Write. Get on stage. Reflect. Repeat. #Comedy 101 How to be Stand-up Comic

Easter

Write. Get on stage. Reflect. Repeat.

By Walt Frasier @waltfrasier on most social media platform

Driving home from Cape Cod the other day, I got a call.

I’m an impressionist. Which clubs in New York like celebrity impersonators?

Easy answer. If you are funny, all of them.

Of course, the response was, I’m hilarious.

My next question, where have you performed.

A couple bars upstate, one or two in town.

Ah ha! He had not even wandered into an open mic at a real club.

There is now get rich quick schemes in comedy.

He started talking about what Jimmy Fallon did in open mics.

I said, well that was 30 years ago. (sorry, Jimmy, I aged you a tiny bit lol). Go to an open mic.

The problem with a lot of young wannabes? They only see the finished product. They see the 30-60 minute specials on cable or live at a big theater. Or they see the 15-20 minute showcase set.

They don’t see the comic hustling for stage time, going to many clubs in one night. Back up, they don’t see the comic bombing 100 times at open mics, bringers and barkers.

If you want to be a stand-up comic, you have to do the time.

The next thing I say, I know guys that started 10-15 years ago and are now bitter about being passed over.

I know a small few that were working with in a year of hitting the scene.

What was their secret?

They hustled. This is a job. They wrote material. They were in the clubs EVERY night.

Pete Davidson was in the clubs at 16. So was Eddie Murphy. That’s why both of those guys were on SNL at 19.

Fallon was working the clubs by 21. He was 24 when SNL gave him a shot.

How does one get from wannabe to working comic?

Stage time. Writing time. Want to be a guest on Fallon, find an open mic and go talk for 5 minutes tonight!

Listen to any comic of any worth and they will share the horror stories of bombing. For every minute of great comedy the stars have hundreds of minutes that ended up in the garbage.

Here is a simple formula I teach.

Buy a cheap paper journal.

Brainstorm a list of ideas.

Get on stage (film yourself)

Simple talk, using your list as a guide. Put your notebook on the stool.

Get off stage and immediately write in your journal. How did that go? Be honest, brutally so, but without ego and/or ire.

Then watch the video. Did your initial take line up with what you see?

What worked?

What sucked?

The formula is simple.

Write. Get on stage. Reflect. Repeat.

Judd Apatow, in his master class, says THIS IS A JOB. A comic is a writer. A writer needs to sit down and write a few hours a day, many days a week.

This is not science. This is trial and error. You have to get on stage to hear the words out loud. Stand up comedy is a conversation between you and the audience. What is rattling around in your head may or may not be as funny as you think. And quite often what you find mediocre in your head, kills!

Getting On Stage

On any given night, there may be 200 rooms in New York alone where you can get on stage and play for 5 minutes. You may need to pay $5. You may need to buy a drink. Some are free.

http://badslava.com/new-york-open-mics.php

Here I just did your first job. We have these wonderful tools now called smart phones. Google OPEN MICS.

Write. Get on stage. Reflect. Repeat.

Get on stage as often as possible. If you don’t have a club paying you to perform, or a manager begging to represent you, you have not been in stage enough yet.

Tired of paying to play?

Do a bringer show?

Get stage time by conning friends into seeing you.

Running out of friends and family to con, do a barker. Hand out flyers on the corner.

Tired of making money for other wannabes, produce your own show.

Here is where things start to change.once you have enough contacts to produce a show, something fun happens. You can trade spots.

Hey Marsha, I’ve got a show Thursday at 7 at the Broadway. Want a spot.

Sure, how about doing my show next week.

Once you have stage time to give away, you start to get free spots on mics.

Guest Spots

As you traverse this seemingly bottomless pit of paying to play, with money, times and soul trading in for five minutes of hell on stage bombing etc, a couple things happen.

1) You start to figure out who you really are as a comic.

2) You start to get mediocre, maybe even good.

3) You start to network with comics, club Booker’s etc.

Some one will tap you on the shoulder and say, hey kid, want five minutes on our Tuesday main stage show?

You better say yes!

Everything starts to change the day you go from begging for stage time, to being offered stage time.

If you say no, who knows how long it will be before they ask again.

Then go immediately to 10 open mics so you are ready to kill.

This is an audition. It is not an immediate gate way to paid gigs, but it is the beginning of another long path.

You may be on that path for a month, year or a decade. That all depends on you.

Write. Get on stage. Reflect. Repeat.

The best case scenario, you get on stage tonight, in one year you may be working at the clubs. I know one guy that did that. I know far more comics that quit the business, or hang around bitter 10-20 years later. Most of the comics you see working (getting paid on a all pro show) at clubs or on Last Comic Standing have been hustling for 10+ years.

Work Hard. Be patient. Don’t be a jerk. This business is tiny. Burn a bridge and get black listed all over town. Be someone folks want to work with on and off stage. Be someone folks can stand driving across country with.

Check ego at the door, with your insecurity and simply.

There are no guarantees. But I do guarantee every minute you are not on stage, every minute you are not writing, every  minute you are not networking, some one else is.

Write. Get on stage. Reflect. Repeat.

*********************

Walt Frasier is a comic, actor and producer in New York City who has appeared on a number of TV appearances.

waltfrasier