just make that OK?

Anyway, the place got so quiet. I saw the humor in what he was saying, but even I was uncomfortable for the simple fact that the 9/11 wounds were still pretty fresh…not to mention the table of off-duty and retired firemen next to me who looked like they were about to punce on this guy!

Anyway, I saw Doug another time…the last show of the night. He was so wasted he could barely stand up straight. It was one of the funniest shows I had ever seen. Not to mention he got the entire audience into the strip club across the street for free after the show!!

Christopher Titus did a bit about his psycho girlfriend who beat him up all the time that still makes me roll off the chair.

I just watched Robin Williams’s DVD Live at Broadway… That was some good good stuff.

For anyone who’s seen it;
“who loves kitty…”

As far as what type of commic I like to see, it varies… As long as it’s funny, its ok with me. Physical comedy, straight sarcasm, props, music, observational stuff, whatever, when it’s done well, it’s magic.

As far as advice goes, just go with what you got but be prepared, don’t dress like a slob unless it’s part of your act, stay away from tired story jokes (two blondes walk into a bar), and finally, have fun.

I give you alot of credit, it takes balls to persue this form of entertainment.


Billy Connelly(sp?) is my all time favourite. I also really enjoy Carlin, Dennis Miller, Chris Rock, and a few others I can’t think of right now. I like un-pc comics who like to rip on current social and political issues. I will say I’m not a huge Jerry Seinfeld fan.

Am I the only one here who likes Chris Rock??? This guy is fucking hilarious.
I can;t believe no one mentioned him yet.
His HBO specials make me laugh every time.
Download “Bigger and blacker” if you haven’t heard it.
:slight_smile: Groove