Lesson 3: Remembering it all

Let’s address this early in the lessons as it’s one of the biggest challenges in stand-up, especially when you’re new. If you’ve taken the bullet point approach described in the first lesson, you have a big head start as you’re not desperately trying to remember every word. Whatever approach you’ve taken, one of the major challenges is remembering what comes next. Here, using images can also really help. Vivid mental images are great for linking bits that have no obvious connection. For example, if you go from talking about zoos to housework, make a cartoon in your mind of a gorilla doing the washing up. That way whenever you start doing the zoo bit this image will come to mind and you'll al

Lesson 2: The Writing Process

Whether you’re using a laptop, note-book, the back of fag packets or doing it mostly in your head, an effective writing process will take you back-and-forth between unconscious creativity and conscious crafting. Ideas emerge from the subconscious so you can't really force them. All you can do is create the conditions, be alert to them popping up, and then develop them when they do. Always have a note-book (real or electronic - written/typed or voice recording) with you because ideas often arise when you’re doing something else entirely. You can also capture thoughts and observations that aren’t yet funny, but are material for the subconscious to work on. Many won’t go anywhere, but some migh

Lesson 1: Writing Does Not Mean Writing

I’ll begin by suggesting that stand-up writing need not be writing—by which I mean, there is no need to sit down and write a complete script, let alone learn it word-for-word. You could do that of course, but the danger is you’ll find yourself on stage like a rabbit caught in headlights, desperately trying to remember every single word exactly as you wrote it. Remember, it’s not a monologue by Harold Pinter that you have to deliver faithfully. Hold it loosely as a framework in your head, and then find the exact wording as you deliver it. You may well not write a script at all, but if you do then, instead of learning it all, a good approach is to boil it down to a series of bullet points and

Contents of my new blog series: Stand-up Comedy in 25 Lessons

I was going to publish this material as an e-book (hence the snazzy cover above). But then I landed a proper book deal: namely, A Director’s Guide to the Art of Stand-up. So I thought I'd give away this material for free here on my blog (and rewrite and develop it as I go along). The text has grown out of notes I write for students on my highly-regarded stand-up course in Soho, London that I’ve run for over ten years now. Details of the next available courses can always be found here. LESSON 1: WRITING DOES NOT MEAN WRITING LESSON 2: THE WRITING PROCESS LESSON 3: REMEMBERING IT ALL LESSON 4: THE IMPORTANCE OF RE-WRITING LESSON 5: WRITE SOMETHING SPECIFIC FO

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