Funny at Parties ≠ Funny on Stage

People tell you that “you’re so funny, you should go on stage”.  You hear it all the time. You’re able to tell jokes, make references to funny movie sayings, or just react quickly and humorously to a given situation.  You’re likely a very fun and funny person.

This doesn’t mean you’ll do well on stage.

Time and again, I’ve seen the “funniest guy in the frat house” go up on stage becasue he was dared to by his buddies. He not only bombed, but outright embarrassed himself.  It’s not his fault.  He did well at parties. After a few drinks, he’d do his “Will Ferrell from Anchorman” impression and people would go nuts.  He could pull in references to what the Indian teaching assistant said in class this week and wasn’t afraid to sing in a girlie voice to the Justin Bieber song that just came on the radio. He’s frickin’ crazy bro!

Think about how any of those would play on stage. If I want to see  Anchorman, I can rent it. I wasn’t in class when the T.A. said that thing, because I’ve been out of school for 10 years. And singing in a funny voice to Bieber? Really?

The thing with performing on stage is that you can’t just act silly and goofy. You have to have jokes. Jokes can take many different forms but they need to do two things: set the audience up and then give them something to laugh at. Your style can be like Bill Cosby, Ellen DeGeneres, Louis C.K., Demetri Martin, Carrot Top or Steven Wright… or like none of them, but you still have to have jokes. Even though it probably doesn’t seem like it, there’s a framework to stand up comedy. The audience in a club, whether they realize it or not, is expecting that framework.  Always think of things from the audience’s point of view.

If you’re naturally funny like the frat boy, then you can likely write jokes and build such a framework.  Like anything else, you just need to work at it.  You can learn what a “tag” and a “call back” are.  Applying them in the right way is what learning the “craft” is all about.


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