Also called stand-up, stand-up comedy is a comic speech delivered by an individual (at times, a couple or more) anywhere where there’s an eager audience and a stage: bars, parties, clubs, etc. The act can last a few minutes or even an hour. The speech could be a monologue of funny accidents that stitch to form a story; succession of jokes or a stinging series of one-liners. Stand-up may look easy but cracking jokes in front of strangers is not the same as telling jokes to a group of friends. The audience has paid to seek amusement. Therefore, the comedian has to be spot on with his content.

A stand-up comedian during performance. Image credit: Flickr
A stand-up comedian during performance. Image credit: Flickr

Stand-up comedy isn’t just about the writing; delivery and connecting with the audience on an emotional level are equally important. Therefore, reciting jokes isn’t stand-up comedy. It’s also about the comedian’s experiences, assumptions, and language nuances. Stand-up comedy jokes usually focus on everyday situations, politics, current events, pop culture, demographics, etc. Quite often, the comedy deals with the real things. Some of the jokes presented may convey feelings and perspectives in a direct and raw manner, trying to alter people’s thinking by raising social questions.

Stand-Up Comedy is Serious Business

Coming up with fresh jokes every time you take center-stage is close to impossible, and therefore even the best stand-up comedians can be seen repeating their old jokes from another show. Fresh comic material doesn’t come by easy, and there are stand-up or other comedians who take months or even years to come up with new content.

Audience Role

The audience enjoying a stand-up act. Image credit: Flickr
The audience enjoying a stand-up act. Image credit: Flickr

Stand-up comedy audience usually doesn’t enter the hall with the mindset to interact with the performer and be a part of the act. The people sit down relaxed, hoping the performer would bring more than a few smiles on their faces. However, there are some members in the audience who may disrupt or interrupt the performance. These people are referred to as hecklers, and the skilled stand-up comedians feed off from such intruders and improvise their scripts accordingly. However, there are also instances when the audience booing and hissing hurts the performer’s confidence and kills the act altogether.

Stand-Up Comedian Personality and Traits

Generally, it’s not easy to gauge the true personality of a stand-up comedian based on what he does on stage. And this is because stand-up comedians tend to lie or exaggerate things or experiences only for the sake of humor. The comedian could adopt a different persona from real life when on stage or play another character or person sans any apparent make-up. The comedian may also interact with a particular audience member or section of the crowd. But that’s not a given. In fact, the majority stick to their script and don’t do impromptu or improvisation.

The funniest stand-up comedians could be the exact opposite (serious) off-stage. Image credit: Flickr
The funniest stand-up comedians could be the exact opposite (serious) off-stage. Image credit: Flickr

Though stand-up comedy doesn’t require role-playing, the most established stand-up comedians are also equally capable actors, which shows during their performances. Seasoned stand-up comedians are non-judgmental and open to any subject. They pick topics that the audience can relate to. For example, an American joke won’t sell in England or Australia and established comedians are aware of such cultural differences.

Besides having an affable personality, a stand-up comedian must bring original humor and make his own jokes. He must have his point of view and not just report incidents and events. The comedian must have good memory to remember his jokes, and should be spontaneous or mentally agile to comically react to awry scenarios. However, remembering every word of the joke is not required as that could make the performance look mechanical.