9 Tips for Your First Stand Up Comedy Performance

You love comedy. You watch all the great (and some not so great) comics and lots of comedy tv shows. You’ve probably written a few jokes and you’ve toyed with the idea of performing. Here are some tips to motivate yourself to get on stage and what to do when you’re there.

  1. Get on stage as soon as humanely possible. You don’t want to over think it, start making excuses and end up never getting on stage.
  2. Don’t get on stage without first running the jokes by your friends and seeing if they laugh. If your friends don’t laugh at any of your material, you either have terrible friends or terrible jokes. You decide.
  3. Keep a note card in your pocket. No matter how much you practice, your mind can go blank the first time. My mind would go blank at least once a set my first ten or twelve times on stage.
  4. Slow down. You’ll almost certainly be nervous and start to rush through your punch lines if there isn’t instantaneous laughter. It takes a long time to get comfortable with silence, but for now, just talk slower. Think you’re talking too slow? Slow down more anyway.
  5. Videotape it. Or if you can’t afford a camera (most still digital cameras have a video mode), get a $20 voice recorder or download VoiceNotes for your iPhone (if you have one).
  6. When you see a light, that means you have one minute to wrap it up. Don’t run your time. Chances are you’re not gonna be that funny your first. You don’t want to piss off the host and club manager as well.
  7. Don’t stop until you finish all your jokes or time runs out, no matter how quiet the crowd is and how much you feel like dying. Embrace the feeling of wanting to kill yourself, if you get hooked on this stuff, you’ll feel it many more times, even when you start getting paid to perform.
  8. Being nervous is normal. You’re stepping outside your comfort zone so you may feel some nerves or adrenaline before hand. That’s fine and natural. Know you’ll be fine once you’re up there and talking. If you’re up there and feel nervous for more than the first minute, you can say it aloud, the truth of the situation will probably get a laugh.
  9. Try to have fun. You’re not gonna get a half hour special or a sitcom deal from your first time ever on stage (this isn’t the 80’s!). So just try to enjoy it as much as you can.

Wanna try stand-up comedy yourself? Consider taking my NYC Comedy Class or booking a private one-on-one comedy coaching session (in person or via Zoom)

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14 Replies to “9 Tips for Your First Stand Up Comedy Performance”

  1. Good advice…I just did my first open mic stand up and number seven is spot on. Definitely gotta embrace that I wanna kill myself feeling if you’re ever planning on doing it again.

  2. Open mics are not a plenty where I live but I did find one that is in a place where people drink this narcotic called KAVA! Apparently it numbs them…this could be the perfect place for me to de-virginize as a comic!!! What do you think???

  3. These are good tips for new comedians. I can’t stress your tip no. 6 enough. Sometimes, when a new stand up comic is killing, he or she thinks he can extend his time. They don’t know they’re taking away from the next comedian. Thanks for posting this.

  4. I’ve got terrible friends they didn’t laugh at any of my jokes and then they raped my dog right in front of me. My dogs a slut tho so she probably enjoyed it and on the plus side I didn’t need to take her for a walk. Anyway Mifttys vicious arse raping by my mates was nothing compeared to the sedistic, voluntary sadomastic abuse that was my open mic evening. Don’t ever fucking do it EVER if your reading this and are pondering getting up on stage don’t. Go finger a tramps arse hole and wank him to climax at the same time..be dressed as a sailor, and bring mum and dad along. all the while singing I’m a little tea pot. This will be infinitely less damaging to you phycological well being and you pedants might enjoy it more than you shit fucking stand up…

  5. No I’m joking my dog isn’t a slut she craves male attention, that’s all. Just because she walks around the flat it bra and panties that doesn’t make her a slut. She’s got a nice body and likes to show off, she’s a exhibitionist.. Anyway it’s not as if she can dress her self… I put her in the bra and panties… She looks sexy in my underwear…

  6. Tonight I did my first stand-up set. I did 5 minutes and bombed but it wasn’t catastrophic. I got some chuckles. It probably didn’t help that the host told the crowd to heckle me because I’m a big guy and he wanted to see how many people I’d punch. I plan on polishing my routine and getting right back up there, though.

  7. Number 3 saved me tonight. Did my first stand up, got a ton of laughs in the first three or four minutes or so….and then my mind blanked. I’m not the best at remembering lines, so I wasn’t shocked. Thankfully I took this authors advice and brought a note card. Really saved me.

  8. Have my first open mic set booked a month and half away from now! Wish I could follow rule 1 but we are short on comedy clubs in South Africa and the inland clubs closing for christmas period. A looong wait.

  9. Thank you so much for mentioning how you should run the jokes from your stand up comedy by your friends before performing to make sure they are good. It is important to remember that doing this can help you come up with the best routines that will get you the best laughs from the audience. A friend of mine was talking about how he wanted to hire a comedian for his family reunion, so I wanted to learn what it takes to be one.

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