wikiHow to Be a Good Comedian

Three Parts:Writing JokesMaking your Routine SolidPerforming Stand Up Comedy

You’ve been the class clown in every grade since kindergarten and you can always make your friends laugh at parties. You figure that a career in stand up comedy might be right up your alley. Unfortunately, being a stand up comedian isn’t as easy at it looks. It’s an incredibly difficult career to break into but if you can tough out the grind, you can share your jokes with the world.

Part 1
Writing Jokes

  1. Image titled Be a Good Comedian Step 1
    Write tight setups. The setup establishes the premise of your joke.[1] It informs your audience of any background information they need to understand the joke. Your setups should be clear and to the point.
    • Your setup should build up to your punchline. If you get off topic, your audience may not be able to follow you.
    • An example of a classic setup is: A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar.
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    Write punchlines. The punchline is the laugh line of the joke. Effective punchlines usually contain a twist that makes an audience laugh. Your punchline should be an unexpected conclusion to your setup.
    • This joke by Jay Leno has a clever punchline: Nine out of ten doctors agree. One out of ten doctors is an idiot![2]
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    Write tags. Tags are additional punchlines that come after your initial punchline. Use them to generate extra laughs from your audience. Tags can build on the initial punchline or they can take the joke in a different direction.
    • Mitch Hedberg was a master of adding tags to his jokes. Some of his jokes contained as many as nine tags.
    • Here’s an example of a Mitch Hedberg joke with a tag after the punchline: I called the hotel operator and she said, “How can I direct your call?” I said, “Well, you could say action! And I’ll begin to dial. (punchline) And when I say goodbye, then you can yell cut!” (tag)[3]
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    Be informed. Pay attention to what’s going on in the news. Current events can inspire great, relatable material. Always be aware of what’s happening in politics. Comedians like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher focus their entire career around political humor.
    • Will Ferrell became a Hollywood mega-star in large part due to his hilarious George W. Bush impression.
    • Here’s a joke that Jon Stewart made after Dick Cheney accidentally shot a friend on a hunting trip: I’m not just Jon Stewart, I’m also a concerned parent. So moms and dads who are watching this right now... don’t let your kids go hunting with the Vice President.[4]
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    Write every day. Take some time every day to write down ideas for jokes. Keep your eyes and ears open. Inspiration for great jokes can come from anywhere. You should always keep a pen and paper handy.[5]
    • Get out of the house. You need to have experiences to write about.

Part 2
Making your Routine Solid

  1. Image titled Be a Good Comedian Step 6
    Practice your delivery. Effective comedic delivery is all about timing. Know when to tell jokes and when be quiet. You should pause before telling your punchline to allow tension to build in the room. Give your audience time to laugh before you move on to your next joke.[6]
    • If you move too quickly, you could stop your audience from laughing.
    • Johnny Carson did a routine where he would hold a closed envelope which contained a question on his forehead. He would reveal the answer first. Then he would open the envelope slowly to a drum-roll to build tension before revealing the question (the punchline).
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    Create an opener. You’ll need an opening line to capture the attention of your audience and get them laughing. This should be a quick rehearsed line that introduces you as a comic. Daniel Tosh’s opener in South Beach, “This is my third favorite city to do stand up in,” immediately introduces his brand of sarcastic humor.
    • An example of a classic opener is: I just flew in here and boy are my arms tired.
    • Be careful with insulting openers when you’re starting out. You want your audience to like you.
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    Rehearse your routine. Get your routine down perfectly. Rehearse it until you can say it without even thinking. Perform your routine over and over again in the mirror so that you can see what parts of it are funny and what parts should be cut.[7]
    • Keep editing and rearranging your routine until you’re confident about it.
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    Record yourself. Make a video of you performing your routine. Watch it several times to make sure you’re delivering your punchlines effectively. A good routine should generate four to six laughs per minute. Grab a timer and make sure that every minute of your routine has at least four punchlines or tags.[8]
    • Show your tape to a friend to see if they think its funny.

Part 3
Performing Stand Up Comedy

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    Get on stage. The first few times you perform, you will likely be extremely nervous and your performance will be awful. You can’t be afraid to fail because you will.[9] Go to every open mic you can to get rid of your stage fright and perfect your material.
    • The only way to learn to have great stage presence is to have experience on the stage.
    • Even Jerry Seinfeld bombed his first time on stage. Remembering the incident, he said “I just stood there for about thirty seconds, saying absolutely nothing, just standing there, freaking out.”[10]
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    Be relatable. In order to understand your humor, your audience will need to see things from your point of view. Think of your routine as a conversation you’re having with your audience rather than a performance.
    • Relax. If you’re nervous, it will be hard to make a real connection with your audience.
    • Talk to your audience, not at them.[11]
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    Interact with your audience. Making people in your audience part the show is a great way to build rapport with them. You can talk to members in your audience to transition from one joke to the next.
    • Robin Williams was the king of audience interaction. In one of his routines, he borrowed a woman’s trench coat, put it on and pretended to flash members of the audience. He then borrowed another woman’s fur coat put it on and said “Right now, there’s a whole bunch of animals going, boy is it cold!”[12]
    • Be careful not to bully anyone. Some people don’t like to be the center of attention. If you sense someone feels uncomfortable being exposed, talk to someone else.
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    Build a stage persona. It can take years to build a stage persona. Your stage persona will be the tone from which all of your jokes are delivered.[13] Rodney Dangerfield was the "lovable loser" that everyone could relate to. After all his jokes, he would say “I get no respect.” Over time, you’ll develop a unique stage persona from your own personality.
    • Your stage persona is what your fans will pay to see.


  • Be patient. It takes at least three years to break into the industry.
  • Keep your day job. It’s expensive to pursue any career in entertainment and you probably won’t see a return on your investment for a few years.
  • Treat your fans well. Try to get to know them after every show.


  • There will likely be many comedians with more experience than you. You may get discouraged if you compare your career to theirs.
  • Get thick skin. You’ll likely bomb several times on stage when you’re starting out. You may even get booed off stage by hostile crowds.

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Categories: Fashion and Entertainment | Performing Comedy