How scripted is stand-up comedy?

How scripted is stand-up comedy?

In a nutshell, stand-up comedy is as scripted as a movie. Which is probably why so many stand-up comedians have migrated into TV and movie roles. Just take Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Australia’s own Eric Bana. All performed on stage before they moved to screen.

And the similarity between stand-up and movies doesn’t end there. Academy Awards go to those actors that don’t look like they are remembering lines, and so too with stand-up comedy. While Chris Franklin, Lehmo or Jeff Green might look like they’re shooting from the hip, those lines that they are delivering have been delivered hundreds, if not thousands of times before, verbatim.

When is stand-up comedy unscripted?

Where stand-up comedy gets less predictable is when comedians interact with the audience. This is called ‘crowd work’ and should only be attempted by those experienced. Alas, a lot of newbies think interacting is a must, so much so that some open mic rooms have banned audience interaction. And you can understand why. Imagine being in the front row and having a stream of new comedians ask you ‘where are you from?’ or ‘what do you do?’ repeatedly throughout the night. It’s okay for the experienced MC, but the other comedians following, it’s important to deliver jokes.

The only other time where stand-up comedians are unscripted is when there’s a heckler. But again, this is only for the experienced, and mishandling a heckler can absolutely destroy your set, or even get physical. as experienced by Jim Jeffries.

So in short, you can’t just jump up on stage and be funny. While it might look like riffing, that five, ten or one hour special has been carefully crafted. After all, most great comedians aren’t born funny. They have had to work hard to become a master.

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