Aspiring Comedians: Where to Start?

This is a multi-part question, and all suggestions are welcomed:
a) I am not into the bar scene, so I wonder if there really are places with “open mike” nights, or amateur hours? Beyond this, what other avenues are there to break into comedy?

b) I am wondering if there is a place where writers can interact with apsiring comedians to brainstorm and/or propose comical ideas and concepts? Granted, the sharing would be superficial and limited to avoid having ideas stolen. Nonetheless, is there any way in which this is done? Or, am I just dreaming?

c) While we’re at it, where do you go to find a clown school?

Has anyone else wondered, struggled, or actually tried to tackle this problem? Maybe some SDopers would be willing to share their positive or negative experiences.

Just daring to dream out aloud!

  • Jinx

A) None, really. Why should your affection for the “bar scene” have anything to do with it? It’s about performing, not about mingling. Check your local listings for entertainment. Imagine you want to go see comedy instead of go be comedy.

B) Yeah, see A.

C) have no clue.

Yes, been there, done that. I competed here in LA some years ago in a citywide competition with over 110 entrants. I came in 11th.

It was wonderful, exciting, scary. I couldn’t and didn’t pursue it for a couple of reasons. First, i was unwilling to do what it takes to be a real success at it, which means traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling. It is pretty much impossible to have a serious career without hitting the road.

Second, I had a hard time keeping my material fresh. I good comic needs to be able to “sell” the same joke 500 times to 500 audiences. I could only do it about 3 times before I bored myself silly and it came out in my performance. Since I wasn’t capable of writing a new killer 5 minutes every week, that meant I was pretty much toast.

And finally…I couldn’t really hack the rejection. Even the absolute best of the best have off nights and off audiences. There are times that the audience wants to hate you and wants to watch you sweat, even if you’re Jerry Seinfeld. And there’s times you are going to suck hard, even if you’re Jerry Seinfeld. And you need to be tough enough and secure enough to weather that. And I wasn’t.

I strongly advise you to rent “Comedian”, the Seinfeld documentary. It is a wonderful, accurate portrayal of what it’s all about.

And one more thing… comics can be your best audience or your worst. Spend any amount of time in a comedy club and you will rapidly learn what makes a hack comic, and you will learn that 85 % of the comics out there are hack comics. Check yourself…if you think you might be a hack, you probably are. Either get out or get better, but please don’t clutter up the world with your crappy jokes abotu Gilligans Island and the foreign guys at 7-11.

And that’s my advice.

Audition at one of your local comedy clubs. Some of them will have “open mic” nights. If there aren’t any comedy clubs, try music or poetry open mics, they are usually receptive to clean humorous material. I have hosted many comedians at my own open microphone productions and have performed at comedy clubs as well.

The large circuses (Barnum & Bailey, Ringling) both operate clown schools, IIRC. Google “clown school” and see what happens. More than anything, don’t let yourself be put off just because you’re beginner.

Remember, even dwarves started out small.


Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida has the only official circus program at a public university, if I’m not mistaken. And I went to the University of Florida, so the whole “clown college” thing makes perfect sense. :wink:

Check out:

Depends where you’re located. I figure opportunities must abound in Paradise.

Most comedy clubs have Open Mic night on a Wednesday or Thursday. Coffee houses have them too; they want folksingers, but they’ll take comedians.

I’ve seen many young comics try out their material on total strangers in Washington Square Park, near the arch.

I read the title as “Aspiring Canadians” :smack:

Ah, that’s somewhat different than being a comedian. You’ve got to be able to drink Molson and Labatt, drop references to hockey teams and city streets in casual conversation (“So I was walking down Robson in downtown Vancouver, and who did I see but Mats Sundin of the Maple Leafs…”), and end most sentences with “eh.” You can practice your pronunciation of “eh” by reading the Canadian brands of cigarette packages at the corner store: Export A, Matinee, DuMaurier, Craven A…

(With thanks to Wayne and Shuster for that last joke.)

Jinx, I wanted to try the same thing myself at times, and have been to enough comedy clubs (as a member of the audience) to find that even though they may serve drinks, they are hardly what one would term “the bar scene.” People go to be entertained by comedians; they don’t go to drink themselves silly or to hear a band or to pick up a member of the opposite sex.

I’d recommend finding a comedy club, and going to one of its amateur nights, or open-mic nights. Just as a member of the audience, to get a feel for the kind of place it is and the material they like. Go to a few such nights, perhaps. Then, if you like, speak with the host about joining in. (Don’t worry if you don’t feel like doing this immediately; I keep telling myself that one of these days, I’m going to do this. I’ve been telling myself that for years.)