Have you ever done stand-up?

One of the stage arts I’ve never tried is comedy. I know a lot about stand-up comedy and comedians, I grew up watching a lot of it, and I have a kind of fascination with the work.

What’s it like? Is it scary? How do you prepare? What do you think about while performing? Do/did you have a day job; did you get paid for it? Did anyone you knew know you did it? How did you tell them?

I want an Ask The Stand-Up Comedian thread! I suppose this might belong in MPSIMS therefore, but CS seemed better.

I roasted some people in my college dorm a couple of years ago. So I was performing in front of people I knew, but I was very nervous because I was saying mean things about many of them. My voice was about an octave higher than normal when I started, but I settled in, had fun and got some good laughs. The only thing I was concentrating on was the page in front of me, except for when I was scanning the audience for the people I was trashing.
I’m planning on going to an open-mic night at a local comedy club in a few weeks. Once I figure out what I’m going to say, I probably won’t think about anything else up there except for paying attention to whether or not anyone is laughing so I can panic or not panic accordingly.

Well, if you count my dissertation defence…

At an open-mike coffeehouse once. I tried using the same original shaggy-dog-story material of mine that had slain them at a science-fiction convention and was astonished when it fell flat – I wasn’t even allowed to finish. I salvaged the situation by telling a trite story about a circus bus-wreck survived only by a monkey (I could make it work by being really good at the physical/gestural business); that got the laughs, and I got off stage in quick time. Moral: Know your audience.

I have done very brief stand-up at a few open mic nights, back in college. Really brief. I didn’t slay the room, but I got a few laughs and didn’t get booed off stage, so I consider it a sucess, especially because I’ve always been very shy and introverted. You could compare my stand-up schtick to Stephen Wright or the late Mitch Hedberg – very deadpan, saying wacky things without a change in my voice or expression, kinda just sneaking the humor into what might normally sound like a bland monologue. If you know those comedians, you’d understand. But it was mostly depresso stuff, how I’m at this infamous party school but I can’t get a date, can’t get laid, the one time I drank with these girls at a club, and I woke up in the back of a van in Key West, wearing someone else’s clothes. It was actually kinda funny, in a low-key way.

Shortly after that, I got a gig teaching comedy traffic school, like the kind people have to attend when they get tickets, to avoid getting points on their driver’s licenses. We had a schedule of material we had to cover for these four-hour classes, but the point was to make it all kinda fun, or at least less painful. We did ours at Shoney’s restaurant (kinda like a more Southern version of Denny’s), and there I opted for the slightly-sloshed Vegas lounge/Rat Pack persona: “Hey, how’s everybody doing tonight? Don’t drink and drive – you might hit a bump and spill your drink! Thank you, try the chicken-fried steak, tip your waitresses!” I didn’t do this for very long, but it was fun, and a great conversation starter.

I did it for about a year, and seriously considered making a career out of it. My stuff was just observational stuff about everyday life, given a bit of a spin.

I had a great time with it. Bombed a few times, outright killed a few times, but most of the time I got good laughs and applause at the end. It was fun.

The only problem now is I get asked to MC every damn wedding I get invited to…

Yes. Sort of.

When I was in Junior High, I did a couple of George Carlin bits (news reports) as part of a talent show. Surprised to this day I got away with it (especially the roach jokes).

Lay it on us bro, love to hear it!
Was it Dragoncon?

It’s been about 4 years since I last was on stage, but I performed for about 2-3 years usually about once a week. I was going through a period in my life where I’d just gone through a very bad relationship break-up, and part of my recovery was getting on stage and not giving a fuck.

I did ok, never really bombed, had the occasional great night, but in general my heart wasn’t in it enough to truly test myself and say the things I wanted to say.

For the Australian Dopers, my most high profile gig was as support for Tripod when they played a few shows in the south-west of WA. While they did pretty well (as expected) to disappointing crowd numbers, I just couldn’t get in gear that weekend and didn’t set the house on fire.

While it is hard to define what makes a great comedian, I think the biggest thing is not being afraid to take risks, and this is why I think Bill Hicks is close to the best comedian to have lived. While I was never afraid to get on stage, I guess I was never quite brave enough to get up there and just say exactly what was on my mind, but this quality could also be related to how long you’re prepared to stick it out.

All in all it was a lot of fun, and I think in the next year or so I will probably get back on stage, but if not at least I know I gave it a crack.

I did improv for about a year wtih a group based in a local comedy club – not quite the same danger as stand-up because improv almost never fails and since you work from the audience suggestions, if they don’t like it, it’s their fault :wink:

(If anyone wants to know, we always did quite well – and sometimes even got to perform in front of sober intelligent people --the occaisional coffee house gig).
I always felt sorriest for the “Prop” comics – yeesh luggin a bunch of crap from show to show – not fun. Just going up by yourself, hey, you’re outnumbered to start with, and the last guy they didn’t want to see go – just asking for it.

I personally would love to do some standup. Anything I consider to be worhty of a routine, or the basis for a routine, I try out on an audience of one; my girlfriend. She always says its shit. So I’ve never tried standup. What I need to do, is go to an open mike on the Q.t. some night, without her watchful, judging, criticising eye constantly on me…

Oh, and get a new girlfriend.

And I now have to ask what group, as I’ve done stand-up and improv off-and-on for several years (also in the Louisville, KY area). Was part of The ReActors, was a founding member of ImprovNeato, served as a “consultant” to Land of Laughter, and was the founder of the group now known as The Louisville Improvisors. We probably know several of the same people, if not each other.

Back to the OP, though…stand-up itself? The highest profile gig I did was New Year’s Eve, 2000, when I performed for the mayor of Louisville’s New Year’s Eve party. Didn’t kill, but I did pretty good, and had no reservations about cashing the check they gave me, either. $500 for 30 minutes of work?

Dear Og–It was the ReActors: Roland, Troy, Amanda, Norm, Brett, Joey, Chris (I remember off the top of my head). If you recognize that (Mostly old guard I’ll post an e-mail address for you, Superdude.

Do you mean Rolan Witt, Troy Fluhr, Amanda Rountree (or, I suppose, Amanda Brinke), Bret Sohl, Joey Arena, et al?

Never heard of 'em.


That would be the group I hung out with. Joey left, probably less than six months after I joined, but he a Brett were casting when I got in. While I was a member (and I’m sorry but the time frame is weak in my memory) it was 91-92 to sometime in 93. I had a bear of a day job and couldn’t keep it going.

I’ve sent you an e-mail through your Straight Dope contact address and look forward to hearing from you.

The characters I brought to the table were “Artie Decco” as the book chat interviewer, “Father Thyme” in the Usual Suspect, and several others, but they nearly always made an appearance.

To be completely off topic, I built a theremin expressly for situations like the above. Weird.

Am I the only one amused that this is one of the few threads without ads for Humour writing workshops down the bottom?

I’ll see your “Artie Decco,” and raise you a “Paige Turner.”

Yes; I performed in a double act a number of time with a close friend; it worked really well when we were both bachelors and could devote unlimited time to just hanging out together, drinking, talking nonsense and jamming. Probably our ‘peak’ moment was the time we provided the after-dinner entertainment at the wedding reception of some friends; we wrote original songs and sketches, some about the bride and groom, the minister and other guests present (all of whom we knew personally). We deliberately wrote about 25% more material than we expected to use and we did also ad-lib a fair bit, especially playing up to audience responses; there were about 8 other short individual acts, introduced/interspersed/linked by us.

Probably the highlight of the evening (and I know this won’t sound funny; you had to be there) was the ‘ad-lib song challenge’; towards the end of the set, we threw out a challenge to the audience; we said that, as a demonstration of our unlimited talent, we would ad-lib a song based on any theme that someone in the audience would care to call out; what made it funny is that during the proceedings of the day - before and after the wedding service, during the champagne reception and at other times when people had been generally milling about, we had taken it upon ourselves to quietly take nearly every individual aside and tell them: “Look, we’re going to pretend to ad-lib a song on a theme chosen by the audience, but we can’t actually ad-lib in that way, so we need you to stand up and shout out the theme for us, which is ‘rain’. It’s incredibly important that you don’t mention to anyone else that you’re doing this for us, as it will spoil the gag”.
So the time came for the ad-lib song and we asked for a theme; nearly the entire room stood up as one man and shouted ‘RAIN!’; they apparently had all been completely obedient to the order of secrecy, and the moment was incredibly comic as they all individually tried to work out whether it was just them that the joke had been played on.
Of course we had a song prepared on the theme, the lyrics of which consisted entirely of the word ‘drip’, repeated a doubly increasing number of times per bar on each verse.

It was all downhill from there and there were some painfully embarrassing moments in subsequent performances; caused largely by the fact that I had married and we just didn’t see each other so often.

My 68 year old father does stand-up regularly at a local coffee house. It’s a pretty popular little place, popular with the business crowd during the day and the college kids at night.

My dad’s humor is uh, a little blue to say the least, so they always give him the late spot after all the families with kiddo’s have gone home.

He has developed quite a little cult following, known to the regulars as “The Dirty Old Dude”. And he loves it. He proudly announced to me the other day that at the New Years Eve show he got to sign his first bra.

You go dad.