It’s a very good night with some REALLY funny comics. I’m headlining, because everyone else wants to leave early. That’s OK. My friends Valerie Tosi and Jeff May will be there, Canadian sweetheart Debra Digiovanni, the amazing Subhah Agarwahl, and the lovely and hilarious Fizaa Dosani. What would you pay for a show like this, with headliner Virginia Jones? A million Ape Coin? Well, would you believe this show is FREE at Harlowe? My God, what a beautiful world it is!
You’ve always wondered: How do I do standup comedy?
I can barely even leave the house anymore. There’s all these people lining up, demanding how to do I standup comedy. So I’m telling you now. for once and for all.
Step One: Comedy Preparation
Find a comedy open mic. i found my first open mic in the free weekly in the town that I lived in, the one that was full of missed romantic connections and rock show previews.
Open mic is spelled open mic. I think it should be open mike, because that is short for microphone, and mic is not short for microphone. I have lost this battle. It’s open mic.
Write down every funny bit you do, every story you tell, you know, everything that makes you funny. Try to edit these things down to their essence.
If you can, read your jokes to a friend and see if they can give you notes.
There are a lot of classes that teach you how to write standup comedy about your background and your family. I think they make everyone sound kind of the same. It’s never been what I like to do, personally.
Up top, do a joke introducing yourself. This can be as basic as “I’m a Mormon from Las Vegas, and nobody thinks I exist,” to, “I’m mostly carbon-based and fun at funerals.”
Most standup open mics are three minutes in big cities with big scenes, but they can be five in smaller scenes. It depends on how many comics usually show up. Prepare what you perceive to be three minutes. Practice it.
Read your little script several times. Memorize it, even. You’re going to get better at memorizing things in the future, so start working on it now.
Step Two: The First Set As A Standup Comic
Show up at the open mic, a little early. See what the other comics are doing. Are they writing their names on a notepad? Putting little slips of paper in a bucket? Do what they do.
Watch other comics. When you’re new, you’ll learn a lot about what to do, and what not to do, by watching other people do standup.
Look for the light. Someone, usually the host, will raise a phone to indicate that your time is about up. Wrap it up, it’s usually a minute.
If you’ve done all the jokes you wanted to do, thank the host and get offstage. This is called “giving the time back to the room.” You will look like a hero.
Record your set on your phone. Do this as much as you can. When I was coming up, I had to buy a little voice recorder and remember to bring it. Now it’s pretty easy to even take video of every set you do.
When it’s your turn, take the microphone out of the stand, and put the stand to your left and a little behind you. When you’re wrapping up, put the microphone stand back in front of you and put the mic in it. This looks professional.
Did you do super well? Probably not. You don’t really have any of the skills you need to do well. Did you do OK? If so, statistically you’ll probably keep going. Feel that rush of endorphins? Enjoy it. One day that will pass, and whether you shine or suck, all sets will leave you feeling empty inside.
Step Three: The Review
Listen to your tape. I know it’s painful. Listen to it. What jokes worked? Mark them on your notes. Can they improve? Can you remove any words and make them work better?
You’ll try a lot of things, a lot of joke forms, but for now, try to write things in this pattern: Setup/punchline. Here’s the setup. It’s the observation or the beginning of the story. Then there’s the punchline, it’s a misdirect or absurd point. Circle the part of your joke that is the setup and the part that is the punchline. Are they in the wrong order? Fix it. Anything that you say after the punchline is a tag. If the joke didn’t work, don’t do the tags.
Now that you’ve done a set, put your funniest joke at the end and your second funniest joke at the start. Now, keep writing jokes.
Step Four: What’s Next, Comedian?
What’s next is you keep writing jokes, you keep going up, you make friends, you get booked on your friend’s shitty shows, you keep writing and going up. After you’ve been onstage a thousand times, you’ll be consistent. You’ll know what you’re doing. You’ll be able to get laughs. People will start asking YOU: How do I do standup comedy?
When people ask, how do you do standup, this is never the answer they want. They want to hear the shortcut, the backdoor, the easy way to get good and be successful!
There is no easy way to do standup comedy. It’s gonna be three years before you’re competent, and maybe another five to get anything resembling “good.”
Is that what you wanted to hear? No? Sorry. Nobody does. I thought I was done as a comic at six years in, but I see now that I’d just begun. I’m starting to get pretty good now, at seventeen years in. If you want to do something that doesn’t take as much time, be a doctor.
GENERALLY GOOD COMEDY ADVICE
Don’t punch down. Don’t make fun of the disabled, the less fortunate, people who don’t have your advantages. There’s plenty of rich, powerful idiots. Make fun of them.
Don’t tell a story about a funny thing your friend did. That’s your friend being funny, not you.
Don’t try to get laughs from what you’re wearing. Everyone seems to go through a phase with this. It’s low key prop comedy.
Don’t worry too much about sounding like your comedy heroes. This happens and you’ll grow out of it.
Don’t just be the yelling person. We’re covered on that.
This time when you’re learning standup comedy is the time to try everything you’re interested in. Guitar comedy? Sure! Observational comedy? Why not? Impressions? Go for it. When you’re not getting paid is the time to do exactly what you want, when you want. It’s no-stakes. Go for it!
So, you’re going to a comedy festival! Congratulations!
It’s so exciting for a new comic to be accepted into a comedy festival! You’re going to travel, meet other comics, do shows, and have fun!
Who am I to tell you this stuff? I’ve done festivals like Sketchfest, Altercation, Bridgetown, LAFF, WICW in Boston, All Jane in Portland, Palm Springs Comedy Festival, Santa Cruz Comedy Festival, Big Pine Comedy Festival, NW Women’s Comedy Festival, Funny Women Festival, Chico Comedy Festival, and best of all, the Antelope Valley Comedy Festival.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Should I drive or fly?
A: If the festival is within a day’s drive of your home, many comics will drive their own car because this affords the opportunity to bring all the weed they need. You can also save some scratch by sleeping in it!
Q: How many times can I expect to perform?
A: In some festivals, you’ll get 3 shows! These are great festivals! Sometimes, you’ll pay to fly yourself across the country to do one show in a small room for twenty people. These are “Festivals Virginia Jones doesn’t give a shit about returning to”
Q: What will I get in my swag bag?
A: Your festival swag bag is a Shroedinger’s box of mysteries. It could contain valuable merchandise and secret information! What it is likely to contain is coupons and small items the sponsors didn’t want, as well as the booker’s 2010 CD and a map to find the afterparty.
If you get a t-shirt, that’s pretty good!
The one thing ALL swag bags will contain is a laminate. The laminate will have your name on it and it is your key to parties, your shows, and any other shows that aren’t too popular.
If your comedy festival doesn’t have a laminate, it’s not a real festival, and it might be a human trafficking ring. Go home.
Q: Will I meet famous people?
A: No. Famous comics don’t go to the afterparties, so you’ll be likeliest to meet comedy celebrities if they happen to be on a show with you, and are not going up too far ahead or after their slot. Don’t worry, you can still add “Opened for (famous comic)” to your bio right away!
Q: Will the festival bookers be super funny people who can help me in the industry?
A: In most cases, the people you are sending your thirty bucks and tape to, the people you are throwing yourself open to for judgement, are no funnier or more successful than you are. They’re just the people who got it together to throw a festival. Your thirty bucks bought them a couple days of burritos and weed.
Q: Will I get DISCOVERED at a festival?
A: There are a couple festivals that can be really good for your career! They are in Montreal and Edinburgh! Most other festivals will really just expose you to local comedy fans and other festival comics.
Q: If I’m not going to mix with the headliners, the bookers are just some dudes who live here, and I won’t get discovered, what am I doing the festival for?
A: Good question! There are three great reasons to go to festivals.
At the start of your comedy career, being one of the 85 top applicants to the Pig’s Snout, Arkansas Crawdad Bake and Comedy Festival is a flex! Let everyone know. All the time.
Especially if you are from a small scene, these festivals are an opportunity to do some big shows in front of people you don’t know! If you do well, it can feel really good, and if you don’t, it will be educational!
The Other Comics
Seeing the acts of comics from other places is really good for your development. Watching only the acts of the comics in your scene can limit your growth. Maybe you’ll learn that your scene really is the funniest there is! Maybe not! But connecting and networking with comics at or near your own level will give you opportunities to perform in their towns, and visit their scenes! This is, in my opinion, the most important thing about a festival. You’ll run into many of these people again and again through your life, and you can have a laugh and remember, years later, how excited you were to get the t-shirts with the little pig snout and crawdad on it.
LA’s favorite roommates, the gorgeous behemoth M.K. Paulsen and swingin’ cool dude Simon Gibson present In-Unit Laundry, the Valentine edition. Come out and get romantic with me and Stephen Agei and Debra DiGiovanni and Danny Palumbo at the new and improved Lyric Hyperion! Let’s cuddle and tousle each other’s hair! Comedically! Tickets here!
I’m headed to Austin for my first Altercation Comedy Festival next week, with my friends Jackie Kashian, Mike Weibe, the McCuewans, Kate Willett, Eddie Pepitone, Andy Iwancio, Henry Phillips, and secret headliner Todd Glass! I’m doing a set at a house party on Friday, Oct 21st at 7 (see my Insta for details) and hosting the Henry Phillips show at 9 at Kick Butt Coffee! Yes, it’s just that fancy! Tickets here
Here’s my packet that is not going to be used by Reductress, because they told me it wouldn’t!
- Science News: Clean Energy Source Burns Unwearable Dresses You Bought Online
Scientists have created a power utility from America’s infinitely renewable resource, useless crap you bought online. Did you know? A poorly beaded dress can heat a house for fifteen minutes, a giant quilted puffer coat that says “QUEEN” on the back can power a Roomba for a day.
Story Type: Science News
- Your Baby Will Roast Your Highschool Style By Kindergarten
In today’s rapidly accelerating culture, your newborn baby will be roasting your best highschool outfits by the time they are out of diapers. Take a deep breath and prep to get read!
Story Type: Fashion & Style
- Trendy Night Trainers: Squeeze Some Cardio Out Of Your Walk Of Shame
A listicle of great trainers to wear out so you can get home without too much trouble tomorrow, including:
- Sleek black sneaks that look great with everything, including toting your carcass home on the El
- Bedazzled Chucks, for when you get dragged out to find the D in Long Island.
- Metallic Platform Trainers: the space age option for when you need to get home and get some of your own space
Story Type: Fashion & Style
5. Woman In Your Office Opines, “I Hope I Look As Good As Helen Mirren When I’m 60”, But Does Not Look That Good Now
Story Type: Celebrity
6. Guess What’s Wrong With Your Vagina Now?
From grooming to jade eggs, there’s always something more you can be doing to make your vagina acceptable- get on it, bitch!
Story Type: Beauty & Health
7. “What Are You Looking For On Here?” Asks Dude Seeking Reply, “Casual Sex With A Hideous Man”
It’s every dating site dude’s opener, a seemingly innocent question that lets you know you shouldn’t expect too much, nay, anything from your interaction. If he were asked the same, he would not, reply not, answer honestly.
Story Type: Dating & Sex
8. “Why Can’t Women Be Chill?” Asks Man Whose Reproductive Capacity Ends With Death
Why can’t women just hang out for eight or ten years before getting all uptight about commitment and kids, asks a man who has no timeline on kids whatsoever.
Story Type: Dating & Sex
9. Dazzling Two Hour Ritual For The Perfect Dewy, Highlighted, No-Makeup Look!
Starting with extensive exfoliation, then rubbing your skin all over with a little roller, and ending with blending your pores out of existence, this is the perfect look to pretend you’re low-maintenance and attract men who think saying women shouldn’t wear makeup is any better than saying they should wear lots of makeup!
Story Type: Beauty & Health
10: “Why Can’t We Have Chill No-Strings Sex And You Don’t See Other People”, Non-Boyfriend Demands.
There are so many new permutations on offer for dating scenarios that don’t exist, see also single polyamorous guys and girls who are very sexually conservative up until the day they meet you.
Story Type: Dating & Sex
11. “I Have No Boundaries” Says Woman, Like It’s A Feature
“I absolutely say the first thing in my head, and I treat everyone like my best friend”, says Sharon Sluyter, as if it’s a positive asset and not absolutely terrifying to everyone around her.
12. “I Guess I’m A Self-Sufficient Loner” Says Guy Whose Mother Still Does His Laundry
“She likes to do it,” says Jordan.
13. “GUILT-FREE SNACKS: DID YOU KILL SOMEONE TO STEAL THOSE SNACKS?”
Did you steal the snack? Did you commit a murder to get them? Great, it’s guilt-free!
14. “STEP BY STEP: 10 SQUATS THAT WILL DISTRACT FROM YOUR PERSONALITY FLAWS”
JUST! KEEP! SQUATTING!
This is my one-sheet with all my fancy stuff on it, for fancy people! C’mon! That Virginia Jones, she’s a star! Goddamnit!