One hundred and sixty-two

Writing a stand-up comedy routine

“You’re blushing and we’re sitting in a coffee shop only talking about writing stand-up comedy!”

Peter Cianfarani, stand-up comic, comedy teacher and lovely person (contrary to what his comedic persona would make you believe), offered to coach me in creating a stand-up routine of my own to perform in an open mic at the end of the month (ahhhhh!).  When I was a teenager someone told me I had the least sense of humour of anyone they had ever known (to be fair, I just have a quirky, dry sense of humour that not everyone gets) and I’ve kept that with me.  I am not funny.  What if no one laughs?  What if it’s awkward (which it most certainly will be, if I don’t get this writing done and my delivery planned)?

Peter says there are lots of guidelines, but only two rules.  #1. NOTHING is sacred – you can talk about absolutely anything when doing stand-up.  #2 Known your audience – know what you can get away with and what you can’t and what your audience might find funny.  He had me make lists of all the things I found peculiar, frightening, loathsome, confusing and ridiculous as homework.  I filled a page of things, and yet when he said to start writing about them, my mind went blank.  I freaked out.  Anything I think of isn’t funny.  He told me to write.  I said I couldn’t do it.  He told me to write.  I couldn’t think of anything to write (yes, the writer couldn’t think of anything to write).  I was petrified to be judged, that it wouldn’t work in stand-up, that what I had to say wasn’t good enough.  I shut down.

Then we went about it another way.  I started writing point form notes on topics.  Peter helped me along.  Make the premise (the main topic), the set-up and the punch line.  Write everything that comes to mind and then we’ll edit later – even if it’s not funny.  Make it raw and honest.  Use negative emotions – things that irk me.  Then I started talking about shopping and the Eaton Centre and I just rambled on and on about how much I hate it.  I’m not going to give too much away, as when I actually do the open mic (ahhhhhhh) I will get someone to film it and post it (ahhhhhh), so you can see then.

I’m still writing.  And it is one of the hardest challenges I need to overcome.  The writer who has a hard time writing – well, at least when it comes to comedy!

Peter Cianfarani is a stand-up comic (view one of his videos here – but a warning: his stage persona is a little crude), teacher (if you are interested in taking his classes, let me know and I will put you in contact with him).  His work-in-progress website is here.