I’m still trying to catch up with my blogging so this actually happened a little while ago, but I learned a valuable lesson at my second workshop. Plan your set properly.
My second time on stage at the workshop was a disaster. I had a story that I wanted to tell, I had thought about it a lot and had told it to a few friends who thought it was funny. I have listened to interviews and podcasts where comedians talk about how you should tell your jokes and stories on stage like you would at a bar with friends. I think I must have taken that too literally because when I jumped up on stage that night, I tried to tell the story unrehearsed and ended up babbling and umming and ahhing.
There were some key jokes that I wanted to hit, but in the adrenaline of being on stage I forgot to get to a couple of them. This meant that while I was talking, my brain was trying to navigate a maze and get me on the path to the next joke. The parts in between jokes are just the fat, it needs to be trimmed to keep the momentum of the set, otherwise you’re just giving a speech and because of the nature of comedy topics, it’s most likely going to be boring. My speech ended up being about giving a urine sample and people were like “Yeah, that’s what happens when you give a urine sample….. So what?”.
Experienced comedians are more likely to be able to “wing it” a little, although the majority of them don’t, and that is for a reason. I learned that having a planned set with rehearsed jokes when you get on stage is important (especially when you are just starting) because:
You have trimmed the fat
This is important because the less words you have to say to get from one joke to the next, the more momentum your set will have. I have since done a couple more, and one set in particular (which I will blog about later) would not have been possible at all if I had not known my material.
When a joke doesn’t land, you can just keep on track to the next one
I recorded this second set and it’s incredibly painful to listen back to (It will be in the next episode of the podcast if you want to hear it. – Link coming when it has been published) because when I got to a joke that I thought would land, I had lost momentum, it barely got a laugh and all I could think about was “I thought that would get a better response”. Now I am starting to get lost in the story, missing key joke opportunities and putting a lot of unnecessary words into the act. Panic then starts to set in, and you can hear it…. I was dying.
You’re not Bill Burr
Bill Burr plans his set, but also writes his material on stage. This is harder than he makes it look. If anyone could do it, everyone would. Bill Burr has been doing this for so long and has so much experience. He also has a podcast that is mostly him talking shit on his own for an hour or more at a time. He is training for it.
So the reason I didn’t write the jokes that time was mainly because I didn’t know how to write a joke yet. I still don’t, but I didn’t even have a process. Now I am getting a bit of a process which has allowed me to come up with some material and rehearse it. I will post about that later, but my main take-away from the experience was that having planned jokes makes it easier to be on stage. If something is not working for you that night, you can stay confident, power through it, thank everyone kindly and get the hell off the stage.