Now, I by no means think that I am the Dalai Llama of comedy; sitting on a mountain and dishing out comedy wisdom but I thought this might help anyone thinking of stepping into the intimidating world of standing up. I have been acting funny for five years and doing funnies with my sketch group Vinegar (formerly Vinegar Knickers) for three years although when it comes to stand up comedy I am a newbie! So why am I writing tips? Well, over the last 10 months of newbiedom I have found out some useful tit-bits that might help anyone starting out or might just be amusing reading. So here goes...
1. Everyone will assume you are rubbish - You are new, so no matter what your experience beforehand everyone will assume you are utterly crap at telling jokes to people. This can be frustrating when you are trying to assure everyone you are the UK's answer to Sarah Silverman with a bit of Lee Evans thrown in *cough*. The answer? Well, my answer, is to embrace it. They assume you suck so there is no pressure; you can experiment and play around, find that "voice" everyone talks about and hey if you actually make people laugh you can wow those naysayers all the more!
2. You probably are a bit rubbish - It's difficult to admit when you are the UK's answer to Sarah Silverman with a bit of Lee Evans thrown in (did I mention that already?) but you probably aren't a stand up wonder-child. It turns out this might take some work. But, hey thats ok, do you think Jessica Ennis was great at the 100 meter hurdles first time she threw her leg over? Sorry Jessica. Well, she probably was but we get to eat more chocolate so who are the real winners?!
3. Gig as much as possible - This is probably the most common piece of advice more experienced comedians will give you and I can confirm that all those experienced people are right! Practice makes ... better and audiences will react differently to your material so its worth trying out a joke at a few gigs before scrapping it. I also found after my first ten gigs I no longer felt like I might actually puke on stage, which definitely improved my set. I wonder when I'll stop feeling like crying?
4. Take a deep breath - It's always important to remember to breathe, especially when in a rabbit caught in the headlights with a microphone situation. One of the most important things I have learnt about gigging is to "relax man". I know, easier said than done but taking a deep breath before you start can really help. Rushing through your material because of nerves isn't going to be fun for anyone and won't allow the audience the space to actually laugh which is the good stuff.
5. Make friends - Write your material before you arrive at a gig, so your face isn't buried in your note book the whole time; it might even be nice to look at a face for a bit rather than crossed out and rewritten jokes! Be strong (I believe in you) and go to the gig alone (unless you have to bring a plus one) this will force you to talk to the other comics. I know, they look scary but they are all just human beings deep (deep) down. Chatting to people means you can find out about other gigs, competitions and even scandalous gossip which is incredibly useful and entertaining. Don't forget some comedians run their own nights so you can even get a few gigs out of mingling. Good huh?
6. You are brave! - This is all anyone will say when you tell them you are doing stand up. To begin with it only added to the wave of fear that regularly gripped me, but do you know what? Its true. You are brave to stand up in front of people and try and make them laugh so ruddy well done us! It does make you want to poop your pants but we've started and that's the hardest bit so the only way is Essex, no sorry up!
So there you have it, my learnings on the world of stand up comedy so far! I guess we will see how much I have actually learnt in the Funny Women Awards final on 22nd September... wish me luck!
Samantha Baines is an award-winning actress and comedian. She has problems with
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