How to “Get Good”

I was recently witness to two comics arguing in an online group over how to “get good” as a comic and they came from two camps

1 – Quantity: “Do as many mics as you can as quickly as you can”

2 – Quality: “Do the best shows you can, with good audiences so you can work out the kinks as you go”

It was an interesting debate to witness, albeit a frivolous one. Cause here’s the thing: They’re both right. Both tactics are useful and viable but not necessarily for everyone.

One tactic will help you develop as a performer and to polish your stage presence, while the other will help you to develop your actual material. These are both areas that you must develop, but it’s tough to know which is more important when you’re starting out.
Here the breakdown as I see it.


I’m pretty sure this idea originates with this video of Louie Anderson (at least it did for me):
The thrust of his short speech is that you should get out there and do 100 sets as quick as you can…
It’s best to hear him explain it but here’s the thing:It works.
I like to say that doing comedy is like trying to learn guitar without owning one when you can only practice for 5 minutes at a time at guitar center… matter of fact, here’s a meme of me saying that:
Learning Comedy
When i started doing comedy, I went up once a month and felt awesome, but when I found that video I realized that I wasn’t serious enough yet. So I set out to do 100 sets in a year. I did the math and figured out that all I’d have to do is hit 2 mics a week and that there were actually 3 or 4 opportunities a week, so I set my mind to it and cranked out the sets. I started keeping track and counting and I ended up getting in about 125.
As I was cranking, I noticed all the things Louie talked about, the material started coming more naturally and the performance became embedded in my brain and in my body. And I had my material down… See, for me, I was always comfortable on stage, but  needed to get my material drilled into my head, but halfway through, I realized that I had begun to only do sets so that I could check another set off. I wasn’t reflecting or polishing and refining. I’d done the same mediocre versions of my jokes 55 times and never once asked myself if there was a better way to tell them, but dogone it, I had those mediocre versions ready to go.
And that’s when I realized it’s also important to focus on…


When it comes to Quality, you can’t get much better than Jerry Seinfeld.In this clip, he doesn’t neccessarily talk about the quality of stage time, but more about his process of writing and refining a single bit and that’s what the core of the “quality” argument is…

Are you getting on stages where you’re getting good feedback that helps you get the feedback you need to tweek your material? Seinfeld talks about the importance of refinish and polishing and “nit-picking” his material, and that is what I realized from getting on stage so frequently in such a short amount of time.

Simply getting on the stage is not enough….

You have to make the most of that stage time. You need to record your sets and listen back to them and see what is getting the laughs and where you can enhance them.

Sometimes you need to write bits out and write multiple versions and try out several different punchlines, tags and setups to perfect the joke and an empty room won’t help you with this, whereas as a packed house will.

But here are some other variables…

We all have a different personal style of learning and developing.
Some folks write everything out and then memorize it, but I tend just write bullet points and riff it out on stage until I get it right – it’s never really that simple, but I’ll get more into that another time…
Some folks have more access to more quality mic time.
When I started there was really only one place to get up and it was always good, but by the time I got serious there were 4 or 5 places and on average they were hit or miss, now that I live in NYC I can get up 5 times a night if I plan it right, but some of those times I’ll just be talking to 4 other comics who don’t care, while other times I’ll have a packed room of folks giving me all their attention.
Some folks have more natural performance ability.
It’s just the facts, some people can read the phone book and get a laugh, but that doesn’t always mean they know how to write a good joke.

Some folks have a brain wired for jokes.
yet another fact. There are folks that can just lay out a concept very easily and it crushes… but these people sometimes don’t know how to repeat such a performance.

The point I’m really trying to make…

is that both schools of thought are correct. You should try to get on stage as often as you can and when possible it should be at mics and shows with a good crowd that will give you reactions,  but failing that, you should just be getting up to practice being on stage.

Either way though, you need to be WORKING ON YOUR MATERIAL ALONG THE WAY

So Now You’re Wondering…

What now?
well you just get out there and start doing it. I just read a new friends advice on a page he maintains which said this:
“Google “Open Mic (your city) and you will find something.”
If you need some extra help, then look up my new comedy coaching venture.

“Mastering Mirthology – Joke Coaching and Set Review”

I can do one-on-one reviews and sessions for single bits or full sets and I’m developing a program for a multi-week online workshop.

The best part is I always start with a free consultation, so if you want to get started, then shoot me a message via that facebook page and we can start working together.

2 responses to “How to “Get Good”

  1. Pingback: Debates on “Making It” | Mark Miller - Creative Person·

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