In Death by Microphone, local Brit and barbecue blogger Gavin Cleaver attends stand-up comedy classes at the Dallas Comedy House and reports back for our amusement and education. Check back next week to revel further in his failure.
It's all in the preparation, you know? You can't just stand on a stage and be funny. That doesn't happen unless you're made from magic and really funny unicorns. After the workshopping material comes the construction of the set, which we covered last week, and after that comes preparation. Lots and lots of preparation.
Once I've narrowed down my "funniest" bits -- remember, funny is subjective, especially with my jokes -- into 4-5 minutes of material for Friday's showcase, thus allowing an incredibly optimistic extra minute or two for laughs, it's time to get the sodding thing into my head.
There are a few ways you can do this. Clearly I can't take a script up there and just read from that, because, genre-defying as that might be, that would be crap. So everything must be memorized. Not only each overall joke, but the structure of words within that joke, even the tones of silly voices for the act-outs. (My Texan accent is coming on a treat, thanks for asking).
Previously on Death by Microphone: Episode 1: Our Token Brit is Taking a Stand-Up Class at Dallas Comedy House for Your Amusement Episode 2: I Just Took My First Stand-Up Comedy Class and I Already Want to Sabotage It Episode 3: How to Suck Less in a Few Easy Steps: What I Learned at Stand-Up Comedy Class Episode 4: Holy Hell My Joke About Being Drunk and British at a Texas Waffle House Actually Works Episode 5: At the Dallas Comedy House's Stand-up Comedy Class, a Lesson in Handling Hecklers Episode 6: The Dallas Comedy House Stand-Up Class Final is Looming, and I Haven't Done Squat
The most obvious way to remember all this crap is simply to think about it all the time. At work, in the car, making sweet lurve, eating barbecue. All those times. Once you've set yourself to think about it, you'd be surprised how often the structure and timing of your set pops into your head during quieter moments. That's a relief more than anything, as it's a sign I have a vague idea of what I'm going to say.
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But this is by no means the end of the fight. The only way you can ensure you've structured everything properly and have the right intonations and act outs is to do it out loud. All the time. As much as possible, anyway. And even then there are intricacies to this.
The best way to do it is to stare at a blank wall. No, really. That way you get used to keeping your head up and not staring at the floor, because the whole act of saying stuff like this out loud is embarrassing enough to make you look at the floor. Also, it's much better than a mirror, because not only does that distract you by worrying about what you look like (we're way past that stage, people) but it makes you exaggerate your movements and expressions.
A brief survey of my classmates revealed that we are all talking to ourselves when we're alone. Some in quiet times at work, most in the car, which is something I've adopted too, even though I must look completely insane. One or two are leaving their material alone and not looking at it until the day before, so as not to obsess, whereas others are thinking about it all the time. Major last-minute re-writes are going on. Last night, while talking to myself at length, I cut about 60 percent of the set because it was just way too long. So those are lost jokes you might never get to hear. The world weeps.
If you want to hear the jokes that made the cut, and ponder how bad the jokes that didn't make the cut must have been, then you can come to Dallas Comedy House this Friday, March 1, at 7.30 p.m. to see us all. We've already organized a suicide pact based on the success or failure of one of us. Please do not boo any of us in case it is that person and you end up murdering 12 people. Five bucks cash on the door.