by Jake on December 20, 2012

Chris Rock

Chris Rock: Funny

I remember just a couple of years ago watching Chris Rock’s most recent HBO special. In this one, they cut together footage from several locations into one set, often switching in mid-routine, as he was, of course, performing the same act in each location.

Of course.

It seems obvious when you say it, but I doubt people really think about how hard standup comedians work on their act. Not just their jokes – their ACT. It’s ALL part of the performance. Often, even the apparent mistakes are part of the plan.

These men and women rehearse their entire routine, working out timing, inflection and even when and where to be spontaneous. They know that comedy, like music, has a rhythm to it and you have to be able to sustain that flow, regardless of what obstacles come along. Hecklers? Best be ready for them. Have ways of dealing with them that will allow you to keep the audience dancing to your beat, as it were. And by knowing when and where you can improvise a little, you leave just enough room to keep it fresh while still doing your same routine.

Katt Williams

Katt Williams: Not Funny

Once a comic has it worked out, has practiced in front of live audiences in comedy clubs and the like, they have a tight set of material. If you think back, most of the really famous comedians have ‘bits’ that you remember them for more than anything else, just like musicians have hit songs.

It’s an art form, and a demanding one. Some comedians have a carefully crafted stage persona, but they still have to find their niche and write new material all the time. It’s an unforgiving line of work, because you must have a broad appeal and be able to find the collective funnybone of audiences from all walks of life, in every community across the country – even the world.

Even improv groups are working from a formula. That’s how they do what they do. The formula is designed to allow them to maneuver through situations that are always based on the same structure while allowing room for them to be creative and “original” each time.

So remember, when you watch a great comedian, or even a good one, you’re not seeing the hours of effort and practice and editing and honing and perfecting that goes into even little things like facial expression or body language – you’re only seeing the final product.

The fact that Chris Rock was willing to let you see how manufactured and repetitive his act was proves unequivocally he is funny enough that it doesn’t matter if you’re in on his secret. Because he’s just that good.

So if you’re the office wit or the class clown and everyone tells you that you should be a comedian, my advice is: don’t quit your day job. Or better yet, go to a comedy open mic’ night, get up on stage and just “be funny”.

Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson: Not A Comedian

Good luck.

Maybe one in a hundred of you will actually succeed. If you do, try it again. See? It’s actually hard work, a very specific type of performance. And an almost manic attention to detail.

Tears of a clown, indeed!

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