Probably one of the most prevalent misconceptions about writing a stand-up comedy routine is that if it reads funny from a piece of paper or word processor then it will automatically be funny when delivered on stage.
By its very nature, some stand-up comedy material will certainly read funny.
But most stand-up comedy material that will actually generate decent laughs actually won’t read funny at all.
As a matter of fact, some stand-up comedy material that will generate big laughs on stage actually won’t make much sense as it is “read” from paper or a word processor.
Here are some considerations that every prospective comedian should know about writing a stand-up comedy routine:
1. We don’t “write” the same way we “talk”. We are taught to write in a predefined way that tends to be far more structured per se than the way we communicate with each other verbally.
2. “Writing” in the conventional sense is one dimensional meaning that only words alone make up the communication whereas when we talk we use multiple means of communication simultaneously in addition to words.
3. Working with words alone automatically forces the writer to use more words because that is the only communication means available to a reader.
This directly conflicts with writing or producing a stand-up comedy routine which demands an economy of words in order to get to punchlines quickly.
You will see this statement frequently when I talk about develop stand-up comedy material for the stage that will actually get laughs:
Audiences don’t read stand-up comedy material – they experience it as it is being delivered by the comedian.
Another very interesting fact is that the comedy talent that you have right now – your sense of humor and the way you express your sense of humor WAS NOT developed from passing written notes between you and the people you have interacted with since you started talking as a child.
If you want to verify what I have presented in this article so far, simply go to YouTube and find a video of your favorite comedian performing a stand-up set. If the video was loaded after 2014, it has a transcript you can open and copy (click the 3 dots at the bottom right below the video to open the transcript)
Take a transcript of what is an obviously hilarious stand-up comedy routine and show it to any of your friends, family co-workers, etc. but when you do, don’t tell them who the comedian is. Note: If an individual is about to picture the comedian in their mind along with their delivery style, more of the material will “read” funny than if they have no idea about the delivery style.
If it is all about the “writing”, it should read funny and the people you show it to should burst out laughing when they read it, right? Let me save you some time – that’s not going to happen.
Writing is NOT talking. While both of the means of communication involve the use of words, they are as different as a Formula 1 racer and a tricycle, both of which have wheels. Odd that there’s no real mention anywhere about people experiencing “talker’s block” either.
If you want to take a shortcut I have actually done this for you if you will review the first lesson of the Killer Stand-up Online Course called Joke Writing: The Fastest Path To Failure In Stand-up Comedy.
Here’s the bottom line:
What matters most is NOT whether a comedian’s stand-up comedy reads funny on paper or not. What matters most is that they are able to generate big and frequent laughs with their stand-up comedy material.
Being dependent just upon “writing” alone to produce a solid stand-up comedy routine is a great way to unnecessarily extend the amount of time it takes a comedian to get the laughs needed to move forward as a comedian.
There is a huge difference between writing material that is designed to be read by a reader and developing stand-up comedy material that incorporates all aspects of verbal expression that is designed to be appreciated by an audience.
Trying to “write” anything the way we were taught to write can be very difficult. But developing and delivering a stand-up comedy routine can be done far more easily and effectively given the knowledge to know how.