Funny before edgy
Throughout my time doing stand up, about 8 years, I’ve noticed a trend in young comics (comics just starting). A lot of comics, not all, feel they need to be edgy or cover a lot of heavy topics in order to be funny. To clarify, when I mean edgy or heavy topics I mean things like rape, abortion, molestation, religion, racism, etc. The same goes for words, too- cunt, nigger, fag, and fuck to an extent. The problem with young comics covering these topics is that often times they don’t yet have the skill to make them funny. I’ll put it this way, if you were playing a video game, these topics would be unlocked on levels 15 and higher, but like most video games you start at level 1. Instead of working to gain the experience and skills in levels 1-14 there are comics at level 1 trying to pull off level 15 moves which just does not work at all. You have to learn how to write a basic joke with a believable premise and funny punchline before you can tackle the heavy stuff.
But George Carlin/Bill Hicks/Louis CK/Doug Stanhope/Daniel Tosh do it!
Yes, yes they do. Now look at how many years each of those guys have been doing stand up. It’s a lot, right? Now go back and look at their early work and I can almost guarantee they didn’t cover the above topics when starting out and if they did, they didn’t do it for very long because they realized they didn’t yet have the skill to make them funny.
Also, Carlin, Hicks, Louie, Stanhope, and Tosh all have their own audiences, they worked/toured for years to find fans who have similar beliefs and ideas. I hate to say it, but most times you’re not going to get those kinds of audiences on a Tuesday at your local open mic. It’s usually other comics and if anybody else shows up, friends of comics, people who are there to drink/watch the game, and people who just happened to wonder in. Probably not the best audience to try out your Muslim biracial aborted rape baby bit on. Almost forgot, the baby was molested, too.
I know young comics want to be like their heroes (I do too!!!), but it takes hard work to get to their level.
Go watch I encourage any new comic to go watch PROFESSIONAL shows at REAL comedy venues. Watch 10 different shows and make a note of how many rape, abortion, racism, etc. jokes there are and gauge the audience’s response. Did the joke get as big of a response as the other jokes? Did the jokes after the edgy joke get as good of a response (i.e. did the comic have to dig out of a hole after that joke?). I think after watching 10 shows that the numbers will show there weren’t many of those jokes. Why is that? Well, because they’re just hard jokes to sell. Most people feel one way or the other on heavy topics so if your views aren’t in line with the audience then there’s a good chance you’re not going to get many laughs.
Also, no comic wants to follow a Muslim biracial aborted rape baby bit and I don’t know any booker who wants to book a comic that does one. Quite simply, you’ll work/get booked more if you stay away from these topics.
So what should my material be about then?
There’s no steadfast rules to what beginners should talk about, but I’d suggest talking about you, after all, nobody knows you more than you. Talk about your life, your family, your job, your appearance. The beauty of those things is everyone can relate to them. Everyone has a life, a family, a job, and since you’re on stage, they can definitely see how you look. One exercise I use all the time when I can’t think of anything to write about is I write down 10 things I love and 10 things I hate. The good thing about this exercise is I already feel one way or the other about each topic so my point of view for the joke has already been decided. If you want more info on starting out I suggest The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter, the movie Comedian featuring Jerry Seinfeld, the movie I Am Comic, and John Roy’s Completely Free On-Line Comedy Class (Google it).
Start from level 1
I’m not saying the heavy topics I’ve mentioned can’t be made funny, because they can be, I’ve seen it. I’m saying start from level 1 and learn the basics and how to be funny before jumping to levels you have no business being on. The goal is and always will be to be funny. Learn to do that before all else.