Before: “I’m tired, I was up until 3 am!” After: “I’m tired, my kid woke me up at 3 am.”
B: “We always go to that bar, let’s do something different!” (Goes to same bar) A: “We always get that takeout, let’s do something different!” (Kid eats only that takeout, goes to same restaurant)
B: “I had a bad day yesterday, I got fast food at midnight.” A: “I had a bad day yesterday, I ate my kid’s leftover dessert for the eighth straight meal.”
B: “I was so busy yesterday, I had to run to the grocery store and pick up five things.” A: “I had so much free time yesterday, all I had to do was pick up 37 things at the grocery store.”
B: “I need to get drunk!” (Gets drunk) A: “I need to get drunk!” (Has one drink, falls asleep sitting up)
B: “I got a bonus at work, I’m going to Vegas!” (Money gone in four days) A: “I got a bonus at work, I’m buying a playhouse for the kids!” (Kids play with playhouse for two days, never touch again until you go to sell it online, then suddenly interested again)
B: “I don’t watch kids’ movies.” A: “I’ve seen Trolls six times since Tuesday.”
B: “The scariest thing is waiting on a pregnancy test or getting pulled over leaving the bar.” A: “The scariest thing is changing a diaper and hearing a toot. Or whenever my kid is in the other room and it’s quiet.”
I have seen a lot of new comics over the years and heard a lot of discussions about comedy in general, so I though why not cover what goes into a good comic? The obvious and most important one to me is material. Good, funny material will cover up and hide a lot of flaws, but there’s still a ton that goes into it other than the content of the words.
Stage presence. This is a mix of confidence and practice. Most good comics I see are very comfortable onstage (although a few portray the nervous side because it fits their act). I have seen a lot of comics power through new or untested jokes better than nervous, jittery comics doing great material. The audience wants to believe you think the joke is funny. Projection of voice is part of this, some comics are funny, but you can’t hear them. That sometimes helps, I have found.
Timing. Man did I suck at this at first. I used to stomp all over laughs because “dead” air is brutal. No one wants to be stuck up there in silence so I used to hurry up and start the next joke while people were laughing. Recording your set and stage time will help with this to hear the cues and get more comfortable. Once you get past nerves, you can actually pay attention to the crowd onstage and pick up on things. This is such an important thing, I think every comic gets good at this fast or quits.
Crowd work. That leads me to crowd work. I still think this is the most overrated and overblown part of stand up. EVERYONE I talk to that hasn’t seen comedy in a while asks me if I pick on people. No. Unless they are really, really asking for it. Crowd work just has to be a quick acknowledgment of something dumb and addressing the awkwardness or maybe just taking a response to a question that leads into a great joke you didn’t have planned on telling. Hecklers are really rare and usually best ignored. Or you can just open carry a firearm. Then no one heckles.
Callbacks. Also not my primary strength, although having a flow to your set will also give this effect. It harkens back to a previous joke and plays off it, which shows good writing and uses the old joke to maximum effect. I don’t naturally write that way, but it’s a good skill to have. Oh and calling back doesn’t mean telling the same jokes over during your set, that’s called being drunk.
Audience awareness. What is the crowd? I still remember doing two shows one week a few years back. Art History Graduate Students and the Central Ohio Tractor Pullers Association. Different sets, by the way. Same with clean and dirty sets. My little secret is I do largely the same sets, I just use different words. Just takes a little discipline.
Preparedness. The better you know your set, the better off you’ll be onstage. I always marvel that people after a year still don’t memorize their five minute sets. I honestly think this, over anything else, helped me when I started. I used to time my sets and practice with a TV remote as a microphone. I felt like a psycho, but was able to go from not remembering a five minute set to doing 20 plus minutes within a very short amount of time. Then I had two kids, so I’m glad I did that a while back. Now I just chug coffee and hope for the best.
Using who you are onstage. I have seen a lot of comics excel at this. The audience can see what you look like. Use it to your advantage. Fat people tell food jokes. (Note to self, diet or start writing food jokes.)
Of course, if your material sucks, then none of this matters and look for another joke site on how to write. I got nothing for ya. Except make that fart noise with your tongue sticking out at the end of every joke. That works with second graders.
My child fights sleep harder than I fight sobriety. Each night is a Mortal Kombat style showdown to get her to pick PJ’s, which currently is still easier than getting her to lie down. Luckily, I have found a new weapon, my Excalibur in the battle against slumber – Elmo Visits the Dentist and It’s Check-up Time, Elmo!
In the first tale, Elmo’s pal (somehow) is the Big Bad Wolf and he has a toothache, so Elmo helps him visit the dentist. Elmo needs to help Dada visit the eye doc because I can barely read this font in the dark. G looked at me and said, “Glasses off!” Not if you want a legit story, peanut. Last time Dada wung it, Momma said Dada isn’t allowed to make up his own versions of these stories.
The story is nice and long for a kid’s book, which helps G get sleepy, but when the dentist, Dr. Bradley aka Dr. Giggles McHuckster shows up in his floral shirt and drop this joke, it’s honestly hard to utter the words.
If you can’t read it, he says “Does a train have teeth?” “Then how come it can CHOO!” I need a minute. OK, maybe two.
Finally, Elmo gets a check-up from a normal health care provider…at least until this!
Doc starts asking some invasive personal questions. It’s good for kids so you know they’re safe, but as an adult, I ain’t saying nothing. Trying to get my insurance rate up, Doctor Nosy? I went for stomach flu recently to an urgent care. I couldn’t get 12 steps from the bathroom at one point. “Do you smoke?” No. “Did you ever?” Yes, very briefly in the span of my life and not often. “When was that? How often? Still using?” I’M HERE WITH THE SHITS JIMMY. DON’T WORRY THAT I HAD A CIGGY OR TWO AFTER NINE BEERS IN 2004. FIX MY O-RING AND SHUT YER YAP.
My family uprooted and moved late last year. It was a harrowing journey, fraught with peril. OK, it was five miles because we ran out of room. Apparently you need bedrooms to put kids in these days. I remember reading about pioneer families 9 deep living in a sod house with one room and I don’t know how people didn’t all just run out into the wilderness and die. Anyways, about three weeks after we moved in, the new city passed a massive school levy with raised my taxes through the roof. Great timing!
Well, the bennies finally showed up, our new city took time off paving the roads with 24 karat gold and hosted an Easter Egg hunt for all of us serfs. FREE! Away we went to one of the 57 parks in our city (that part is nice, but I haven’t found one with a lazy river of scotch yet, so color me unimpressed). The best part for me was the temperature dropped 20 degrees and I was starting day two of a gastro-intestinal virus. Nothing like doubling over from cramps while you’re trying to teach your kid how to elbow the competition on the sly.
They also started late, which was hi-larious. I forgot to mention my wife said, “I need your coat; I didn’t know it was this cold.” Every minute they were late, my achy cramping body began to shut down more. They finally started and we realized some health nerd planted mostly somewhat nutritious things like fruit snacks in the grass. My daughter picked one up, then began to fuss because she was promised candy. Atta girl! Nutrients are for losers! I got boxed out three times by a small Asian mother with a camera who may have been Karl Malone in disguise, but after 43 seconds, it was over.
On the way out, a not very fluent in English woman opened her van door while I was putting G in her car seat, causing me to get pinned against the car. It also happened to leave a huge red streak down her door, so oh well to that. In all, we had fun, especially when my daughter sucked all the chocolate off the one Snickers fun size we found and hand the slimy nougat lump to my wife. “Momma take.” Now we just need about two dozen more of these or a free hoverboard to use next year and the tax increase will be worth it.
I was reminded of a story at my show Friday (Rehab Tavern, third Friday of every month, free to all). The show went well, crowd was very attentive, and great sets from Bobby, Walta, Lindsey and Dan. Dan asked me how long the show had been going, which reminded me for about two years, it was an open mic night on Mondays, which had its ups and downs. Open mics are very random, usually on slower nights, so to make the show more productive for all, I added a small powwow before in the form of a comedy workshop. We bounced jokes ideas and occasionally I would see the joke done live, then was asked for feedback afterwards.
One of these times, I saw a guy who I had never seen before. He was late, but went up onstage and did his set. His first joke was about his wife and kids. His second was all the booty calls from randos and both jokes were heavy with the word bitch and other such non-flattering terms for women. He didn’t do very well, even by open mic Monday crowd standards, which is saying a lot.
After, I approached him and suggested he would be wise not to mention the fact he’s married with kids, then talk about hooking up with other women. “I’m not even married, it’s just part of the joke.” Well, still, then you should definitely not say that, it’s not important to the joke and all the women and most of the men in here don’t like that joke. “Man, I have freedom of speech. I can do what I want.” (Oh great, another high school dropout comic/Constitutional scholar) You’re right, I’m not saying you can’t, I’m just telling you that you will eat shit onstage and most of the people here hate your guts. You can do whatever you want, I’m just offering advice. “How long have you been doing comedy?” Longer than you. “I’m going to keep doing that joke.” OK, enjoy it. When you figure out it’s not working, let me know.
I never saw him again.
So if you hear a comic talking about his family, then cheating on his wife – it’s not real, but it’s also not remotely funny, but don’t worry – you’re watching a true freedom fighter up there. Get his name, because I forgot it right after the show.
Well, after a 5 week run of having two kids, I’m officially able to say having two kids is somewhat more challenging than having one. I know, I forgot to add a trigger warning or disclaimer, I’m just throwing it all out there. Here’s some things I’ve learned.
I want all hostage negotiators and bomb technicians to be family people. Sure, they may be sleep deprived, but anyone that can handle two crying children can handle something easy, like an explosive. Try changing a diaper with one hand while you keep a toddler from jumping off the bed onto the dog with the other.
Sleep when you can! My wife is nursing, so she has worse than anyone, since newborns wake up every couple hours to eat, but she doesn’t nap often during the day because she wants to “pay bills” and “clean the house” and “eat.” SLEEP. Last night everyone fell asleep and I was reading one of those unsolved murder pop-ups on my phone (I’m addicted, please send help) when I came to an epiphany. SLEEP STUPID. So I went to sleep. My daughter woke up at 3 am and wanted milk and stories, so I’m glad I went to bed early. Probably shouldn’t have read her the unsolved murder stories, but I didn’t screw up the milk.
YOU WILL ALWAYS FORGET SOMETHING AT THE GROCERY NOW. JUST LIVE WITH IT.
Use the skills you have with kid #1 on kid #2. I now am able to survive because of skills perfected with my daughter. Example – I had never changed a diaper before her, but I am proficient now. The other morning I was changing my son’s and observed he had not pooped. I quickly changed him in under 20 seconds and the second I applied the tape, I had a guttural rumbling and wet explosive blast. Had I been three seconds slower, I would have been covered in semi-solid waste. Side note: It’s amazing how loud a newborn can fart/crap.