Last month I posted this on Facebook: “To improve your comedy writing, watch good comedy.” I stand by this statement but will add a bit to it now…“watch it, live.”
For comedy writers, there are a few benefits to seeing a comedian live.
You get to watch comedians perform in their element. Stand-up comedy is geared towards a live audience. The crowd’s reaction can boost a performance but can also just as easily sink it. Sometimes all in the same routine. For us writers, it’s important to see that – whichever direction it goes — to get a grasp on what can spur the audience along. And you get to see how the comedian responds to the interaction of the audience. It is great fun to watch a performer deliver a line that gets a boffo response and see the comedian’s face come to life.
Being in the audience, you’re a witness to the true reaction to a joke or routine. On television, lines can be edited and the audience’s response sweeten. I’ve been to shows where a line flopped but then saw it on TV and the line got a tremendous response. That’s not the way it happened at the club. Being ringside you can judge for yourself what works and what doesn’t.
You can also get a feel for the comedian, personally. There was one show in particular that I was really looking forward to. I wanted to see the performer and had great expectations. As soon as the comedian, walked on stage, I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy his comedy. He was loud, brash, rude, and the greatest sin of all…not funny. It was disappointing but it was a lesson for me. I knew that I wouldn’t want to write for this performer. I also learned that the person you see on TV, may not be the person that comes out on stage.
You get to see some good comedy. Even with the performance mentioned above, the night wasn’t a total loss. Why? Because the comedian before this guy was phenomenal. A good comedy show will have a mix of performances, some good, some not as good. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad, but if you have four people competing, they can’t all be number one. Depending on the bill, you’ll see a variety of comedy and can evaluate for yourself.
A good comedy show will teach you a lot about the entertainment field. A good comedy show will build and leave the audience on a high note. There is a mastery to developing a professional show that pleases the audience and the more shows you see, the more you will be tuned into this special skill. That skill can transfer to your comedy writing so instead of just submitting lines, you are building routines.
The ability to schmooze. This is a biggie. So often we hear people say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Going to the clubs and seeing comedians can help you get known. Some comedians are willing to mingle after a show. Stay after, if the venue allows, and talk comedy. Take advantage of the situation…without being a nudge, of course.
You can find out all kinds of interesting things at a comedy show…sometimes from the performers, and sometimes from other audience members. In going to a show I learned about comedy books that were available, classes that were being taught, other venues that were having comedy nights, (even managed to score comp seats), as well as other useful information. Be observant and you may be amazed at the information you come away with.
Going to a live comedy show can provide you with a lot of laughs, can be a boost to your comedy writing career, and may even be tax deductible.
Here in Los Angeles, Wendy Liebman hosts the Locally Grown Comedy Show at Vitello’s in Studio City. It is held on the last Tuesday of every month and features seven or eight different comics. If you’re in the area, definitely come check it out. If you’re not, do a little research and find out who’s playing in your neck of the woods…and then go.
It will be worth your while.
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Master Course in
A 12-week email class that covers the basics of comedy writing. Features lessons and feedback.
Master Course in
A 9-step program that takes the writer through the process of developing a monologue. You will work on a topic of your own choosing.