You probably got into comedy because you have enjoyed watching stand-up comedy throughout your life. That’s certainly why I did. I just never considered it being something I could do for work. As someone that does stand-up now I watch a lot of comedy. I think it’s a real valuable tool to improve as a comedian. When I watch these specials on netflix or whatever I watch for enjoyment but I’m also trying to learn as much as possible. A few things to think about right away are; Who are your favorite comedians and what kind of styles do you like? As you continue to write jokes you will write more similar stuff. Stuff that works for your character on stage and that ties in with the rest of your material. Something that is distinct to you as a comic and you as a person. As far as I’m aware this is what is referred to as your “voice.”
Finding your voice takes ages and this is not what this article is about. However, it is good to take note of the type of jokes that work for you. This article is titled ‘becoming a student of comedy.’ I think there is too much emphasis on performing and writing and not enough on learning from others. While performing and writing are absurdly important to your development that is not really my point. I think anytime you are at a comedy show, even an open mic you should be paying attention to what is going on around you. If you’re watching your favorite comedians that is a workshop right there! How do they take the stage, what do they do with the mic, how do they introduce themselves, what kind of jokes are they opening with, what kind of jokes are they closing with. There’s so much.
I think if you want to get anywhere in comedy you have to develop a student mentality. Constantly be looking for ways to learn and improve. Talk to other comics, learn from them, learn from your mistakes, be diligent. You are on stage for like 10 minutes a day maybe slightly more. There’s so much more time in the day to be honing your craft. One area I especially like to focus on is how do comics dig themselves out of a hole. It’s easy to do well when you’re doing well. You have momentum, people are laughing and you’re in the zone. It doesn’t always go that way however. Sometimes you’re bombing and you can either continue doing what you have been doing and most likely keep bombing or try to figure out how to win the room back. This is no easy task but I’ve learned a lot about this from watching other people at mic’s and shows and also reviewing my own sets.
I like to record every time I go on stage. Camera or audio doesn’t really matter just have something to reference later. Sometimes the parts you think are funny don’t hit with the audience. Other times the parts you don’t think are funny do. Why is that? What can you learn from your own recordings? Most of this post is rhetorical. I’m trying to convince you that reflection is very important. There are countless opportunities for improvement off the stage. Get on stage as much as possible but do everything you can do in between as well. Go to shows, watch specials from the perspective of trying to learn something, ask questions, revue your sets, talk to other comics, ask for feedback and you will improve much quicker than by just doing mic’s.