One thing that is essential in defining your success as a stand-up comedian is your comedic style.
Your comedic style helps differentiate you from other comics on the scene and really can be one of the deciding factors on who makes it and who doesn’t.
The great thing about a comedic style is that no two comedians will ever be completely alike and if you pay close enough attention, you can really see the subtle differences in comics that are perceived to be “similar.”
So how does one exactly develop their comedy style? Here’s a few strategies that can help you navigate your own personal development as a stand-up comic.
Find your starting point
Everyone has to start somewhere. For many, that starting point is beginning with discussing what you know and speaking in the way that makes them feel most comfortable. This is great especially if it’s your first stab at comedy and you’re trying to get a feel for the stage.
At the beginning stage, it might even be helpful to think about your favorite comedians and why you like them. Ask yourself things like what do they do/talk about that makes them your favorite? What is their energy? Is their style something you want to build off of?
Know what you want to convey and what you don’t want to convey as it will help you better assess your starting point.
Always be willing to push limits
Comedy is a cutthroat industry where you always have to grow and evolve to maintain even a small bit of relevance; for comedians, pushing limits is exactly the way we stay ahead of the game.
Pushing limits can be done in many ways, but I have to give credit to two comedians that emphasized this notion: Joan Rivers and Sarah Silverman.
Joan Rivers was a pioneer for women in comedy and she did it by pushing the limits, primarily with the topics she discussed. What you choose to discuss helps define your style and Rivers was willing to make fun of anything (her beef with Anne Frank will live on in infamy). “Going there” like Joan did constantly was not only something she did as a comic, but it was such an embedded part of her brand that it was something you expected and her longevity proved this.
Sarah Silverman, like Joan Rivers is also willing to “go there,” but most recently Silverman has done somewhat of a change to her comedy. In her most recent NetFlix special, she changed up her style to a more conversational/anecdotal style, something she had never done before and in my opinion worked for her.
What these two women prove is that pushing the limits is essential because you never want to be a “one-note” comedian where your relevance is limited.
For example, I can’t stand when comics aren’t willing to go deeper than surface level topics like politics. Yeah, that might be funny in the moment, but those jokes have an expiration date and it doesn’t allow the audience to get to know you deeper because you aren’t tapping into your vulnerability. That’s what pushing limits does; it makes us vulnerable which audiences will likely appreciate even if it takes time to cultivate.
There is nothing worse in comedy than seeing a comic who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Most of the time, this is attributed to lack of experience.
Sure, you can write about your political opinions, what you watched on television, and so forth, but there is nothing like taking someone on a ride with what you experienced.
Going out there and experiencing life will only help your writing. Maybe you had a bad bachelorette party experience in some state no one cares about? Or you went to DC and came back to the motel only to find a naked prostitute holding the door shut of the neighboring room while yelling at you to call the police because the guy inside was trying to kill her? These are things people want to hear about because there is nothing better than a comedic take on an experience!
So there you have it! Some tips to help you navigate the development of your comedic style!
Got questions or something to add? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!