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.

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8 thoughts on “One hundred and sixty-two

  1. Ha! Nice! I take full credit for this one, as I suggested it first on your Facebook page (and probably even before that, in person). Unless you totally suck, in which case, I had nothing to do with this. Then again, this month is all about discomfort, so getting no laughs will be even better. So, ok, I take full credit again.

  2. As someone who spent most of high school giggling with you, I have got to say that whoever that person was who told you that you weren’t funny – totally wrong. You’re hilarious.

    Also – hi! I’ve been reading off and on this year, but for some reason haven’t commented. (Real reason – commenting is totally out of my comfort zone…) Anyway, this project is awesome. So creative, and such an amazing adventure.

    Looking forward to getting the inevitable book autographed!
    Jenn Stephen (aka SLA [ps – that entry in dating month was who I thought it was, yes? Amazing.])

  3. Pingback: One hundred and eighty-five PART TWO | threehundredsixtysixdays

  4. Not only am I creeping your entire blog, and loving it – but I’m also enjoying finding random names in your blog and facebooking them to see if we have any connections. Peter and I have two mutual friends, one was my RA at Bishop’s Unversity who is heavily into the Comedy and Improv scene in Toronto and the other is someone I have worked closely with in my volunteering roles at United Way. Oddly though, you and I share no connections.
    Toronto can be both a big scary place, and small neighbourhood of acquaintances all at the same 🙂

    • Very true. I’m sure we know some mutual people, if we looked hard enough. I do love this city for it’s small neighbourhoods amongst the hustle and bustle of the big city!

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