How and when to close your set…

Nothing can kill a show’s momentum, open mic or paid show, like a comic who stays on stage too long.  Comics stay on stage for too long for several reasons.  Sometimes they aren’t aware of their time.  This happens more at the amateur level.  Sometimes they can’t get a big laugh to end on.  This happens at every level.  Your closing joke doesn’t need to be your best joke, but instead, your most reliable.  Certain jokes have a risk factor of not working.  When they work, they might be your biggest laugh, but occasionally they could flop.  Avoid using these as a closing joke and choose one that works every time.

Here’s a mistake I see a lot.  Comics will do a great joke in the last minute of their set that gets a big laugh.  Instead of closing on it, they’ll keep going and do a different bit that flops.  Your set is only as strong as your last joke.  This is important because crowds will tend to applaud you louder than the response they just made for what should be your closing joke (reread that until it makes sense).  Don’t feel like you have to force in that last joke when instead, you can get off on a high note.  Why is this important?  A loud crowd response will gain the attention of the manager.  If you can shift the momentum of a crowd in a positive direction week after week someone’s going to notice and start giving you paid gigs.  On the contrary, if you risk going over your time to fit in a mediocre joke, it shows that your stage sense is lacking and you’ll remain an amateur.

Also, don’t attempt to do what few headliners can pull off by closing on crowdwork or some cheesy speech about “I’m so lucky to be doing what I love and it’s all ’cause of you guys!”

1.  Know your time.

2.  Have a trusty joke to exit on.

3.  If something right before it works just as well, you can close on that.

4.  Be sure it’s a joke, not an interaction with a crowd member or some cheesy line that kisses the crowd’s ass.

Don’t have a Kindle to read Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage?  No problem, find it on iTunes or get a signed paperback here.


About Rob Durham

With an English Degree, three years as a doorman at the Columbus Funnybone, over a decade of stand-up experience, and a recent certification in teaching high school English class, writing a book seemed like the next inevitable step for Rob Durham. The son of a coach, Rob has an excellent ability to teach and explain things in the easiest and most direct way possible. His (often labeled ridiculous) memory allows him to think of every possible situation that a new comic might face because at one point he was there too. Rob gives an inside look at comedy that doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges every performer faces. Without ego and the myth that “anyone can do it” Rob gives the reader a true feel of what living the so-called dream feels like, from preparing for that first open mic night to touring the country. View all posts by Rob Durham

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