Starting Out: The First Five Minutes

When some comics are first starting out, they are already looking at what movie roles to take and the theaters they are going to play.  It seems like you can just get up there like you are at a cookout with your friends and just blast funny (some can do that), but when they get up there they realize they have to do more than that.  Writing material is the most important part of being a comic and no matter if you keep it in your head or write it into a moleskin, The first five minutes seems to be the toughest, but with a little encouragement you may be able to get there very soon.

The first five minutes are important because it will get you in the habit of how your brain works to get material into the mic.  It’s also important because a great five minutes can help with your confidence and it can help you get more stage time in front of paying crowds.  When you first start out though, this may seem tough.  What do you write about?  What’s funny?  That should not really be the thing on your mind.  What you should be thinking is: What do I find funny?  Write about the things that you think are funny. Are you one that observes things and wonder why that is? Start there!  You got funny stories (more on that in a future article)?  Then go there!  You have to go where you would naturally go. If you’re a down to earth person that follows politics then the absurd might not be your natural train of thought to getting something funny out.

Ok, so you got material scribbled down all over the place.  Here is where the heavy lifting comes in.  You have to take it somewhere to ensure it is funny.  If you know someone that will let you on stage and try them then try them, but remember:  Not every joke will be a killer.  That is the nature of comedy.  Not everything YOU think is funny will make EVERYONE laugh.  That doesn’t mean you’re stupid or anything.  That means it might not work on a level that a group of people would get.  If you are in a larger city then I suggest getting on a site like badslava and getting all the open mic times and going through them all.  This is a great thing because you will encounter many different types of audiences and get a feel on what it takes to make all of them laugh.  Most importantly it will let you know what jokes work for the most amount of people.

Depending on how much you write this could be very easy or an endless sea of bombing at open mics.  Either way you will have to get that first five under your belt.  There are some things to remember about your first five though.  It has to hit HARD.  You can’t be up there chilling like you are Louis C.K. working on a new special.  If people see you up there with a 4 minute story with a weak ass punchline to top it off they will see through that.  They think you are just padding your one worthwhile joke between 4 minutes of filler.  because it is your first five, try to shave all the extra words out.  Instead of talking about sitting on the porch on a Sunday afternoon after eating just talk about being on the porch (unless Sunday, afternoon or eating is important to the joke).

I had to learn all this stuff the hard way.  No one would tell me this stuff because most comics are trying to advance and so some treat advice like proprietary information.  I hope this helps new comics with getting together what I think can be the hardest of all material.  For instance: you will be judged based on how a lot of comics first see you.  If they think you suck that means less chances to perform in front of more and more audiences. Thanks and check back in next week where we talk about that tight 15!


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