Comedy may be subjective, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a laugh from everyone you meet. Here are the top ways to keep audience members entertained and be the best comic possible.
Don’t Antagonize The Audience.
If you have a heckler or someone in the audience who catches your eye on sight: don’t try to engage. It might seem bright and funny to adlib, but it often annoys audience members or could ruin the show for some.
Jabbing back at hecklers, if done poorly, can also push them to get rowdier or inspire others to shout up at you. Maintain control of the audience wherever you’re performing, and ensure that you keep the mood easy and fun.
Don’t Ever Steal Jokes.
Stealing jokes is on par with murder in the comedy scene. Although some tricks seem to be an old universal joke, most are new and evolving. A comedian deserves to be able to have the rights to their marks so that if they tell it, they’re the first person the audience has heard it from. Jokes lose humor with repetition, so don’t kill them. Instead, come up with your bits from your life and those around you.
Plan Long Sets Like a Movie
Most movies, plays, and books come with a series of three major parts. Part one explains the world, shows people what to expect, and introduces characters. Part two builds up to conflict and increases interest, and part three has the payoff and the resolution to the story.
In comedy set writing, you should follow a similar pattern.
If your long set is 44 minutes, spend the first fifteen making jokes and observations that suit you as a human being. Let them get to know you and understand your sense of humor. Set up some general jokes that can be played with later.
In the second set of fifteen minutes, you can discuss troubles in your life or the world around you in a humorous way. Avoid topics that are too divisive or that make you look bad.
In the third act, talk about happier and more exciting things, and turn around problems in the second act and explain how they were resolved. You should also make a call back to the jokes or online that happened in the first act.
Timing is Everything
The timing of a joke, the way you deliver it, and the cadence of your voice can decide how people will respond to it and whether they’d hire a comedian like you. Although it may seem tempting to throw many jokes out at once, the way, The Office or Parks and Rec does: keep it limited. You can be funny without overwhelming the audience with joke after joke. Sometimes just how you deliver the story can be funny enough to get them rolling.
Practice your sets ahead of time, and figure out what kind of timing and joke makes it land better. If you find that something doesn’t work during one performance, you can change it up and try something else the next time!