A shopping list of recommended gear for comedians

Note: None of this stuff will actually make you funny.

field notes
I use these Field Notes notebooks because I dig the thin size, perfect for a pants/jacket pocket.

And then there's the classic Moleskine notebook, famous for its use by Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and thousands of shitty open mic'ers.


Best book I've read on the art of standup. Written by someone who was really in the game which helps. Has great interviews with Carlin, DeGeneres, Maher, Lewis, Rock, etc.

Martin looks at the evolution of his act, from childhood magic gigs to blowout arena success.

Not about standup exactly but it definitely relates. Hart, a playwright, wrote this book all about how tough the road was to his first hit play, a comedy called "Once in a Lifetime." Really shows how much dedication and persistence is required to craft something great that gets laughs every step of the way. I read it based on this recommendation from designer Michael Bierut who called it "the best, funniest, and most inspiring description of the creative process ever put down on paper." Also, the NY Times called it "the best book on 'show business' as practiced in this century in our time."

Both of these are excellent reads for writers of any kind. I can sum up the biggest lesson you'll get from both: Get rid of words. Eliminate anything that's not essential.


Fascinating look at Seinfeld putting together a new routine with cameos from his standup buds. The only shitty part is suffering through all the Orny crap. Fwiw, "I Need Laughs" is my (very) low budget version about what it's like doing standup in NYC.

Played a huge role in pushing alt comedy into the mainstream. Galifianakis' "physical comedy" bit still cracks me up.

Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run
Another non-standup recommendation is this story behind the creation of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's "Born to Run" album. Also shows the dedication to craft that goes into making a great piece of art. Even if you're not a Bruce fan, it'll suck ya in.


The whole series is worth listening to but this is the best one. Amazon sums it up well: "Seinfeld describes his own evolution as a comic, the role of quasi-musical elements such as pacing and rhythm in a performance, and many points of technique that comic wannabes will find of interest." The Carlin and Woody ones are good too.

Audio recorders

Relatively small/cheap. Sound quality ain't that great though.

More expensive but gives ya great sound quality. It's what we used to record the We're All Friends Here podcasts.

The iPhone has a built-in voice recorder app that I see people use too. Not sure how good the sound quality is on it though. Biggest pro of using it: You're already carrying it all the time.

Video cameras

Will give ya video good enough for YouTube or reviewing. Warning: For a "real" tape, I think you want something that's better quality (the sound quality can be iffy).

For better quality stuff, this is one of many options. cNet's Camcorder buying guide offers guidance from real experts.


soce said...

Wow, this is a really great list!!! I need to get a pocket pad. Right now, I have my list on my phone, and that would make for an awkward reaching/viewing experience while on stage, so I usually just try to memorize everything.

I bought the Olympus Digital Voice Recorder at radio shack, and it works great for the price.. It serves its purpose, and if I lose or break it, not a big deal.

A ton of comedians use the flip cams for their sets so that's a good sign that it's hot these days.. They often use bendy gorilla-stands to mount it on tables.

I like the disclaimer at the top as well :-)

Abbi Crutchfield said...

@ soce: "so I usually just try to memorize everything." Great. You should still memorize your set lists. But for jotting down jokes, note pads are the most reliable.

BECAUSE I jot ideas on the iPhone so I can e-mail notes to myself, but the jokes that don't disappear are ones on real paper. I use it to record sets, but I haven't figured out how to transfer them to my computer. Probably need Mobile Me or something. I delete them after I've heard them.

I would add to the Startker Kit:
The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter


Also a good set of pens, a mic for your video cam and a small tripod. The tripod will make you funny.

Hank Thompson said...

I agree. Pens are vitally important. I always bring two with me. Would a newbie surgeon go to surgery open-mics with only one scalpel?

And Abbi, check out an app called Evernote. It lets you make text, photo, or voice notes, and then it automatically syncs everything to a website and to software you can download on your computer. I used to type up bits in Word but now I just go to my Evernote account on the website and work on 'em there. Then when I go out it's all on my phone automatically. It's really useful. I use it ALL the time. Couldn't recommend it more. It's free, too.

Also to the starter kit: An unhealthy childhood.

Has anyone ever experimented with using a different microphone than the one on a camcorder to better capture the sound of the audience? If so, what mic? Or do the onboard mics do a good enough job? What's the point of a clip that doesn't feature that sweet, sweet laughter?

Poor video quality is much more forgivable than poor sound quality.

Abbi Crutchfield said...

@ Hank Thompson: thanks for the Evernote tip. I'll check it out.

I have a wireless external mic I attach to my video camera. It made a serious difference when I recorded characters in my house, but also improved the sound of sketch and stand-up performances in noisy bars. I can capture 180 degrees of sound for laughs around the table it's sitting on or direct it to just pick up what I'm saying on the stage. I forget the brand name, but I can add it here later when I get home.

For more on why you want an external mic read here

Alex Grubard said...

I carry around 4 pens. One for writing jokes, one for when I lose the first pen, one for that comedian who asks me to borrow a pen and one to stab myself in the neck after I bomb.

Abbi Crutchfield said...

@ Alex Grubard: Don't forget the Sharpie to sign people's boobs. Not women's. People's.

londoncalling said...

i ordered the Hart book ..it better be good !

can i suggest ?

1. TRUE STORY by Bill maher .

2. A depressive mother !


Abbi Crutchfield said...

@ londoncalling: Since you've got one book about a playwright, check out another (possibly in your public library). "Rewrites" by Neil Simon. Probably says similar stuff to Hart (i.e. it takes years for him to re-write things, it discusses his rise to stardom) but you also get a sneak peak at the size of ego Jerry Lewis had when the French loved him.

@ matt ruby: I'm thinking of getting Field Notes just so I can write "Crutch" above it. Where have these been all my life?

Matt Ruby said...

Abbi, you should totally go the (Crutch)Field Notes way. Also, I know the ideal store for you to start getting stereo equipment from.

Re: iPhone app, I use Notespark to sync notes on my computer and phone. Not sure how it compares to Evernote but I like it.

londoncalling said...

hey abbi , just ordered the neil simon from the library .....more anon

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