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.