Performance Critique #1: Jan 9

Thanks to an idea by Charlie Hoehn, I’m rolling out a new feature on this blog. Instead of just posting random videos of me doing standup, I will post the every set I do and comment where I messed up / what I can do better. Any additional comments you have would be much appreciated.

This first video is from January 9th and was at an open mic.


My comments:

  • 0m14s Voice went up at “confused” for no reason.
  • 0m18s “Thanks” should sound more disappointed.
  • 0m25s I shouldn’t start it with “it’s actually really tough being good looking and a comic”, I should start with “Ugly comics have it easy.”
  • 0m41s End the joke with “personable and charming” and then just give a look of “I’m screwed” without saying anything.
  • 1m6s Don’t move when I’m delivering a punch line. I should be getting 3 laughs: 1) “don’t shower for 2 weeks”, 2) “hop on the train with no pants on”, 3) “and keep mumbling to myself how George Bush was the greatest president ever.” If I stop moving, and I still don’t get laughs during 1 and/or 2, I should cut or remove them.
  • 1m13s No reason to throw in “the first” after George Bush. Consider the throwaway “and I don’t mean the first George.”
  • 1m22s Figure out a more succinct way to explain subway surfing.
  • 1m34s More emphasis on the word “warning.”
  • 1m48s Longer pause after “conveniently available for 5 bucks a pop” and look more distraught before saying “bullshit.”
  • 2m12s Don’t look down after the punchline of “American Beauty” believe people should laugh.
  • 2m14s Instead of “how many infants do you know” say “how are infants supposed to” (suffocate on a burlap sac).
  • 2m27s Try changing “relationships” to “women” it makes more sense.
  • 2m40s More excitement on the word “tizzy”, try “a huge tizzy” instead.
  • 3m50s Don’t say “uhhh.”
  • 4m23s Used the word “watch” twice in one sentence, change words the second time
  • 4m27s I usually do the full dog joke, where the first part talks about dogs preferring their reproductive organs over a sweater, then I find someone who isn’t laughing and say they must really like sweaters. After the hit by the bus, I’d go back to that same person and call them a “sweater loving bastard”. I only did half the joke this time, and the final punchline didn’t work because of it.
  • 4m31s When the guy starts “oohing” I should’ve at least paused until he was done, to build up the tension.
  • Overall: Sway around less, I should either walk or stand still. And don’t look down after a punch line. Keep tightening the new jokes (gym membership, burlap sac, subway surfing).

6 Replies to “Performance Critique #1: Jan 9”

  1. Wow, I never realized comedians analyze their material in so much detail. I’m curious: How many times do you usually try a joke before giving up on it? And how much of a comic’s material is prewritten versus improvised on the spot?

  2. @HoundDog79

    Re: Number of times I try a joke

    I try a new joke about between 1 and 10 times. I’ve heard and read other comics that say you should try a joke at least 3 times in front of a real audience before giving up on it.

    I’ll try it out fewer times if:
    – It doesn’t get a laugh from a real crowd (I trust the feedback at open mics less)
    – It’s not a personal joke (i.e. instead of talking about my experiences, the joke refers to a general observation)
    – I’m unable to think of a way to rewrite the joke that makes it personal
    – I was unsure of whether it would work to begin with (this may however lead to a worse delivery) / if it’s on the more offensive side (I’m trying to clean up my act as much as possible)

    I’ll keep performing a joke if:
    – I really feel strongly about the topic and I only did the joke at open mics, if a real audience doesn’t laugh at all two times, I put it in my graveyard pile
    – Some parts have gotten laughs (then I just work on rewriting it to be shorter)

  3. @HoundDog79

    Re: Prewritten versus Improvised Material

    One of the keys in comedy is to make it seem like you thought of most or all of your material on the spot. This is a skill I need a lot of work on.

    I’d say that a professional comic doing a set in a club has about 90% of his material pre-written. If you’re watching a comic do stand up on TV, it’s almost certain to be all pre-written.

    I recently saw Todd Barry perform at a fancy country club type place (I’m not in a country club, I just knew the comic putting the show together and the show was free) and I’d be willing to bet that at least 80% of his material that night was improvised. Out of 30 minutes, he spent 25 minutes making fun of the room setup (lots of old paintings everywhere) and having long interactions with the audience. (Usually, the more back and forth you have with the audience, the less scripted it is because there are more contingencies possible with every response. I am new, so perhaps I don’t know what I’m talking about.)

    I’ve been trying to make a few of my jokes appear to have improvised parts: When I ask if anyone has a dog and what they got the dog for Christmas I have a set response for all possible answers a) “Wow a chew toy, you must really love your dog”, b) “You didn’t get him anything? You must hate your dog.” and c) “It’s okay to admit to having a dog. I’m not gonna make fun of you… right away.” After the “we don’t let them keep their reproductive organs” part, I’ll find someone who isn’t laughing as hard (or at all) at my joke and say “This guy isn’t laughing. You must really like sweaters.”

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