I have been part of the New York City comedy scene for some time now and consume comedy on a daily basis whether it’s at an open mic, bar show, professional show, or online. Comedy is always at our fingertips and the longer you’re in it, the more you gain awareness of writing and performance styles, techniques, etc.
I had a new comic approach me at one of our open mics a few months back asking me “how do I make my jokes work?”
Now, I’m not going to pretend that I know everything to carving a successful comedy career or am the writing expert on the scene. For the most part, I am learning as I go and what I learn I share with others whether it’s marketing, strategy, branding, or writing.
My advice to this comic was something I’ve heard time and time again told to many new and seasoned comics: “you have to believe in your jokes.”
The foundation of a good joke isn’t the joke itself, but the confidence behind it.
Telling someone to believe in their jokes can sound very generic at first, but what I later explained to the comic was there was a lack of sincerity when it came to how he performed his jokes. It was almost as if he didn’t even feel what he was saying was funny and he was just going through the motions.
This is common for many new comics. Hell, it took me two years in to really understand how much believing in what you are saying matters on the stage.
Sometimes it’s how the joke is written or it may even be the concept all together that makes you doubt it; however, when you start believing in your joke that is when it starts to gain momentum.
Think about a comic that performs shakily and lacks confidence. He or she may have witty puns, but no one wants to listen because of the uncertainty in their performance. Now picture that same comic gaining confidence in their material and ultimately making people genuinely laugh.
It’s a process that takes time, but you can get there. That’s why we thrive on stage time.
“Honesty” is your writing’s best friend.
Honest writing in comedy doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a true story. I can tell you right now that every comic embellishes jokes at least a little bit.
What “honesty” means is the sincerity behind your concept and believing in your own “truth.” Honesty promotes authenticity and being authentic in your writing and performance is what sells a joke. Plain and simple.
The funny thing about authenticity is that it leverages itself into how much the audience believes you and wants to like you. Audiences cannot be fooled and will likely view lack of honesty as a half-assed effort.
A good joke starts when you as a comic believe in it. Don’t let self doubt or lazy writing techniques ruin the potential of what could be comedy gold.
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