What Makes A Good Stand Up Comedian: 5 Main Things

Being a comedian takes a lot of patience and perseverance. Many of the all-time great comedians worked for years to perfect their craft. You may be on this journey yourself. It can be overwhelming sometimes. You may be asking yourself "Where do I start?"

Being a good comedian requires confidence. When you appear confident and comfortable on the stage people are more likely to be drawn to your words. What you say is not nearly as important as how you deliver it. Good timing, expression, and material can all help you make the most of your jokes.

There are so many things that go into being a great comedian. Chances are you will be continually refining your routine for the rest of your career. Because there are so many things to work on, I have come up with a list of some of the qualities that all great stand-up comedians should have.

1. Good storyteller

Being a good comedian requires you to be a great storyteller as well. If you have ever watched a great stand-up comedian, you may have noticed that they are really good at turning very ordinary events into very funny stories. Even a trip to the grocery store could turn into a funny anecdote with the right spin!

Sometimes when we think of stand-up comedians we picture in our minds a guy standing in front of a brick wall explaining to us why the chicken crossed the road. While there are some funny jokes delivered with a punchline, most stand-up comedy is used in the form of storytelling.

The first step to becoming a great storyteller is finding your voice. Are you a young college student struggling through the dating scene and part-time jobs or are you a new dad trying to figure out how to raise a newborn baby? Be yourself!

You also want to find balance in the stories that you tell. It's totally acceptable to tell a long story, but you want to make sure to keep the attention of your audience. Most of the all-time great comedians have the ability to keep their audience in suspense. Make them be on the lookout for the conclusion of your story without boring them with irrelevant and unfunny details.

One of the most important things you can do is exaggerate your material. Maybe you were at the grocery store and you had a misunderstanding with the cashier that caused one of you to fumble. It is totally acceptable for you to take a story like this and think about how you can make it something that people want to listen to.

Did the cashier make a face? What was your reaction? What were the people around you doing? Is there some interesting backstory? These are all things that can make the most ordinary story into something that people will laugh at. (source)

2. Use Body Language

We just talked about exaggerating above, and this is such an important principle in stand-up comedy. Imagine one night you decide you want to go see some stand-up comedy and you get there and find a comedian who is sitting back in a chair telling bland jokes. This would not be very fun to watch and the main reason for that is the way the stand-up comedian is presenting themselves.

Some of the greatest comedians ever have had the ability to stand confidently in front of an audience and speak from a place of power. A great way to make the story interesting is by using big facial expressions to magnify your emotions.

3. Develop Material

I don't know about you, but I always picture a stand-up comedian as someone who has the ability to stand in front of an audience and just talk. Many of the really talented ones have the ability to make their audience think that they are improvising.

The truth is however that almost all great comedians have a routine. Though it may seem that they are coming up with things on the spot, it is likely that they have actually been working on a joke or story for months. They have probably gone through hours and hours of trial and error trying to make that joke one that people will find funny.

Unfortunately, the only true way to know if your joke "works" is by using it in front of real people. This will allow you to see what kind of reaction you will get when delivering that type of joke. (source)

4. Know your Audience

As funny as it may be, I don't know how much a group of 6th graders is going to find humor in a joke about your grandchildren. Now, I recognize that it is not likely that your performing in front of 6th graders but my point is that it is important that you know your audience. You may get a few confused pity laughs, but not every joke is going to resonate with all audiences. (source)

Many of the "gigs" that you will get as a stand-up comedian will be with a certain company or party that hires you to perform at their event. It would be well worth your time to do your research and determine who you will be performing for. Say one day you get a call asking you to perform at a bachelor party. A good comedian would sit down and think about jokes that have to do with marriage and being single.

5. Be Humble

Last but certainly not least is that you need to be humble. Any great comedian has the ability to take criticism and is willing to change how they perform. After all, without the audience, you are kind of out of a job. Even if you think it is the funniest joke in the world, it's not funny if your audience doesn't laugh. They decide what's funny, not you. So you need to be prepared to take jokes back to the drawing board if it doesn't make your audience laugh.

One of the all-time great comedians Ricky Gervais has some great advice for young comedians in the video below. I love how Ricky talks about being willing to make yourself the butt of the joke.

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