So you want to be a StandUp Comic? Who are you?
One of the hardest obstacles when getting comfortable with standup comedy is to know who you are. What is your persona?
Some comics never find it. Will you be a whiney disgruntled housewife like Rosanna or a foodie like Jim Gaffigan. The first bit I ever wrote was about being retired. I performed it once and ditched it. The second bit I wrote was about always getting the squeaky wheel on my way to Las Vegas: on the shopping basket, the taxi, the airplane and the luggage cart. Stupid! It didn’t identify me as anything but a squeaky wheel getter. Ugh! You can’t go far with that one.
I struggled for a couple of years trying to figure out who I would be on stage. When you start into comedy at the age of 66, you don’t have a lot of time to waste. I took the National Speaker’s Association Academy and we worked on marketing materials. But I still wasn’t sure how to market myself. One day, in my frustration, I moaned, “I’m just an old, white, heterosexual, married, retired, school teacher! Now what is funny about that?”
A young classmate named Jason, maybe 30 years old, piped up without hesitation and said, “Karen, I’ll always think of you as a smokin’ hot 35 year old.” The whole class erupted in laughter! That was it! Ever since, I’ve been that older woman who still sees herself as a Smokin’ Hot 35 year old. Even 5th graders laugh at that joke!
The great thing about my persona is nobody will ever want to use my material. It doesn’t fit anyone else. And the older I get, the funnier it will get and the more jokes I can add. And no matter what, I’ll never get any younger.
I know comics whose personas are only temporary because they will grow out of them and will need to change their acts. One comic lost 100 pounds and his whole act was about losing 100 pounds. Hopefully, his success as a comic will help him maintain that weight loss because he was hilarious.
One of my friends is a pastor and that is his persona. He can weave humor through Bible stories and captivate an audience, both religious and secular. Another one is an older woman who is baffled by the latest technologies. Once a person gets a grip on who they want to be on stage, the jokes are so much easier to write because they play to that persona.
Ask yourself . . . what is it about me that makes me different than anybody else?
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