Comedy timing for comedians is more than just stopping talking when the audience starts laughing and starting talking when the audience stops laughing.
But I will also say this – most new comedians don’t realize that they already have most of the comedy timing they are ever going to have before they ever hit the stage.
Like most other aspects in stand-up comedy, having great comedy timing as a comedian is not just about one thing. It’s a combination of things that work together to make comedy timing work for a comedian.
One of the biggest issues comedians have that has a direct impact on comedy timing is called “running over laughs”. This is when the comedian starts on the next bit or joke before the audience has finished laughing.
Usually, this is caused by nervousness or lack of experience on the part of the comedian.
The problem with running over laughs is that an audience cannot laugh and listen to the comedian at the same time. So the second that the comedian begins talking again, the audience laughter is immediately shut down.
Let me put this another way:
Just this one aspect of comedy timing can make the difference between a so-so stand-up comedy set and a great stand-up comedy set.
I should also mention that comedy timing is relative to the audience in attendance at the stand-up comedy show.
If a comedian is funny and the audience is bigger, the laughter generated tends to be longer simply due to the size of the audience and the collective contagiousness of laughter.
The opposite tends to be true with smaller audiences, where the length of laughter generated is not quite as long as with the bigger audiences.
So for this particular aspect of comedy timing, it will be the experience of the comedian to make adjustments as needed on an audience by audience basis (which is directly influenced by the experience level of the comedian with a wide variety of audiences).
Still other aspects of comedy timing lie in the structure and delivery of the stand-up comedy material itself.
Having great comedy timing as a comedian is a combination of applied knowledge and experience beyond simply knowing when to start and stop talking when audience laughter occurs (which there is a specific technique for that regardless of audience size).