Since Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage was published, I’ve had a lot of comics tell me one of two things:
1. I’m glad I read your book before I went up for the first time.
2. I wish I would’ve read your book before I went up the first time.
Almost every time a new comic begins his or her career at the St. Louis Funnybone open mic, the back of the room gets a good chuckle at the same basic rookie mistakes. So here they are…don’t do them.
1. Leaving the mic stand in front of you after taking the microphone out–It looks bad, don’t do it. I wrote pages and pages about what else not to do on stage.
2. Attempting shock humor–Joke-writing and delivery is an acquired skill, but as rookies we all think we have something brilliant to say that will blow everyone away and instantly gain the respect of our new peers. Don’t think this way, you’ll hurt yourself. If you hear laughter from the back of the room, it’s for the wrong reason.
3. Going over your time–Four minutes means four minutes. “I didn’t see the light,” is not an effective excuse. This isn’t your homework in grade school, this is a professional show. Get off close to a minute before your limit. You don’t need to share all of your “comedy gold” in the first week.
4. Excessive language–Similar to number two, cussing on stage must be done with some tact instead of a nervous habit. Last month a guy said fuck over fifty times in under four minutes (at least he stuck to his time).
Yes, of course I want you to buy my book because it makes money, but honestly, we all cringe when these same four mistakes are made every week (actually my favorite reaction is when Andi Smith just mutters, “Uh-oh,” over and over). So excuse me as I write this sentence hoping to make it google-search friendly for first time stand-up comics looking for tips for their first time doing stand-up comedy at open mic aaaaand that ought to do it. Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage is available on Kindle, iTunes, and of course in paperback.
*And thank you to everyone who writes!