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Drama & Speech        < Previous        Next >


Comedy Club: Stand-Up Comedy


Today's Snack: What else, since we're practicing how to be a comedian? Ham! You can thread cubes of ham with cubed cheddar cheese on toothpicks for a mini kebab. A tall glass of milk or apple juice would "bring down the house," too.






Rent one or more videos of stand-up comics - but make sure the material is age-appropriate!!!!! Show with a TV set during this activity


Print out the sheet at the bottom, one for each student with a pen or pencil


If you can borrow a microphone and amplifier, it adds a great deal, though kids need to practice gestures and motions with their hands free



When you see someone standing in front of an audience telling jokes with only a microphone as a prop, you know it's time to smile.


Humor in its most spontaneous, interactive form is what we call "stand-up comedy." It's as if someone in the audience gets overwhelmed with a desire to tell a funny story and jumps onstage to seize the mike and tell it.


Of course, there's a lot more to it than that. It takes comedians years and years to develop, plan and practice their routines, polish their "schtick" and do stand-up comedy well. But truly, if you love to be funny and love telling stories, stand-up comedy may be just for you.


It's amazing what a wild and wacky world one person can create just with his or her imagination and sense of humor! But it does take work and study.


So let's get started. Here are some things to know about stand-up comedy:


n      Stand-up comedy is telling the truth from a unique, particular point of view - YOUR point of view -- and making people laugh.


n      The idea is to make people "see pictures" in their heads that are funny, whimsical, odd, ridiculous or silly, but often very meaningful.


n      Basically, you're playing with the people in the audience using words as your toys!


n      Here are the different kinds of stand-up comics. You can rent videos of their work and study their techniques as you decide what your style might be:


         observational comics (funny things they've noticed in everyday life)

examples: Jerry Seinfeld, Janeane Garofalo


         topical comics (current events)

examples: Dennis Miller, Jay Leno


         character comics (inventing a unique character for comic delivery)

examples: Andrew Dice Clay, Tim Allen


         prop comics (using objects to act out the humor, or magic tricks)

examples: Carrot Top, Gallagher


         physical comics (funny body movements, faces, pratfalls)

example: Jim Carrey (before he hit it big)


         impressionists (voices sound exactly like someone else)

examples: Dana Carvey, Mike Myers


         improvisationalists (associate unrelated things humorously)

examples: Robin Williams, Paula Poundstone



n      Stand-up comedy depends on a clever use of words. If you like the sound of words and like to play around with them, you have the makings of a stand-up comedian!


n      Usually, what's funny is some way that you have felt pain - in a mild and humorous sort of way - and you're trying to get the audience to agree with you that what you saw was painful.


n      What you're really doing is reinforcing what people already believe - just helping them see things that they may not have seen before, in a humorous way.


n      How do you get the material for your stand-up routine? Just live life! Get in the habit of observing funny things in your everyday life and remember the funny things people say and do. Your best topics will be things that match your interests and concerns.


n      Work with a theme, plan or outline for your show, and make your stories fit together, but speak spontaneously, not from a script.


n      Always be honest and don't try to pass off feelings and experiences that you don't believe are true, just to get a laugh. It won't work. People recognize fakes, and that violates the trusting relationship there needs to be between a comic and the audience.


n      Express yourself, though: if you feel disgusted, amazed, anxious or exasperated about something, it's fine to exaggerate. Really let those feelings show through your humor.


n      Always try to connect with the audience and talk WITH them, not AT them. Stand-up is not like a speech or an advertising pitch; it should "feel" like a conversation.


n      Try to use as few words as you can. Don't bore them!


n      Your point of view is the person you hear when you talk to yourself. Nobody looks at the world the way you do. Use your humor to draw the audience into the world you see.


n      Stand-up comedy and jazz music are the only art forms completely invented in America.


n      Stand-up comedy usually has exaggeration, but it usually has some important truth underneath the message.


n      Most comics seem like outgoing, confident people when they are on stage, but they tend to be shy in real life.


n      Comics tend to like to be by themselves a good part of every day so that they can think of funny things and write them down. They like to think about things that they observe in life, and sort out their feelings so that they can zero in on what makes those things funny.


n      Most comics have countless notebooks and scraps of paper that they record their ideas on. They may not use some material for years. If you're someone who tends to think of a lot of ideas and if you play with words and like to think of funny things, get a notebook and start writing them down!


n      Stand-up comedy isn't just telling a bunch of jokes in a row. It's humor based on situations, often from real life. It's more like a one-person conversation that the audience gets to listen in to. Pretend that you are talking with a friend and saying funny lines.


n      The key to good stand-up comedy is to know your audience. Yes, you should say things that make YOU laugh, but more importantly, know what your audience may be concerned about or have in common with you, and focus your humor on what your audience would like to hear about.


n      It is important to speak clearly so that people can understand you. Don't talk too fast! Don't mumble quietly, either.


n      If people laugh, smile and enjoy it, and give them plenty of time to calm down after they laugh so that they can hear your next line.


n      Good timing means good pauses! You stop to take a breath in regular conversation. It's the same way with stand-up comedy.


n      Silence is a creative force! If you pause right before you deliver the punch line of a story, that's called "lighting the fuse." It gives the audience a cue that the funny ending is about to come.


n      Keep your delivery more like a conversation than a speech.


n      Work on creating a variety of characters with your voice. It helps to keep the audience's attention if you make it seem as though there are more people onstage. Give each character a particular attitude. Mimic, or copy, other voices to add to your own and show different people's ages or backgrounds that you might be quoting in your delivery. We all laugh when we "recognize" different characters in your stories that we know in real life.


n      Use audio and vocal effects. Sound effects like a squeaky door opening, funny-sounding footsteps, an airplane taking off, and things crashing to the floor all "help paint the picture" and add a lot of humor to any story.


n      Stand-up comics are actors, too. Move your body around and make funny faces and gestures to increase the performance quality of your act.


n      If you walk back and forth across the stage, people will follow you with their eyes and they'll be less likely to "space off." Remember, people's attention spans are very short!


n      If you're telling a story involving other people, "act out" their parts as you tell the story, with body language, facial expressions, gestures and physical reactions.








Name: ______________________ Theme: _________________________


Use this sheet to take notes and plan your routine. On the back of these sheet, write an outline to glance at, if you can't remember the order of your jokes. Don't write out a "script." Speak off the cuff - it should sound and feel spontaneous.


Remember "The Rule of 3." Plan 3 stories or jokes with a transition in between each, all relating to your theme. Your theme is something you've noticed that probably has caused a little pain but you can joke about it and make everybody feel a little happier since they probably feel the same.


What's your POINT OF VIEW? How do you FEEL about this theme?


Exaggerate - expand on your feelings and thoughts - most of all, be yourself!


Remember sound effects - different voices - physical movements and gestures - all add humor!


Comic delivery requires these 3 things: Lollipop! (Louder) Cucumber! (Clearer) Pickle! (Posture)







































By Susan Darst Williams Drama & Speech 07 2009

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