Starting Out: The Tight 15

Last week, we talked about getting that first five minutes so you can start getting on stage and feeling comfortable as a comic.  Now, it is time to get that tight 15!  Honestly, it is more like tight 10-15, but 15 makes it better for me to come back next week and talk about that feature set. Why would you need a tight 15 minute set?  Well, 10 minutes is usually the length of guest sets.  That extra 5 minutes of material let’s you pick and choose what you will say on stage during that time.  A buffer I guess you could call it.  15 minutes is also what a lot more paid shows are asking out of their comics lately.  When the roster is 5 comics or more, you will probably be tasked with doing “A tight 15”, I’ve seen this done in bar shows and more importantly some of the bigger comedy clubs in the country.  It is also the showcase set.  A showcase is a show when multiple comics are on the bill.  What is the difference between a showcase and a show where a bunch of people who don’t have 30 minutes of material get to perform?  Mainly just who is watching.  Showcases usually has more weight behind it in that the club owner may be looking for new acts or execs are in the room scouting talent.

The same strategy you used to conjure up 5 minutes you use to get 15 minutes.  My advice would be to go back to the material that you are already doing and flesh them out more.  I don’t know how many times I have looked at a joke I thought was great and was able to get another 2-3 minutes worth of hahas out of them.  If you are just starting out, still remember what works for the first 5 and go after that.  If you haven’t been writing material that long stick with what makes you laugh.  You have plenty of time in the future to tackle different things.  This is the reason a lot of comics end up with dick jokes and jokes about tampons. Those are the issues that come to mind first when you are writing material.  You can still tell a dick joke, but with so much material of the penile nature out there you may have to think hard about putting a spin on it.

This is usually where a lot of people get stuck.  The first 5 minutes of material should be easy if you are a naturally funny person.  You may not have even written the jokes down, except to make sure all the words were in the right places.  15 is a little more difficult if you are new because you are up there for a longer time. You are exposed up there for longer, and that usually kills your momentum.  If you don’t have a decent 15 everyone can see that at this point. This keeps a lot of people from going on to work on their feature sets (next week folks!). This is also where people’s faults come into play I feel.  People who don’t like to write or people who do not make it out to work on their material will start to get stuck in the 15 minute range because that is all the material their slack asses can come up with.  Another thing there are comics out there that are so brutal on what they write they may just never take it to the stage to try it out.  Every comic has a joke or two that they don’t feel confident about doing on stage.  The thing is if you don’t have that much material, you have to take it up there and try it!  This is not the time to be shy.  You are trying to be a comedian dammit!

When I started, I had more stories then jokes.  When it came time to do 15 minutes at these shows, I realized that I had more filler in these stories then I needed.  I trimmed and trimmed until I got down to the essence of the story.  This is almost the opposite of story telling in say a book.  Then what happened was I would get on stage and after saying something I would elaborate on it if it meant an extra punchline.  So I took out the extra information and started to replace it with more jokes.  After awhile I just started to write like that.  So my performance on stage started to affect how I wrote the material.  That is easy because then I didn’t really have to remember that funny part in the story, I had written it so it was there in record for me to go back to and memorize it.

Your 15 minutes is more of a stop gap to getting to feature sets and headline sets.  It is still important though because it can establish you as a good comic, but that just means you will be tasked to do more and more time.  This is when the comedians separate themselves from the open micers.  Which one are you?

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