TRICKS OF THE TRADE-3. HOW TO DO STAND-UP COMEDY

GREG PROOPS Stand-up comic. He hosts 'Space Cadets' and is a regular on 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?'
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The Independent Culture
In stand up, context is everything. When you're at high school and performing for the other kids, they're going to love it, but once you get out into the world and people are paying money there are different expectations. I've played gigs where I was wholly inappropriate. You go through a process of learning what people respond to. At first you want to make everyone laugh and you're just concerned with not dying up there, so in your first few shows you hit on people's universal topics. Eventually you become brave enough to ignore what people respond to easily and you can go in other directions. In fact, I sometimes sabotage my own show to make sure that the audience is silent.

I have a routine which I write. It's only when you become huge and you're burning through material that you need help in writing it. I haven't reached this point yet, but I will improvise every night so that I don't become boring. Different crowds are going to want to hear about different things. Often in England the critics levy their criticism at comedians who are too slick, so I will leave spaces so that I can goof around. English crowds tend to really listen, and they will stop when it stops being funny. American crowds laugh over you while you're talking.

In the past, when it went wrong I would go back to some old material which was sure-fire. Now I go for the honest approach. I say, "This really sucks, right? You're not liking it but you soon will." That how I save myself. Stage time is the most vital element of comedy, as it takes a long time to hear yourself and eventually you will learn things that no one else can tell you. Dissecting comedy is fruitless because it's such a subjective thing. Stand-up is simply an accumulative process.

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