Probably one of the biggest problems associated with “traditional” stand-up comedy education – books, workshops and classes — is the misrepresentation of academic information as actionable information.
Let me give you an example of exactly what I am referring to:
Virtually every single stand-up comedy book, workshop or class provides the definitions of set-ups and punchlines.
If you do a search online, you will find the same definitions. Take a moment and do a search online for the definitions of set-up lines and punchlines, then answer this question honestly:
How does knowing the definitions of set-up lines and punchlines help you in ANY way develop stand-up comedy material that will work for you and your sense humor?
If simply knowing definitions were enough, I could provide someone the definition of automobile repair and they would be able to immediately make $60-$80 per hour fixing cars.
Well, definitions of anything are simply not actionable information.
Another example of academic information that is offered as actionable is the presentation of excerpts of stand-up comedy set-ups and punchlines delivered by experienced comedians that got the big laughs.
Seems logical that someone could study the set-ups and punchlines an experienced comedian used to develop their own stand-up comedy material that would work, doesn’t it?
Here’s the problem with that logic:
Stand-up comedy material that actually gets laughs involves much more than just mere words on paper.
As I mentioned before, MOST of a comedian’s laughter generation ability does not come from the literal words that they use – it’s the result of a combination of factors that are specific to each comedian.
Subsequently, studying the “written” stand-up comedy material that generated laughs for another comedian represents an after-the-fact representation of what worked for that particular comedian without consideration of the delivery aspects of that material that greatly influenced the laughs generated for that particular comedian.
So, let me ask you this question:
How does studying written down comedy material that another comedian used to get big laughs help you in any way develop stand-up comedy material that will actually work for you, your unique sense of humor and your natural delivery style?
Let me save you some time – studying the literal words another comedian used to get big laughs on stage is another “academic” exercise that has little, if any actionable value when it comes to developing and delivering stand-up comedy material that actually works on an individual level.
So if you aren’t getting the laughter results you want using “traditional” joke writing information, now you know why.