Hi, folks!

I've been an actor and improv comedian for many years, and I've recently begun doing a little stand-up. Any other comedians here? Non-famous comedians who want to blaspheme a bit (or a lot) in their acts have a lot of challenges. Do we please the audience with meaningless humor or annoy half the crowd by telling the truth?

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The best comedians are the one's who are able to make people see the ridiculousness of their beliefs ;-)

I love George Carlin.

The trouble I'm having now is that I'm in a class setting. Although I write my own material, edit it, rehearse it and perform it, it has to meet certain requirements and be in a certain format. I push the boundaries as much as I can get away with, which leads to lots of re-writing; I probably crank out 5 times as much material as the rest of the class. My background in acting and improv steers me toward playing a handful of different characters in each five-minute set. Monty Python & Firesign Theatre are major influences.

In four weeks the classes will end and we'll do our big group show. My set currently opens with a brief rap (I'm a fat bald middle-aged white guy, but I can rap fairly well), a rant about things that make no sense, and a character bit about a Shakespearean porn actor making a comeback.

Once class is over, I'll be hitting the local open mics and doing all my old material, as well as trying out some good old fashioned blasphemy. The trick is to keep it fast and funny, make them laugh, and not get to preachy. We'll see what happens...
Making them laugh before they realize exactly what the point is, is always a good strategy. :-).

Carlin was popular on the comedy circuit both in Canada and the US and I'm sure there were a lot of Christians in the audience.

He didn't try to soften anything.
It sounds like it will be funny, see if you can get someone to tape it and post some to this forum. I know that I always love some laughter(blasphemy is a bonus, lol).
Anthony Jeselnik is my favorite current comedian. He really takes it to the edge. If the link does not work (which is always the case for me, I don't know how you all get the videos to attach) 'Cops Brought Pizza' He also has stuff with advice he received, but he really is an interesting comic to observe because he is very different.

To make them laugh at their own beliefs is difficult indeed! Carlin has been doing stand-up for more years than some of his audience has been alive. Reality check -- you do not have that kind of experience!

The demographics of your audience is important. Many, if not all, will be seeing you for the first time and you have earned zero respect from them. Consider: Carlin will not be so amateurish as to not know his audience and THEY already know his brand of humor as well. I seriously doubt you'll find his most beloved audience straight from the bible belt -- so you won't find them at his gigs! They know him whether they are a fan or not.

YOU do not have that luxury.

You want to crash and burn? Try to be Carlin when you're not.

That audience isn't there for your benefit, you're there for theirs. Do what's funny to THEM.

(I speak not as an entertainer, but as a consumer.)
Every audience is different. Last nite I did parts of the act that killed at my first big show and a few bits from my current act that got a great response from the class the night before. The reaction was... mediocre. A few laughs, almost some applause, but nothing like what came before. You can try to know your audience, but I don't know if it's possible until you actually walk on the stage and start interacting with them, or at least see what they respond to for whoever comes before you.

As a long-time performer, I agree 100% that my job is to make the audience feel something, whether they laugh or cry or gasp, love me or hate me. But now that I'm also the writer, I feel an obligation to actually SAY SOMETHING that means something. I know I can't re-crucify their deities just yet, but I will always try to sneak something in for me. The ending of my first act slyly implies that Jesus lives in a pineapple under the sea, but it's just part of a rapid-fire mix of soundbites from movies and tv, and I get away with it most of the time.

Does it make sense to spend many years building your audience as a family friendly comedian, then one day start in on Jesus' serious fig addiction? I don't have the answer...
The answer, in my humble opinion, can't be taught - only practiced. It's not so much what you say, but how and when you say it. Intonation and timing.

Steven Wright vs. Rodney Dangerfield (one of my all time favorites). Both wonderful, but probably couldn't pull off each other's jokes very well. They have completely different cadence, demeanor, and a timing to their delivery that simply can't be taught -- but can be developed, if it's yours. It has to be yours.

And then there's that "other" stumbling block -- self importance. Unfortunately the learning curve for comedians is brutal. You either have thick skin or you gain it very quickly, or you perish. I must say, you've got balls!
I'll see if I can get a tolerable audio recording of my next performance. The material will be pretty off-topic for the forum here. I'll put together a set of religious stuff in a couple of weeks and record it too.

There are many comedians out there who are very good at the craft, and can work an audience 100 times better than me. But I don't want to do jokes about getting drunk, hating foreigners, having kids, golf, or other things that I have no connection to. I plan to focus on quirky characters and (hopefully) clever wordplay. I don't want to bore the mass audience, but I also don't care about giving them something readily available from someone else. I plan to "stick out," so bring on those hammers... ^_^
Who do you admire as comedians? Practice and getting in front of an audience is very important, but, just as most great writers are also avid readers, most great performers know great work themselves.
Emulation is not what I'm suggesting, but re-inventing the wheel is pointless too. It is good to see what works and what doesn't to you.
John Leguizamo is an excellent example of using characters in his work with shows like Freak, Sexaholic, and Mambo Mouth. Much of the great work you seem to be describing is also labeled as performance art.
I listen to lots of comedians that I find funny and/or admire their technique and skill, though my act is not much like theirs. Stand-Ups likeMike Birbiglia, Patton Oswalt, Marcus Brigstocke, Eddie Izzard, Gallagher, Carlin, Cosby, Steve Martin, Buddy Hackett, Jack Benny, George Burns, Doug Stanhope... Groups like Firesign Theatre, Monty Python, The Marx Bros., Credibility Gap, Smothers Brothers, Mr. Show. Musicians like Weird Al, MC Frontalot, MC Hawking, Jonathan Coulton... I can learn something from or be inspired by anyone who does their job well, but I don't know if any of the influences show through.


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