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What is Stand up Comedy?

Stand-up comedy is a unique art form where a comedian performs live, sharing humorous stories, jokes, and one-liners, often reflecting on personal experiences or societal observations. It's an intimate exchange, with laughter as the universal currency. Curious about the journey from a simple mic to roaring applause? Discover how stand-up comedians turn everyday quirks into comedic gold. Ready to explore their world?
Garry Crystal
Garry Crystal

Stand up comedy has often been described as one of the hardest acts to pull off. It basically consists of one person standing in front of an audience and trying to make them laugh. Many professionals say that sit can be harsh and lonely. This may be where the phrase, I died up there, first originated.

Unlike an actor, a stand up comedian fails or succeeds on his or her own talent. An actor usually has a script to fall back on and a team of other actors to rely on. Stand up comedy is only a single, hopefully talented person with either a very likable personality or an arsenal of jokes.

A comedian tries to make an audience laugh during stand up comedy routines.
A comedian tries to make an audience laugh during stand up comedy routines.

Stand up comedy can take many forms. It can consist of a monologue of amusing incidents that may form a story. It can be a string of stinging one-liners, or simply a succession of jokes. It can also be performed almost anywhere – clubs, bars or parties.

The art of this type of performance has gone through many changes. Gone are the slapstick days of vaudeville and the old time gag performers such as George Burns, Bob Hope and Jack Benny. The 1960s and 70s brought new performers with a different approach. The new comedy was subversive, message comedy. It used political and topical content to raise social questions and change the public's thinking.

One of the greatest skills a stand up comedian can have is knowing how to deal with a heckler.
One of the greatest skills a stand up comedian can have is knowing how to deal with a heckler.

Comedians such as Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks got in your face and into your brain as they broke comedy barriers. Lenny Bruce was arrested many times for his particular brand of comedy. These stand up comics challenged mainstream comedy to a fight and then wiped the floor with it.

The 1980s kicked off a comedy style known as observational humor that looked at everyday incidents through a skewed eye. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld was a master of this type of comedy. Many stand up comedians have moved on to starring in their own television shows and films. Stars such as Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin all made their debut in stand up comedy.

Watching stand up comedy on TV makes some people laugh.
Watching stand up comedy on TV makes some people laugh.

One of the greatest skills a stand up comedian can have is knowing how to deal with the heckler. The best comedians have been known to use the heckler and to incorporate the heckle into the act, but a cutting remark from an audience member can sometimes kill a performer's act.

If you think you have what it takes to enter the world of stand up comedy, many comedy clubs hold open mic nights. Complete beginners can stand in front of an audience and try their best to make them laugh. It takes a very talented and brave person to pull this off successfully.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is stand-up comedy and how does it differ from other comedic forms?

Stand-up comedy is a performance art where a comedian speaks directly to a live audience, delivering a fast-paced series of jokes and humorous stories. Unlike comedic plays or television sketches, stand-up is typically performed by a solo artist who writes their own material. The comedian's goal is to create a connection with the audience through laughter, often using timing, delivery, and their unique perspective to elicit a comedic response.

How did stand-up comedy originate and evolve over time?

Stand-up comedy has roots in various traditions, including vaudeville, music hall performances, and monologues by comedians like Mark Twain. It evolved significantly in the 20th century, with American nightclubs and TV shows providing new platforms for comedians. The art form has diversified, with comedians exploring personal, political, and observational humor, and it continues to evolve with the rise of internet platforms and global audiences.

What are some common styles or genres within stand-up comedy?

Stand-up comedy encompasses a range of styles and genres. Observational comedy involves commentary on everyday life, while blue comedy focuses on adult themes and language. Political comedy tackles current events and social issues, and alternative comedy often features unconventional, sometimes absurd, material. Each comedian's style is unique, often blending different genres to create their signature approach to humor.

How can someone get started in stand-up comedy?

Getting started in stand-up comedy typically involves writing original material and performing at open mic nights to hone skills and gain experience. Aspiring comedians should study the work of established comics, practice their timing and delivery, and be prepared for both success and failure on stage. Networking with other comedians and industry professionals can also provide valuable opportunities and feedback for growth.

What impact has stand-up comedy had on culture and society?

Stand-up comedy has had a profound impact on culture and society by providing a platform for discussing taboo subjects, challenging societal norms, and offering commentary on political and social issues. Comedians have the power to influence public opinion and bring attention to important topics through satire and humor. Additionally, stand-up comedy has contributed to the cultural landscape by launching the careers of many influential performers and writers.

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Discussion Comments

anon275323

Stand up is full of heartless tossers who just know how to offend people. Most people who go to stand up are there to have a good time and will just laugh at the rubbish the wannabe comedian is saying.

Lots of comedians who do stand up are just not funny and I wonder why they are even there, especially the ones you keep making fun out of lesbians and their lack of humour when the comedian has a real dull sense of humour. I find funnier people I work with than at stand up.

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    • A comedian tries to make an audience laugh during stand up comedy routines.
      By: Carlos Santa Maria
      A comedian tries to make an audience laugh during stand up comedy routines.
    • One of the greatest skills a stand up comedian can have is knowing how to deal with a heckler.
      By: diego cervo
      One of the greatest skills a stand up comedian can have is knowing how to deal with a heckler.
    • Watching stand up comedy on TV makes some people laugh.
      By: Africa Studio
      Watching stand up comedy on TV makes some people laugh.