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How do you become a comedian?

Updated: Mar 25, 2023

Becoming a comedian requires a combination of natural talent, hard work, and determination. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't the most glamourous of professions and you have to really know why you're doing it.

Let's first start with some keywords and terms:

  1. Set: A comedian's performance or

  2. Punchline: The line that delivers the joke's payoff, usually at the end of a joke or story.

  3. Tag: A follow-up joke or comment that adds to the original punchline.

  4. Callback: A reference to a previous joke in the set.

  5. Premise: The basic idea or topic of a joke.

  6. Bit: A short comedic piece within a set, usually focused on a specific topic.

  7. Setlist: A list of jokes or stories a comedian plans to perform during a set.

  8. Heckler: An audience member who interrupts the performance with comments or interruptions.

  9. Bombing or Death: Failing to get laughs from the audience, resulting in an uncomfortable or awkward performance. Formerly the worst type of death used to be called an "Abortion". But no longer a modern term.

  10. Crowd work: Considered a form of improvisational comedy in Stand up. This

  11. Bracket: A group set of comedy performances before or after an intermission

  12. Opening act: The first comedian to perform in a lineup.

  13. Support Act: A comedian who is on a lineup but not the headliner. They almost always do less time on stage than a headliner.

  14. Headliner: The main comedian or performer in a show.

  15. MC: The master of ceremonies or host of a comedy show.

  16. Comedy club: A venue that specializes in hosting live stand-up comedy performances.

  17. Special: A recorded stand-up performance that is professionally produced and released for distribution.

  18. Green room: The area backstage where performers wait before and after their set.

  19. Clean Comedy: A style of comedy that avoids vulgar or offensive language and topics.

  20. Dark Comedy: A style of comedy that deals with taboo or controversial topics, often using humour to confront difficult or uncomfortable subjects.

  21. Roast: A comedy event or performance in which a guest of honor is insulted in a humorous way by other comedians.

How most people START

So first off, ask yourself, "Why do I want to become a comedian?"

Grassroots Comedy is run by comedians upwards of 20 years of experience in the business. We've deduced most initial reasons people want to get into stand up comedy, fit into 1 or more of these categories:

  1. I want to make people laugh.

  2. I've always been the joker in my crew

  3. People tell me I'm funny and that I should try out comedy

  4. I want to impress my friends and family

  5. I need to use it for therapy and avoidance from the root cause of my problems

  6. I have a passion for comedy and comedy writing, I appreciate comedy as works of art and want to create my own body of work

  7. I want to become a better at my social media game.

  8. I went to a live stand up show and the acts were terrible, and I thought "I can do better than that"

  9. It's a platform for attention because everyone ignores me

  10. I'm using it as a platform to relay and change and shape the world

Some of this stuff here is gross and egotistical. Welcome to the comedy scene. Be prepared to encounter people who are filled with doubts, insecurities, trauma, inadequacies, daddy/mummy issues.

For most, they will do their first gig. Do no research, do nothing. Just get up and trial 5 somewhere.

How most people STAY

Usually the first gig for most is full of crap jokes and will be highly unprepared. It will involve total confusion, and largely in a dumpster alley to go with the dumpster. There will be a gross realisation that "Oh wow this is a lot harder than it looks".

Once all things are done and dusted, and a lot of the nonsense gets out of the way. For most people this is after they've done their first gig, and this is where the journey starts.

Now you can bypass this by reading forward and getting prepared.

So let's just start with language. Before you even consider yourself a "comedian", reword it as "I want to get on stage at an open mic comedy show".

Some of us who've been performing comedy for YEARS at a professional level, cringe at the idea of even calling ourselves comedians. We observe the utmost delusion and audacity of some who, after their first death on stage will set up social media profiles with their name and "- Comedian" or @name_comedy on socials.

Unless you want to be the butt of jokes for a lot of working comics, we suggest you bed down for at least 1 to 5 years before you decide to start properly marketing yourself as a comedian and set up specific websites and comedy socials.

This is the starting point:

Here are some steps you can take to become a comedian:

  1. Develop your comedic skills: Start by studying the work of other comedian s and identifying what makes them funny. Try to analyse their jokes and delivery and figure out what techniques they use to make people laugh. Then, practice your own comedic skills by writing jokes and performing them in front of a mirror or a small audience.

  2. Attend LIVE comedy shows and open mics: Attend comedy shows in Perth and watch other comedians perform. Pay attention to how they interact with the audience, their pacing, and their comedic timing. Consider signing up for open mic nights to practice your material and get feedback from other comedians. Watch ALL live comedy. Good and bad.

  3. Build your network: Getting to know people is an important part of the comedy industry. Attend industry events, connect with other comedians, and build relationships with bookers and other comedians. But try to do this with a bit of humility. It is VERY easy to look like a douchebag and no longer get booked by room runners. Try to be respectful. The scene in Perth is very competitive, there are over 400 open micers and 30-40 payable comics, and around 10 headliners based here. This is small by comparison to Melbourne or Sydney. Nonetheless, support the scene and the scene will support you. Find the people you can connect with on a relatable level.

  4. Keep honing your craft: Becoming a successful comedian takes time and dedication. Keep practicing your jokes, refining your delivery, and seeking feedback from other comedians and audience members. As you improve, you may want to consider hiring talent agent or manager to help you book gigs and advance your career.

  5. Write jokes: Start writing your own material. Experiment with different styles and topics. Keep a notebook with you to jot down ideas and observations.

  6. Practice your material: Try out your jokes on friends, family, or at open mics. See what works and what doesn't. Refine your material based on feedback.

  7. Perform regularly: Look for opportunities to perform at local comedy clubs, open mics, and other venues. Build your stage presence and confidence by performing in front of live audiences. This is hard but essential. Don't be precious about the rooms you perform in especially in the early days. The Experimental Comedy Club is Perth's best open mic room, and consider by some of the working comics to even be Australia's best open mic room (Emo Majok, Jacques Barrett, Chris Giacobbe, Sami Shah, Ivan Aristeguieta, Waka - are likely to endorse this).

  8. Develop your brand: Create a unique persona and style that sets you apart from other comedians.

  9. Stay persistent: Comedy is a tough industry, and success may take time. Keep working hard, honing your craft, and networking. With dedication and perseverance, you can achieve your goals as a comedian.

  10. Be extremely cautious of opinions and advice from colleagues at your level. Take it in, but understand that their "hot take" is probably inaccurate. They're learning and understanding things just as much as you are. Sometimes, it's important to just keep your head down and focused on your stage time. Avoid social commentary, avoid bitching about people who do better than you, avoid being bitter. Work your ass off, get better at comedy.

That's about it really. This is the starting point. If you're interested in checking out a lineup featuring brand new and seasoned professionals performing new material, The Experimental Comedy Club is the perfect show for you. Immerse yourself in the process and watch how others work their craft.

Look forward to seeing you there!

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