10 Unparalleled Gifts from Doing Stand-Up Comedy

My first foray into the world of comedy happened in November 2007. We had a practise session in front of a cosy audience, of just 15 people, to prepare for a larger event the following month. I had written six minutes of material and for the whole of my set I got just one measly laugh; well, it wasn’t so much a laugh as it was a courteous token chuckle. I can’t even begin to describe what it’s like being in front of people telling jokes and seeing only blank expressions in return.

standy up comedy

I was upset but I chose not to give up! I bought a book that really helped me get a better understanding of how to construct jokes and how to deliver them. Six weeks later we had our first proper gig for which we had rave reviews and raised nearly £700 for charity. We had 150 people come when we only had 100 tickets to give away. We even had people sneak in while we were performing.

So why would a timid soul like myself enter the world of stand-up comedy I hear you ask? Well, deep down it was something I always wanted to try, but I never really gave it a second thought until one of my coaching clients wanted to become a world famous comedian.

I helped him forge a path and one day he asked me if I’d like to try it out too. I thought, why not?! I had a strong belief that it would help me become a better public speaker; little did I know what other additional amazing gifts it would give me. That is why I encourage more people to give it a try. Fail or succeed, the endless treasures are the equivalent of a personal development junky whose Christmases have all come at once!

Here are ten such extraordinary gifts you get from doing stand-up:

1. Surprisingly Enough, Humour!

“A word to the wise isn’t necessary – it’s the stupid ones that need the advice.” – Bill Cosby

My friends always considered me a funny chap, but not of the ‘witty’ kind, they laughed at me rather than with me. I didn’t mind, any source of laughter is good with me, but I did want to learn how to be funny when surrounded by people. The first and foremost obvious point is that it helps make you more humorous. What it also teaches you is what is not funny. You begin to understand the mechanics of what makes people laugh. With that skill comes great power. No longer will you be the only one laughing at your own jokes.

2. Syntax Error

“I hope I didn’t brain my damage!” – Homer Simpson

Sometimes, all humour requires is the words to be placed in the wrong order. Whatever the order, comedy has taught me something very powerful in that, the order of words can have a massive impact on the message it conveys. If you’re not getting your point across take a look at your syntax. Have a play with the words and see what strange bizarre concoctions you can come up with. Syntax is the covert gift of stand-up.

3. Elite Confidence

“People always ask me, ‘Were you funny as a child?’ Well, no, I was an accountant.” – Ellen DeGeneres

There’s nothing quite like that feeling of being in front of an audience and having everyone’s attention on you. Having all those eyes locked on you and you being at the centre of attention….and then falling off the stage. Yep! That has happened to me…twice! If you discount those two confidence shattering experiences, generally speaking, having everyone focussed on you and getting everyone to laugh with you is very powerful. It will take your confidence to a new level. You will still feel the nerves, but you will be much better equipped to handle them.

4. Energy Gauge

“All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.” – Emo Philips

Most people in the audience want you succeed. The ones who don’t, don’t worry about them, just turn around, bend over and let them have a good smooch! Either way you will feed off the energy you receive. You will sometimes have great audiences who just laugh at anything you say or do. Sometimes you get serious audiences who are hard work. You will learn to gauge the energy of your audience very quickly. I once prepared some new material and arrived at the venue and I knew straight away that it wasn’t going to work. So, if you have that information beforehand, you can be much better prepared.

5. Style & Flare

“What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?” – George Carlin

Everyone has a style; you may just not know yours yet. I’ve experimented with a few: Dead pan, sarcastic, blue, etc., and I know now that that style of speaking that works for me is being jovial. The audience is the biggest feedback mechanism and you will learn a lot by the way they respond to you. Their response will help you discover when you are congruent with the style that best works for you.

6. Nifty Breath control


“I’ve got to keep breathing. It’ll be my worst business mistake if I don’t.”
– Steve Martin

Generally when I step in front of crowds my lungs do that crazy thing where they try and hold onto air like it’s a scarce commodity, a bit like honest politicians. It’s one thing I still haven’t understood how to fully overcome but one thing comedy did was teach me the power of the ‘pause’. Sometimes the pause can be very powerful and convey more than the words themselves. I used it to great effect recently when doing a speech at a wedding. Silence is powerful; knowing when to use it, is even more so!

7. Humble Pie

“You’re about as useful as a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest.” – Rowan Atkinson

When you’re in front of an audience of 400 people and there’s only one crazy old codger in the front row, with his front teeth missing, cracking up, that truly is a humbling experience. You know that no matter how good you get, there will be times when you, as we say in showbiz, totally bomb! It serves as a beautiful reminder that we are all fallible human beings and sometimes, shit happens.

8. Stress Release

“I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception” – Groucho Marx

When you’re on a roll, you can laugh with the audience then that laughter becomes contagious. I realised that by doing comedy I was doing a great service to the world. I was helping people let go of their stress poke fun at the things we take so seriously sometimes. One of my first main gags was some toilet humour. Later that evening, during the break, one of my friends told me she was in the loo and people were in there laughing at my gag, doing exactly what I was talking about. What an incredible gift; me being on people’s minds when on the khazi!

9. Dealing with Uncertainty

“I used to be indecisive but now I am not quite sure.” – Tommy Cooper

No matter how good you become at doing stand-up you never truly know how the gig is going to go. Before every event I still feel those nerves of uncertainty. But that’s a blessing, not only does it keep me humble it also allows me to practise one of the most important techniques in personal development that I’ve ever come up with. I say to myself: ‘No matter the outcome, I will remain happy and learn from the experience’.

10. Giggles in Solitude

“English? Who needs that? I’m never going to England!” – Homer Simpson

This part is one of my favourites of all! Sometimes, when I’m in a cafe writing my material, I’ll come up with a gem of a joke and start giggling to myself almost kind of like I’m an evil genius plotting to take over the world and I’ve found my ultimate evil dominance plan! People might give me strange looks; but I don’t care, because that kind of laughter is the most genuine and best feeling kind of all!

Join all those points together and you have the power to totally captivate an audience. I bet you’ll never look at stand-up comedians the same way again. Now that you know, do you feel like giving it a go?

“Comedy IS not what you’d expect” – Amit Sodha (ahem)

Some Amazing Comments

comments

About Amit Sodha

Amit is the author of UnlimitedChoice.org I’m now 32 years old and I can safely say that in those 32 years I’ve achieved a lot and experienced a lot in life.
We are all powerful unlimited beings. When we understand that we have the power to choose and shape our future as we see fit then suddenly anything becomes possible.

Comments

  1. Dee Brown says:

    Hello! I thoroughly enjoyed your excellent tips. Just finished Michael McIntyres memoirs which I am certain you have read – talk about the highs and lows! Interesting too, that his ultimate success was the thing he chose not to write about – very good judgment I felt!
    I hope you will excuse the rather basic question, but I have a brother who is a total natural at this sort of thing ……….. where are the best places for total novices to start out? I really want to get him a ten minute slot somewhere in London but have no idea where to begin? He is in his thirties and thinks his time is up but I have a hunch that once on the stage, there will be no going back! Inspired by your piece, inspired by MM, all practical advice hugely appreciated. Dee Brown

    • Hey Dee, Thank you so much for your comment,

      There are so many places for a novice to start, they can even try the king gong at the comedy store (which is really tough) or try something a bit easier. If they just google ‘open mics in london’ they’ll find plenty of places that do it.

      I’m a huge MM fan too, but as for your bro, depends on where you’re located but there is a great place in stockwell called the cavendish that does a monthly open mic which is one of the best I’ve been to, definitely worth checking out!

  2. Hi Amit,

    I really enjoyed your 10 Unparalleled Gifts from doing Stand-Up Comedy. I started in July and have been up 3 times. When I read that you used toilet humor I wanted to share the link to the video of my first time as I used that too. It is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsSt_xgXjAg

    I did the same set with a few changes the 2nd and 3rd times I was up and didn’t get as many laughs.

    Thanks, Steve

  3. Amit, I really liked the post!!

    A lot of people are actually scared of speaking up in public. on top of that, making people laugh when u r up there is really commendable.

    I have sometimes tried this during my speeches at Toastmasters, but I prefer the inspirational speech better. Hope I would become better on stand up comedy too :)

  4. Amit, I loved this post. I think that doing a stand-up comedy routine is a common fantasy/fear of many people. I competed once in a Toastmasters humorous speech contest, and I loved it. In TM one learns that after a time performance fear turns to performance energy. It really helps to think that the rush of adrenaline comes across to the audience as energy rather than nerves.

    • Apologies Madeline for not replying to your comment sooner. Yes I agree wholeheartedly! I found the same to, I still suffer those same nerves and yes I can hold my voice steady and translate that into energy, it just almost happens! How did you get on in your toastmaster humorous speech contest?
      .-= Amit Sodha´s last blog ..9 Cracking Shots Taken With My iPhone =-.

  5. i have always wanted to do standup comedy even though i never did anything similar before , guess ill give it a try soon, thanks for the post

  6. While at first it would seem as though #’3 and #7 would be in direct contradiction of each other (Elite Confidence and Humble Pie, respectively); as one who once made an attempt at performing a brief stand-up routine while on a Caribbean cruise, I know exactly what you mean by that in that the two are not mutually exclusive.

    Perhaps having at least tried helps a lot in understanding what is meant by those two in particular.
    .-= Peter Egan´s last blog ..Vitamin D3 Can Help Combat Inflammation =-.

  7. Welcome to Steve’s happy home! I enjoyed your post and the gags and sat reading it all even with a poorly tummy. I laughed at the bit where you fell off stage twice – maybe the bumbling Tommy Cooper thing is your style? (PS I wouldn’t have laughed if I was in the audience – I’m not that mean!)

    • Hey Rosie, it’s ok that you laughed because I laughed at myself. I don’t think I could ever quite replicate the legendary style of Tommy Cooper but hopefully I’ll cultivate my own unique style incorporating a bit of a Tommy Cooper-esque slapstick!

  8. It’s funny that you bring up stand up comedy Amit because a really good friend of mine really wants me to do it. I constantly make him laugh with my life experiences from people in my field and what not. I read this article and it brings up visions and feelings of entertaining people. And you know what, it feels darn good to make people laugh and to entertain them.

    What gift can we give them?

  9. Amit –

    I love this post. I have to admit it speaks to one of my deepest insecurities – being on stage in front of hundreds of people and being expected to be funny. Scary stuff. I’m currently taking an improv comedy course and finding it unlocks a lot of confidence and creativity, so this could be the next step. Thanks for sharing.

    Phil
    .-= Phil Bolton´s last blog ..How to Find Love on Valentine’s Day =-.

    • Hey Phil,

      That’s awesome that you’re doing that course, let us know if you’ve taken anything else away from it that I may not have mentioned. Good luck with it and let us know when you plan on doing your first set!

  10. Hi Amit:

    Yes, comedy is a lot like walking out on the stage naked. You certainly attract attention, and if your material is good, you also win approval.

    The blessings you outline are certainly the kinds of things that a human being must experience to gain what is called maturity.

    Only, being a comedian, I think forces a person to mature or at least gain perspective quickly. Otherwise one will not survive in the business.

    I am happy to see that you are still pursuing your career after three years. That is a very good sign.

    There are several good books about the lives of comedians that have given me perspective of how lonely the life can be, and also how fulfilling on many levels. Steve Martin’s books are very good. Martin takes the audience through his philosophical development as a comedian.

    One doesn’t realize sometimes that being a comedian involves so much more than just telling jokes.

    But, from the comments you made here, I am confident you do understand the path ahead, and seem to be willing to take the risks necessary to be successful.

    I’ll check back with you from time to time to see how you are progressing.

    Stetson

    ToysPeriod is a leading online shop specializing in lego sets and model railroad equipment.

    • Hi Stetson and thank you for your poignant insights. You brought up something incredibly important there about maturity and philosphy. Something I didn’t mention but infact, comedy allows a certain kind of exploration into one own philosphical view points on certain topics. One of the gags I do is around death and the loss of my sister, some may feel uncomfortable with that but for me it was a way of not only honouring my sister but also it helped with my healing of her passing and allowed me to laugh and feel release rather than hold anything in.

      I haven’t read many books by comedians but I may have to check them out. I don’t feel like it has to be a lonely world as writers can suffer the same fate but I choose to make myself even more outgoing.

      Thanks for your input.
      .-= Amit Sodha´s last blog ..The Best Kind Of Product Is One You Don’t Need To Sell =-.

  11. Nice post! Quite different. :)

    I’ve always wanted to try stand-up out – more I read, more confident I’ll become I suppose… :)
    .-= Craig Thomas´s last blog ..How to Finally Overcome Shyness =-.

  12. Hey, Amit!
    If there is one thing i got from the post, its E.N.E.R.G.Y

    I was just having an intense laugh at a comedy show last evening. Nothing compares to a good laugh. I am sure it brings a great sense of satisfaction if you are the one causing it.

    Thanks.
    .-= Christopher Kabamba´s last blog ..Why Commandments are NOT for Conscious and Intelligent Beings =-.

  13. Wow Amit, this was unexpected! I love being surprised by learning something unique about my blogging friends. I also love it when people tie their real life experiences into valuable lessons we can all relate to. Excellent!
    .-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..How to Master Any Skill Right from the Start =-.

  14. Excellent post Amit. It’s engaging, insightful and quite original. It makes me want to try out standup myself.
    .-= Kenji Crosland´s last blog ..Guest Post Giveaway =-.

  15. Hey Amit, this was a great post. Some of the principles can apply to working in an office environment too, especially no. 6 and 9. I agree number 10 is the best feeling of all – I’ve done that on a plane watching a funny movie seated inbeteeen two people that looked at me like I was mad and then at my screen to see what had made me laugh so loud. Nice read.

  16. Hi Amit – Great post. I’ve been performing for years (not stand-up) and it’s taught me to go ahead and try new things, and give myself permission to be bad at them. Because truthfully, most people won’t notice. How many times have I flubbed lines or forgotten a move or been off key, and no one really cares or picks up on it? It puts everything in perspective. And there’s such freedom in allowing myself the possibility of failure; in the end it actually helps me to succeed. Weird, but true, paradox.
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..What the Super Bowl Taught Me About Life =-.

    • It’s strange that you should mention that Patty as something that not a lot of people know about me is that I also used to be a magician too. In Magic, when things go wrong it is a cardinal sin to draw attention to them because most people don’t notice. And you’re right, only when you reveal your embarrassment do people actually take note. However if you can turn your mishaps into comedy themselves then suddenly there is nothing to be afraid of and the mishaps can be part of the act. What kind of performing do you do?
      .-= Amit Sodha´s last blog ..The Best Kind Of Product Is One You Don’t Need To Sell =-.

  17. Hey Amit,

    I know some guys who are into doing stand-up comedy and it’s no surprise for me that it can be a great learning tool. It seems to me that learning to be comfortable with the public and to express yourself in a powerful way are some key benefits of stand-up comedy. These are also the reasons I appreciate public speaking, which is my thing ;)
    .-= Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick´s last blog ..The ultimate tool for managing your emotions =-.

  18. Nice post Amit. I think you’re one of the rarer self-improvement bloggers because you add a lot of humor in your posts. I like tips 3 and 8. I remember watching a comedy video of Dayne Cook. He was on a roll and so confident that a lot of the time, he was laugh with the crowd. It’s awesome how comedians who are confident with their ability do this because they just don’t care. They are having a good time, and I can see from you’re writing that you are too!
    .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..5 Ways to Deal with Dramatic People =-.

    • Thank you Hulbert. You’re probably not going to believe me when I say this as I’m a massive stand-up fan but I’d never heard of Dayne Cook until you just mentioned him so I started watching his material on YouTube just now.

      You absolutely right in that one the initial nerves pass you gradually get to a point of comfort where you feel like you’re meant to be there and then almost nothing can or does go wrong and it’s comes from being carefree, again, a wonderful place to be in.
      .-= Amit Sodha´s last blog ..The Best Kind Of Product Is One You Don’t Need To Sell =-.

  19. Excellent post Amit and thanks for sharing your wonderful tips.

    You have always been a funny guy, so great that you are now letting the rest of the world also laugh with you (and not so much at you)

    All I want to know now is when is your next gig?!

    And when are the DVD and the training video being released?
    .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..The Silent People – and Why You Should Not Be One of Them =-.

    • You know, I never thought of doing a training video! That’s an awesome idea! We can do it together and become partners – 60-40, I get the slight edge in percentile because I’m larger! :-P LOL

      As for the next gig, I was going to do some open mic nights to practice for the next few weeks and then hopefully the next big gig should be on around March/April sometime.

      Thanks for your words of encouragement always!

  20. Hi Amit. I just wanted to welcome you as a new writer to CYT. I think this is a superb post. I usually don’t post guest authors on a Thursday but when you wrote to me about this I was immediately taken with it and you only sent me the headline :)

    I loved points 9 and 10. I’ve often giggled when reading a book on the underground so I know what you mean in point 10. When you said you still get nervous I immediately thought that it would be somewhat strange if you didn’t get nervous as that would be complacency I guess, and that’s when things can go wrong.

    Thanks Amit and I know you will get a warm reception from the CYT readers.

    • Hi Steve, thank you and thanks for the amazing opportunity of blogging for you. I remember hearing Jimmy Carr once say that even now, after all these years of doing stand-up he still gets nervous before going out on stage and performing. That’s comforting to hear and I guess I always thought that at some point I would overcome those nerves; but may be not. So I’ll use them in my favour.

      I know that when you try the comedy in April you’ll have a superb time!
      .-= Amit Sodha´s last blog ..The Best Kind Of Product Is One You Don’t Need To Sell =-.

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