Comedy for Beginners: How to Hit Your Funny Bone
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Comedy for Beginners: How to Hit Your Funny Bone

A Beginners Workshop in Writing and Performing Original Stand-Up Comedy
3.7 (16 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
878 students enrolled
Created by Geoffrey Neill
Last updated 4/2016
Price: $30
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
  • 1.5 hours on-demand video
  • 14 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Cultivate raw material using YOUR unique passion and humor
  • Hone that material into a hilarious format that is accessible to your audience
  • Memorize your bits using two techniques
  • Secretly test your bits to ensure halarity
  • Organize your bits into a larger set
  • Discover the rules of open mic performance
  • Perform a kick ass set
  • Assessed your performance to "Grow Your Funny"
View Curriculum
  • You should have a smartphone or journal. Something to take notes.

Based on the Best Selling book in Amazon, this step by step comedy writer's class is for the budding stand-up comedian to develop fresh original material and craft it into great performance. Become clear on what your comedy special powers are. Edit and secretly test your material. Craft your set into a streamlined performance, and become a better comic out of the gate! Now You can get rid of your writer's block! 

How can your elbow’s anatomy can help you grow your funny? 

Learn to write to your own sense of humor, perform, and assess yourself. Now you have an edge in entering the comedy world! Hitting Your Funny Bone is a class to get you over mimicking others and lead you to hilarity. It’s about finding your own unique humor, and making it a whole lot bigger! If you don’t have a lot of time, that’s ok! This class gives you exercises that are easy and you can accomplish at your own pace. 

This Workshop is a 6 week class where you will:

  • Cultivate raw material using YOUR unique passion and humor
  • Hone that material into a hilarious format that is accessible to your audience
  • Organize your bits into a larger set
  • Learn tips for memorization and stage presence
  • Work with others on developing your act
  • Participate in an open mic
  • Learn performance assessment skills
  • Perform in your own show and killed 'em!
Who is the target audience?
  • People who have never done Stand-up Before
  • People who want a process that will allow them to write, edit and perform excellent material
  • This is not for someone who is happy with their stand up writing techniques
  • This is not for someone who isn't interested in doing the difficult work of writing and editing
Compare to Other Stand-Up Comedy Courses
Curriculum For This Course
41 Lectures
Overview of the Course
3 Lectures 05:35

A funny bone is that place at the tip of your elbow that hurts like @#$%^@ when you whack it on something. It doesn’t feel that funny. It also isn’t a bone. It is actually the ulnar nerve that runs from your neck all the way to your pinky. Every piece of the nerve is protected by muscle or bone, except for that spot that all furniture is aiming for.  In this funny bone sweet spot, the nerve is only protected by skin and fat, which makes it vulnerable. When you hit your funny bone you actually are smashing your nerve in between your bone (ironically called the humerus) and that stupid chair.

When you hit your funny bone with great momentum in a short amount of time, you jam your humerus into your chair which smashes your ulnar nerve. Like you need a diagram to understand what you did. However, I place this diagram here to help us understand what happens when you hit your comedic funny bone as well. When you hit your comedic funny bone, the momentum of “who you are”in a short amount of time [bits that equate around 6 per minute ], you give your original reaction  [your “humorous” punchline] to an audience  about what you care about. Instead of an exhilarating cocktail of numbness, tingling and pain that shoots down the forearm and hand and into your ring and pinky fingers; hitting the comedic funny bone is a joy that makes the writing process worthwhile. When you get on a roll and you have to wait for your audience to stop laughing, your comedic funny bone keeps yelling “HIT ME!”

Preview 00:37

Capturing Raw Material (The Ulner Nerve and Humerus)
7 Lectures 09:00

When we are intentional about hitting our funny bone, we have to start with the nerve that makes you swear like a sailor. You have to care. The ulnar nerve is the place where you start. The place that you are vulnerable. The place that not everyone agrees about. The place that you are the king or queen of your own soapbox.

As we explore your ulnar nerve, it’s important to note that the things that you care about, are actually not inherently funny. When things make you angry, they are infuriating, not funny. When you think something is stupid… it’s stupid.  Imagine there is an activist yelling at you demanding that you change your mind and take on their opinion on something. This might only be funny as an exhausted sigh.  Stuff that people care about, your ulnar nerve, is all of the emotions that aren’t funny. However “caring” about things is the basis of how we interact and have something to say. That caring electricity may not be inherently funny, but it is the foundation that every comic has to bring others along and make their people laugh. The strong opinion that flows through that vulnerable spot is the foundation for how laughs happen in the first place. 

Brené Brown in her book Daring Greatly, wrote “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” Her TED talks have blown up on the internet, and I believe it’s because we are all looking for that one thing that will give us the edge and allow us enough courage to step out and speak our truth. Watching her speak, her body language communicates with every bone in her body she is wanting to preserve herself. To run. To be the “expert” and hide behind the title of author. But then she realizes WHY she is on that stage. She is “the vulnerability guru”. So she discloses, and places herself out there, in courage.

We might not be the vulnerability guru, but we are on stage to say something. Not to hide. Not to protect ourselves. Comedians have shock and language as a tool but not at the expense of something to say. And the only way to have something to say is to tap into that place where you care. To expose that ulnar nerve and get ready to whack it!

Preview 02:53

A description of the 5 minute exercise you will be doing to see what you care about. Please pause for 5 minutes and do this exercise. It will allow you to have a clear topic for your original comedy.

What do You Care About

A quick description of the next exercise you will do. Vocalizing your passions. Please pause after this and perform this exercise with a friend or alone for 2 minutes. This will begin to establish your raw material.

Telling Your Friend

This is the same exercise, however by repeating it you begin to vocalize clear "takes' on where you want your raw material to go. Please pause after this and feel free to explore new concepts you hadn't thought about before. Make sure not to get stuck on "saying it the same way." 

Telling Your Friend Again

Here I am preparing to do the same exercise one more time. Please pause after this and take two minutes to complete this. It will ground your raw material.

Play it again Sam

To finalize the exercises, record yourself so that you can transcribe it. You now have raw material on the topic.

Now Record it!

Homework for Next week

  • Select 3 passionate topics
  • Vocalize out loud your reaction and funny thoughts associated with those three topics
  • Find the ones that you think are funny that you want to repeat
  • Record those vocalizations in some way
  • Transfer that to a typed format (keep it on a blog, phone, or computer)
  • Bring a digital version of it next week
  • Work on stuff to perform next week

Preview 01:06
Editing Your Material with the 3 B's
8 Lectures 14:49

Today is all about editing. One of the main things to remember about stand-up comedy is the more YOU talk the less people laugh. When you are talking and people aren’t laughing… this is called bombing. Stand-up is an art form this way. The key is to get to your insights and reactions as quick as you can so that others can laugh. To do this… YOU MUST EDIT.

At the end of this video I ask you to find your favorite stand-up comedian on youtube and search for your favorite bit by them. You will use this information to see some of the techniques they use in editing their material.

Preview 02:35

You probably aren’t aware of this but you are breathing. And when you talk, you don’t speak to people in huge four sentence chunks. Audiobook readers and authors at a book readings spend time practicing the grand soliloquys that are written so they don’t need to break the speech with a breath. The normal person pauses to breathe between five and fifteen syllables when they are talking. Performers of standup function the same way. The first step in editing is to break up your writing into the natural pauses. It can be called a one line format. I will give you an example of doing this with comedy great Mitch Hedberg’s Smacky the frog bit.

“In England, Smokey the Bear is not the forest fire prevention representative. They have Smacky the Frog. It’s a lot like a bear, but it’s a frog. I think that’s a better system. I think we should adopt it. Because bears can be mean, but frogs are always cool. Never has there been a frog hopping toward me, and I thought “Man, I’d better play dead. Here comes that frog.” I would never say “Here comes that frog” in a horrifying manner. It’s always, like, optimistic. Like, “Hey, here comes that frog, all right. Maybe he will settle near me and I can pet him, and put him in a mayonnaise jar, with a stick and a leaf, to recreate what he’s used to.”

Now what would this look like with his natural pauses? (you can see it here - )

In England, Smokey the Bear is not the forest fire prevention representative.
They have Smacky the Frog.
It’s a lot like a bear, but it’s a frog.
I think that’s a better system.
I think we should adopt it.
Because bears can be mean,
but frogs are always cool.
Never has there been a frog hopping toward me, and I thought
I’d better play dead.
Here comes that frog.”
I would never say “Here comes that frog” in a horrifying manner.
It’s always, like,
Like, “Hey, here comes that frog,
all right.
Maybe he will settle near me
and I can pet him,
and put him in a mayonnaise jar,
with a stick and a leaf,
to recreate what he’s used to.”

Paragraph to pause

B is for Breathe

natural pauses are between 5-15 syllables – If you go longer than that and people begin to lose track - Plus - we are not audiobook readers

take your bit - For five minutes break up your bit into a breath form

B is for Breathe

B is for Brevity -

Shakespeare said it best - Brevity is Levity
Shoe Company said it as well - Edit to Amplify!
to make it in stand-up means that you get to the funny fast!

Your Comic Transcription
Look at your transcription and underline each punchline. 3 - min - What are your observations?

B is for Brevity

What is the frequency of setup lines to punchlines?

Flywheel analogy – momentum keeps the thing moving

About 1 punchline to every 3 setup lines

Punchlines make the flywheel turn

Edit your bit

work backward
Start with the punchline first
make it one line

Go to the Setup
Then work backwards asking yourself "what does someone absolutely need to know in order to understand this?"
Rewrite your setup with this in mind “what can I say in 3 lines or less that will let people "GET" this punchline?”
iii. 5 min

Cut the excess

The butt of the joke is what everyone laughs at.

It cues the audience and tells them "OK NOW IT IS TIME TO LAUGH"

Look at your transcription specifically at your comics punchlines and mark the end word (the butt of the joke) 

Look at the rest of the words in the punchline. -3 min
What are your observations?
Traditionally the butt of the joke is the funniest word in the punchline.

Every word has a funny scale and some words are funnier than others. 
Yellow is funnier than red. 
Blather is funnier than speak. 
Diarrhea always is funny, except for last Sunday.

B is for Butt

OK so the editing process is 3 B's

Breathe, Brevity and Butt

Recap and Homework
Gaining Momentum
10 Lectures 30:57

Today is about Increasing the momentum of your funny (Pass Out Sheet)

I don’t know how to ride a bike

when my 6 year old rides her bike how does she increase her momentum?
there is a lot to think about when you are learning to ride a bike.

This analogy is similar to increasing the momentum of your funny.
you have to learn to tell your jokes.

Learning to Ride a Bike

If you ever have seen great improvisors like Margeret Cho or Robin Williams
And you look at different clips near the same time.
You can see that though they are improvising, they also have a set of scales and chord charts they are using.
Robin uses the Shakespearian voice
Then the little voice big voice
Then has a premise he gives 
And then acts it out with a baby voice
My point is that YOU don’t have Robin or Margeret ’s nightly routine of performing where they have honed chords scales and skills
They are riding their bike with no hands.
We have to first learn how to get up the hill.
And memorization of your crafted edited material will allow you to do that.
So I understand it is rigid and takes time and is out of your comfort zone, But by memorizing your bits, you are getting the words out of the way so that you can be free in your performance to be yourself.

Improv needs practice

When I was in college I took a Jazz class from a guy who played with Charlie parker … Yusef Latif
I didn’t know how jazz worked nor could I play anything.
I had a chromatic harmonica and I sucked
In the class , what would happen is 
Everyone would get a lead sheet 
Everyone would play the chorus once
And then people would solo with the bass and the drums keeping time.
It would be my turn and I was a disaster.
Thankfully I was clueless enough to not have the shame of a Jazz great follow me throughout my life.
But What I found out is in order to do an improv jazz solo you must
Know how to read music
Know what a chord chart is 
Know what notes work against that chord chart
Practice your scales and flow
And unlike me… know how to play an instrument

What Jazz Solos and Comedy have in common

Block out an hour of time and shut yourself in a place where you can say stuff out loud without being self-conscious. 
Take your written/ edited material out and read it out loud through the first punch line. (It should be about four single lines at most.)
Looking at the paper, read it out loud nine more times.
Now look up and try to say it memorized. (Repeat these steps until you have it.)
Say it memorized about three to five times 
Now look down at the paper again, and read through the next punch line ten times. (If you have multiple punch lines, read through your punch line run.) 
Now look up and say it memorized, but this time incorporate it into the first stanza you memorized. Do this until you can do it successfully three times. 
Repeat until you can recite your whole bit without looking at the paper.

Drill Memorization

When you are in a play, the director does a thing called “blocking.” This is a directive pointing out of the intentional movement on the stage. The point of your director saying. “Get close to her!” is because you are about to say a line that talks about your love. It is placing intentional movement that expresses the plot of the play. Since you are the director of your own stand up. It is now your turn to do some blocking. Think about the things that you naturally do to make people laugh. Try to build them into your words. Think of things that don’t make people laugh. Place movements in your set that make more sense. By you “Blocking” your set out, you will be practicing being as big as you design your set to be. Once you are in front of someone your “autopilot” will take over. By you already knowing what movements you have, you can customize them to fit your audience. Maybe you want to be outlandish. Now that you know what your body is doing, make everything x5. Maybe it’s a quieter crowd, just do small gestures to accommodate. When you have your words and actions practiced, you can take calculated risks with great results.


Why could you recall this and not recall the bits that you have written?
Your brain works best at remembering when you have visualizations attached to locations.
This is a trick master memory people use

This works for your comedy as well.
If you can place key words or punchlines in each of the rooms of your house, and blow them up into vivid detail, your brain will remember.

Try it 
I want you to visualize your childhood home
draw the architectural flow of your home
Now take your homework from last week and write your punchlines in each of the rooms in nugget form
Take 5 minutes and create visualizations for each punchline in your rooms (in your head)
Now I want you to experience walking through your childhood house with each of these situations happening.

Memory Palace

Why you need to be covert when testing.

Say Something Funny

Never identify that you are testing your material on someone. 
This is a secret operation! When you reveal your secret, you have move your test subject’s brain into judgement mode, and the test has been compromised!

Don’t force the material into the conversation. 
Don’t let them catch on! If you force your bits into the conversation, your friend’s spidey sense will say “this is weird” and think more about the weird transition than they will about what you are saying.

Keep track what you have said to whom. 
There are people who have no qualms about telling the same story over and over at the same party. But I think those people are annoying.  The moment you have told one person your bit and gathered an appropriate reaction, don’t rehearse it again, because it won’t gather the same reaction.
Write down notes if they come up. 

You are going to forget what happened. When you have gone to the effort of telling a joke to someone and learned its results, find a moment to jot down what happened. 
Did they laugh? 
Did they not laugh? 
Did they have questions?
Did they laugh at a place you didn’t expect them to laugh?
Gather your data. Don’t make a judgment on your bit or change it around until you have a good amount of data.

Test with three to five people before you pass judgment on material. 
Sometimes when we get a bad reaction from someone, don’t toss the baby out with the bathwater. Have patience and spend time gathering your intelligence so that you have a clear understanding of what you have.

Testing and the rules

The first two reasons were because of your delivery. 

You stumbled through the material. 
You were too worried about the bike to know where you were going, you gotta memorize it

Your body language didn’t make sense. 
You don’t want people to think you want them to laugh

The second two reasons are because you were a bad secret agent

You tried to force the material
Have patience or influence the conversation with questions related
They know!!!! you are working on material.

Finally, the last reason is because: It just wasn’t funny
Time to move on you know how to write, just get more material 

Why they didn't laugh


Select 3 more passionate topics
Vocalize out loud your reaction and funny thoughts associated with those three topics
Find the ones that you think are funny that you want to repeat
Record those vocalizations in some way 
Transfer that to a typed format (keep it on a blog, phone, or computer)
Convert it to single line
Mark the setups and reactions  (reactions every 2-4 lines)
Place the punchwords at the end of the reaction
hone your content to 3 pages 14 Ariel (9 minutes)
Test at least 3 punchlines on 3 different unsuspecting people (did they laugh?)

Recap and Homework
Performance Tips
7 Lectures 14:31

In most metropolitan cities there is a comedy club or two. Most of those clubs will host an open mic during a weekday. There are all sorts of flavors of open mics. Some are Blue (which means a lot of dirty material), some are known as “friendly”, and some are just a bar and a mic.  First, you should go to the open mic, to get the vibe. When you know which one you best gravitate towards, it’s time to sign up. (It took me a whole year to muster up enough courage to sign up. But if you have done the steps in this class you are ready) When you are ready, locate the person who is hosting, and ask them how you sign up. It could be an email that you need to send, or a paper that is put outside at a certain time. Another thing to ask unless the host has said it on stage is “how much time do you have?” Usually they are 3 to 4 minutes. Now, wait a week, sign up the way you were instructed, and you will have a formal audience to entertain.

Get Ready for your performance

Before you step on stage, scope out your surroundings. What sort of stairs are there to get up on stage? What does the host do with the people they introduce?  It is best to be waiting in the wings one person before you go up. Also, if there is time, introduce yourself to the host, that way they will have recognition, and the ability to pronounce your name correctly.

Once you are introduced, step onto the stage, shake the host’s hand and begin your set.  I say all this because your approach should be confident and YOU. You are getting to the microphone. That should be a non-issue. But sometimes in our nervousness we trip or have an awkward moment with the host, and it colors our first couple seconds on stage. Unless you are a Jerry Lewis impersonator, and your presentation is all physical comedy, your approach should be as natural as breathing.

Day of the Mic

Just like your approach, your use of the microphone should be non-issue. Microphones are amplification devices that are a tool of a standup comedian. Since it is a tool of the trade it is best to use it as a tool, and not have it be the focus of your set. Every mic is different, most of them are temperamental in a different way. They pop, shut off and can be a nuisance. Just like using a ballpoint pen, you know when you have a good one and you know when you are dealing with shit. Because of the nature of a comedy club it is usually best to not call to the attention of the crowd what sort of terrible contraption you are using. Because everyone else is using it too. If there is a problem with the mic, simply be gracious, and troubleshoot whether the connection at the bottom and the cord needs to be reconnected, see if it is turned off, and give the mic some space. If after you have given every jostle a try, simply put the mic back in the stand and project your voice without a mic. People will respect you more for your beauty in difficult situations rather than if you have to wait for the authorities to remedy the situation.

Know how you like to use the mic. Some comics love taking the mic off the stand so that they can use all of their body language. Most people take the stand and set it aside so that it is not upstaging them. If this is something you like to do, practice it in your rehearsals. You want this to not call attention, because you have prepared much larger jokes than mic stand moving.

“The Rule of Camping” applies to comedy microphones as well: you want to leave it the way you came. If the mic was on a stand and a stool was next to it when you arrived, during your last joke, set the stage back up the way it was. This takes some choreography to be able to say your joke, retrieve the mic stand, put the microphone back into the holster, without the audience paying attention to what you are doing. So prepare ahead of time and practice these simple movements so that they aren’t a distraction to your funniest joke.

Mic Technique

Good lighting sometimes means that as a performer you can’t see anything. This can create a feeling of distance which will reflect in your body language. One trick that some use is five points of contact. This is a trick that actors giving monologues use to create engagement with the crowd. There are five points of a “cheated half circle” 3 being directly in the middle. A lot of times, when we can’t see, we play directly to the middle, which lets people begin thinking about how you are up there delivering lines, rather than talking to them. The five points of contact allows you to play “as if” you are connecting and making eye contact with everyone in the audience. If, in your set, you can face 2, move to 4, squat to 1, and hit your punchline at 3, the audience will feel like you are looking right at them, even if you are not.

Five Points of Connection

In a comedy open mic, time is everything. Usually they are cramming 25 people into a night so the club has implemented a process of keeping people to their schedule. Some comics don’t have the same respect for the audience or preparation that you do. Some are just drunk. So they have developed a way of showing you “get ready to leave”. This is how it works: You get a “warning light”, and then a “your time is up” light. If you stay on stage past those lights, you will either have your mic turned off or you will be interrupted by the host.

It’s important to respect the club rules because they are providing you with a formal audience. If you are known for “running the light” your reputation will proceed you. You won’t have any future with larger shows, and you may not even be allowed on the mic at all. Mics are curated, so every time you get up there, you want to make an impact; so make it good.

When you practice, make sure you know how much time you are taking. Also keep in mind if you have laughs, it may take a little bit longer. You always want to hit at or a little below the given time. This will give you the greatest reputation. Which is important, because as people get to know you, the easier it will be to get them to laugh.

The Light

One thing that we don’t think about after we have done the hard work of preparing an amazing set, is how we finish. Once we are done with our last joke and have the mic back in the stand the way it was, it is customary to say a last thing that indicates we are done and everyone needs to clap. Some people say “my name is ______” or “that’s my time” or “thank you so much”. Whatever it is you end with, it will brand you. So spend time having a clear understanding of what you want to say after you killed on your set. Once you say this, leave the mic, shake the hand of the host, don’t trip on the stairs and go have a drink

Thank You and Good Night

When you have found out how long you are given, its time to craft your set. You now have a multitude of vetted, great jokes in your arsenal. Which are your favorites? Which get the biggest laughs? How long are they? Some people keep a spreadsheet of their jokes, Joan Rivers had a card catalog. However it works for you, you want to cobble the right amount of jokes together to make a set.

Some people like having a theme or a story with their sets, which does create a momentum with the audience. Others have found hopping from joke to joke randomly works for them. Realistically it doesn’t matter as long and the Audience doesn’t have to “think” about it. Standup is a rare art form that allows for randomness in material. The only time this is an issue is if you haven’t set up your joke properly. If they are laughing then your order is working. Once you have your set list, find your best joke, and put it at the end. Now find your second best joke, put it at the beginning. Now fill in any gaps that you need. You now have your set!

Structuring your Set
Becoming Accurate!
6 Lectures 12:17

The nature of standup is personal. If you aren’t vulnerable about what you are bringing to the crowd. It might be time to rethink what you are bringing. Even an ice queen like my grandmother cares about something, and when you have just poured your life into a 3 minute set and received only a moderate amount of laughter it can throw you into a deep depression. I think that is why this is the most difficult chapter to implement. It’s hard to revisit your performance critically without feeling like you have failed in some way and send yourself into a spiraling mess of “I hate myself”.

All I can say is it is better on your own terms. I’m not a big fan of my daughter poking me in the belly and asking me if I’m pregnant. I would rather come to the conclusion myself that I need to lose a few pounds. That’s where the process of reflecting on your performance is helpful. It’s nice to come to the conclusion that you missed this punchline because of this or that before your mom comes to the same conclusions by sending you a youtube comment.

So we need to first take a deep breath and tell ourselves that what we see in the mirror is a gift. Feedback is a gift? We may feel feedback is as wanted as Aunt Lotty’s Fruit Cake in January. Then again, you have to respect her for the time and effort.  Just like Aunt Lotty spent time drowning the cherries and apricots in cups of Grand Marnier, you need to pull yourself out of your depression long enough to watch your set video and take some notes.

Yes feedback is a gift. It is a gift for your future. Feedback and the practice of the craft of standup is the hard work of becoming a better artist. It may not be fun playing piano scales endlessly, but when you can effortlessly play a Chopin sonata with the proper expression, the practice is well worth it. We all are dealt different amounts of talent, and depending on how much skill we’ve been given, means how much harder we need to work to become excellent. So, if you want to become a better comedian, it is time to swallow some pride and clinically look at your set. You do this assessing yourself, assessing your audience, and setting some goals.

Assesment Intro

Here we are, the evil queen, looking deeply into the mirror only to find out we aren’t the fairest in the land. Rather than send the henchmen to kill the rest of the comics that are fairer, why not pop a few zits, stop our scowls that have created deep inset wrinkles, and begin a regimen of smiling as we give out some non-poisoned apples. If only the evil queen saw the magic mirror’s assessment as an opportunity for growth. 

We are given such an opportunity! And the mirror that is before you, is your video footage of your performance. You’re mirror may not scan the land pitting your beauty against the other princesses out there, but it will tell you exactly what you need to know to get better. Your video will show you how you present yourself, how you sounded, and what your audience did. By looking at these three aspects of your video you will have notes that will allow you to make your next performance the fairest in the land.

The Magic Mirror

Print a copy of your written out set. One of the best ways to learn what you did is to read the paper while the video is running. When there is something different, stop the video cross out what you DIDN’T SAY and write in what you DID SAY. This exercise makes you stop and understand where you departed from what you originally wrote. Was it a good change? Was it because you forgot where you were? Or was it a more natural way of expressing what you wanted to express? It may seem belittling, but also write down your “ums” “yaknows” and other filler words where they occur. This is not to brow beat yourself, it is show what is different than what you composed. You composed your set in a specific way to get specific laughs at specific times.  When you are real with what you actually gave to your audience, you can then work to bring your next performance to them more accurately. Write down in your notebook elements or bits that you need practice in order to more accurately deliver the set that you composed.

Listen To Yourself

After spending time seeing and hearing what you brought to the table. It is time to listen to your audience. So… did they laugh? Take your printed out set sheet with your ums and crossed outs written in. Don’t watch the video this time. Listen to the video. Mark on your sheet where you hear laughter. Once you are done listening to your audience. Look at the places that your audience laughed. Did they laugh at the places you suspected they would? Where were the places that received unexpected laughter? Why did they laugh there? Can you recreate them or were they a fluke?

Now, look at the sheet and notice the places they didn’t laugh. Ask yourself why? Here are some of the main reasons why your audience is not laughing.

1)      OBSCURE – Your audience can’t relate. They can’t visualize or understand the points of reference or your topic being discussed. Perhaps you are performing in Australia and you have a bit on Q-tips. No one laughs as you come out on stage with white fur boots and a Russian fur cap. Why? Because they call cotton swabs something entirely different in Australia. Understanding your audience will help you not hear crickets.

2)      BODY ALIGNMENT – You might out of sync. Your body language may not be communicating what your words are saying. Was your audience confused by your posture and body language. Look back at your notes and see where it was off.

3)      PUNCHWORD – Your Punchword or phrase is in the beginning rather than the end. It could be you indicated to the audience that they missed the joke and should have laughed earlier. Scope out whether the funniest word is truly at the end.

4)      NOT FUNNY - It just wasn’t funny.  For whatever reason it just wasn’t funny. Spend time replacing your punchline with a different sense of humor reaction to get your desired result. Do a simple rewrite. If you come to terms that your joke just isn’t funny, get a different punchline. You can make a game out of it: a friend of mine made up a game that uses a bell. He has you do your set normally. Then, at one point in the set, he dings the bell. The game is to stop and retell the joke with a different punchline every time he dings the bell. You have an infinite amount of things that are important to you, you can write a new joke and replace this joke that didn’t get laughs. 

Listen to Your Audience

  • Look at the video and at each minute mark where the minute lands on your set piece of paper
  • Listen to the video and count how many seconds of laughter are there after your punchlines. Be generous.
  • Add up each number at each minute mark on your set piece of paper.
  • Look at the number you have per each minute against a standard awesome comic’s average of 20 sec+ per minute.
  • Math equation (average laughs per minute)/20 = your grade for your performance. (100% means you can go toe to toe with anybody doing well in the industry)
  • Now try it and better your last time

Thank you

make sure you upload your comedy to Youtube and tag #Farm2tableComedy

I can't wait to see your stuff!

About the Instructor
Geoffrey Neill
3.7 Average rating
16 Reviews
878 Students
1 Course
Grow Your Funny!

Geoffrey Neill's philosophy is that everyone can learn to make others laugh. He hosts a Portland class that leads the most timid to develop their voice all the way to crafting their performance. He is interested in making you hysterical! His Farm2Table Comedy shows are about creating a great audience for fresh local comedians. And, like the name suggests, they are all about moving you from growth to delivery.

Geoffrey Neill has always been about making people laugh. When he was 9 he felt the electricity of making people genuinely crack up at his grade school talent show lipsincing a calypso bit by Stan Freeburg.

Years ago Geoff embarked on a dream that was in him for quite some time. He went to an open mic and tried doing stand-up Comedy. In 2006 he made a new year's resolution: to finally do it. However, every time a day would go by without any progress, the farther away it seemed. he was determined. He said "This year I am going to do stand-up comedy." He even bought a book about it. The book gave some general frameworks. But it mainly told him that he needed to learn how to do impressions. After reading half of the book he found himself trying to write and practice terrible versions of political figures. He hated politics! But maybe it is what will make people laugh.

After getting over his initial fear, starting and stopping several times, along with trying out tons of different writing methods, Geoff started to reflect on his own stand-up material. He had material about circumcision and dog poop. He had conquered his fear of telling jokes in front of people only to realize that his jokes were moving him into a place of regret. He asked "How do you make jokes and make others laugh without talking about shameful things? How do you stay true to yourself while talking about taboo things, difficult things, hard things?"

Five years went by without entering a comedy club, there were no answers to his questions. One day, a friend invited him to do comedy for the first time at a show. It was his friend's comedy class's showcase. Each of the comedians all had about 7 minutes of material. Geoff had been to open mics before, so he knew what to expect. But to his surprise, his friend and his classmates were funny!

They were good! He enjoyed himself! Geoff was proud of his friend. And more than that, he felt an urge to take the class himself. He told his friend: "any class that can produce stand-up from a group that has never done it before and produce some laughter should be explored." He signed up and after 5 years of hiatus and searching for his funny bone in places that that weren't as raw as stand up. He entered the class and found that he needed to begin writing again.

There were still mountains to climb, and answers to search for. Such as: "How can I write material and have it not be stuff that I feel is trivial?" and "how can I do it without climbing that ladder of emptiness and shame? How do I do it? How do I write?"

Being placed in front of a mic for 6 weeks Geoff found a way to get over those hurdles. The class's curriculum didn't do it, he had to do it, He had to move through his fear, potential betrayal of himself, and find his passion. It was a necessity. It was a must. He realized that he was no longer paralyzed but had a process that he could use that could change the way he wrote. This allowed him to make people laugh and brought the smile back to his passion.

His passion since he was very young was to make people laugh. Part of it was to be in front of people and to give them a performance they would remember. Fear destroys our ambitions and passions. If we don't have somebody helping us through it, we sometimes get caught in a holding pattern for years. He decided to write Hitting Your Funny bone to help others find their way out of that holding pattern.

Today he has taken these ideas to his own world of comedy. Will you join him?