Try the socratic method. The great philosopher Socrates used to ask questions of people and then re-state their answers back to them, often with hilarious results (seriously, most of Plato is like one big long comedy routine). So do that. Ask the person anything, like what’s your name? what do you do for a living? where are you from? — and then repeat their answer back to them, in your own words. Repeating the answer in your own words not only starts to create the tension that will provide laughs, but it also helps the rest of the audience follow along. As you progress, the questions are naturally going to get more complex, because that’s how a conversation works. If you ask a person what they do for a living, they can just say “human resources manager” but your next question is naturally going to be more complicated. You might ask “What does a human resource manager do?” or “Do you enjoy it?” The person has to consider these types of questions more deeply and give a longer, more interesting answer. Then you repeat their answer in your own words. If you are honest, and let a bit of your own point of view start creeping in to your summary of their answer, you will get laughs. If the answers they give don’t make sense to you, don’t worry! That’s a golden opportunity! Re-stating something you don’t understand is funny. Be honest and summarize it in a way that sums up what you think they were trying to say.
This is really all there is to it. But you have to commit! Keep going until someone says something funny. Don’t get nervous and bail early because you’ve asked a couple questions, they’ve answered, you’ve restated, and nobody has laughed. Good crowd work takes patience. If you’re being honest and keeping it positive, something funny will happen.
One of my favorite things is doing crowd work and just telling the truth about how you feel about the situation and getting a big laugh off it. Moments like that are when I feel most like a funny person instead of a guy telling jokes.
Labels: about standup
Permalink | 5/14/2013