So You Think You're Funny, Huh? 7 Things To Know Before You Try Stand-Up Comedy in NYC

We've written about stand-up comedy in New York City before. Namely, we laid out the best comedy clubs in the city where you can get drunk and laugh your face off.

We mean, this is NYC after all. We're good at things, and stand-up comedy is one of the things we do best. 

(That's right, Chicago, we'll take you on any day.) 

But let us ask you this question: What happens when you, a very funny New Yorker, get tired of sitting in the crowd? 

What happens when watching John Mulaney and Amy Schumer and Hannibal Buress slay on YouTube no longer satisfies your comedy craving?

We'll tell you what happens. You write some jokes, and you drag yourself to an open-mic night. Then, you get onstage. 

Are you thinking about throwing yourself into NYC's vibrant, thriving, stand-up comedy scene? If so, great. We celebrate you. We support you.

However, there are some things you should know beforehand, and we've kindly listed them for you below.


1. Get drunk

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Or, we mean, get buzzed. The thing is, a room full of New Yorkers is much less scary when you've had a few, erm, a lot of drinks.

Also, many of NYC's open mic comedy nights require the purchase of a drink to get onstage which works out great for you, since liquid courage can work wonders during your first bout onstage.

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So don't be afraid to pour some beers in your face. Or some wine. We don't know what alcohol you like. 

What we do know? If you've been wanting do to this for a while, you can't let your sobriety hold you back. You'll handle being hungover at work tomorrow. You've handled worse.


2. Know what you're going to say

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You should practice before you dive in. You should probably practice more than once.

We know it's weird to recite your stand-up comedy routine to yourself. So, something we've found works great is calling an out-of-town friend and practicing your routine on her.

You don't have to memorize your routine. In fact, it's probably better if you don't. You should, however, have a list of the stories you plan to tell. 

Write these stories on a post-it and bring that post-it onstage with you in the off chance you freeze-up and can't remember what you wanted to say. This can help immensely.

Also, in the words of the great Mike Birbiglia, comedy = tragedy + time. So, tell a story about a time you got bummed. It just might have gotten funny with time.


3. Read the room

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Okay, we know we just told you to plan out your act, and now we're telling you to read the room. How can you do both?

The best way is to have back-up stories and jokes just in case your planned material runs dry.

You can catch the vibe of the room before you hit the stage (unless you're up first), and you can tell what kind of jokes are drawing laughs.

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If you're performing to a room full of women, maybe don't tell jokes about leaving gum in a woman's armpit because you were annoyed they were hairy (yes, this is a real thing that's happened).

In the same vein, if you're in a room of, say, gun lobbyists, telling jokes about how you think the 2nd Amendment is ridiculous is also probably not the move. Like we said, read the room.


4. Tell jokes you think are funny

daquan 😂😂😂


Or, tell jokes that your friends think are funny. If something isn't funny to you, it probably won't be funny to your audience.

We mean, all group socializing situations are essentially stand-up comedy. If you're telling a story to a group of your friends and you have their attention, you're basically performing stand-up comedy.

Did your friends laugh after you told that one story? Perfect. Tell that one.

The best way to figure out whether you should say a joke onstage is whether it's funny to you. If it's funny to you, it'll likely be funny to your audience.

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5. Have a conversation

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The best part about stand-up comedy is that no one else gets to talk. The microphone belongs only to you during your three-to-five minutes of fame.

Still, this doesn't mean that you should completely ignore the reactions from your audience.

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If the audience is laughing at your joke, stop talking and give them time to laugh. If you're telling a story, a dramatic pause can go a long way.

Actually, pauses (referred to as beats) might be the single most important aspect of stand-up comedy. A well-timed punchline can be the difference between roaring laughter and crickets.


6. Don't get discouraged

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Okay, so if you're in an NYC open-mic night, odds are 95% of the people at the open-mic night are also planning to get onstage.

This is a great crowd to practice on. First of all, they're understanding. They know how vulnerable you are doing what you're doing.

Second, it's a well-known fact that open-mic nights are a chance to practice new material. Since your fellow audience members are likely getting onstage themselves, they'll probably be more attentive and giggly than an average crowd.

Still, lots of people in the audience are probably more concerned about their upcoming routine than yours. Don't be surprised if people are reading their notes or whispering to their friends while you're performing.

The key is learning to block out these people and just leaning back and doing your thing onstage.


7. Relax

lillians_manifestations My face hurts from laughing. #hannibalburess


When you're up there, you've just got to go for it.

You can't be thinking about how nervous you are, or worried about whether you're going to bomb. If you do stand-up comedy long enough, you will bomb. 

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It's happen to all the great, famous, rich comedians we could name. It's an occupational hazard.

Still, you're much more likely to come across as funny and interesting if you're relaxed onstage. How do you get yourself relaxed? Well, we don't know. Maybe try tip number one on this list.

Check out 7 Most Overrated Date Ideas in NYC.

[Feature Image Courtesy Instagram] 

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