The sixth rule of comedy is to test your material in a vacuum. Audiences come later!
“first rule of comedy: NEVER target someone more famous than U who is in the audience. U will lose the entire crowd.” –Roseanne Barr on Twitter, following Michelle Wolf’s monologue at the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner
The second rule of comedy is to avoid sticky topics like politics, sex, religion, dating, marriage, kids, pop culture and shared experiences. This is, of course, unless you can find a way to combine three or more subjects! Perfect example: I once accused David Hogg (kids) of being a Nazi sympathizer (politics) after he spoke out against unchecked access to guns (religion).
The third rule of comedy is to always go for the fart joke. Always. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first or fourteenth fart joke you’ve made in your set. I’ve bombed thousands of sets and, when I look back on each one, I see an opportunity for a fart joke I failed to capitalize on. That, and a joke about someone’s race!
The fourth rule of comedy is to realize that audiences are like the offenses I’ve committed against Jews — no two are alike. Some audiences show their approval by heaving their expensive drinks and appetizers toward me, while others release a deep, bellowing “beeeewww” of satisfaction throughout the entirety of my set. One time, an entire audience left the club in the middle of my set, presumably to tell everyone outside how funny it was. It was awesome!
The fifth rule of comedy is to realize that physical humor always kills. If you see something near the stage, like a stool or a microphone stand, hump it! Man, it feels good to be on top.
The sixth rule of comedy is to test your material in a vacuum. Run through your set in front of a mirror. Deliver your set through a sock puppet and imagine yourself in the audience. Do you find your set funny? Are others laughing? How uncomfortable does the one person of color in the audience look? After a few years, you’ll finally be ready to perform your set in front of an audience! It’ll go beautifully. 🙂
The seventh rule of comedy is to realize that Tragedy + Time = Comedy, and that there aren’t any subjects immune to this rule. None!
And the eighth and final rule of comedy is to realize that sometimes, success knocks on the doors of those who seem hellbent on exploiting it. And that, in itself, is pretty fucking hilarious.
Cara Michelle Smith is comedy writer and journalist. You may be familiar with her work. Who knows? You can harass her on Twitter here, so long as you do it creatively.