10 tips for becoming a standup comic

Class clowns, office entertainers, family quipsters and amateur stooges, listen up. The UAE’s new comedy season starts again at the end of July, so if you fancy yourself as the next Chris Rock, now’s the time to start perfecting your material.

Ray Addison and Salman Qureshi are comedians and co-founders of , a local company who produce hundreds of standup shows throughout the year. We asked them to give us some tips to turn our terrible ‘dad jokes’ into polished laugh-a-minute routines. Knock knock… We’ll just leave you with the professionals, shall we?

Learn (Salman)
Standup comedy has a particular format. Learn by watching live comedy, not just YouTube clips, and take a workshop. Ask yourself what makes people laugh and how did the comedian structure the joke for maximum jaw-to-floor potential?

Commit to 10 gigs (Salman)
Right off the bat, commit to doing ten gigs before deciding if it’s for you or not. Most people take time to get comfortable with their own material and by doing it a few times over and over again, you’ll deliver it bette,r which usually results in more laughs.

Write every day (Ray)
If you don’t like writing new material you will never make it as a standup comedian. Writing jokes is what we do, and we have to do it every day. Think of it this way – even if you write just 10 seconds of new material a day, you’ll have a 60-minute show with a year. Did someone say HBO comedy special?

Tell the truth… Mostly (Ray)
Let’s face it, there’s only one Keyser Söze and he was made up, wasn’t he? People can usually tell when you’re lying, so don’t. If you tell the truth on stage, audiences will identify with your material and reward your honesty with laughter. Keep the basis of your jokes in truth and embellish for really big laughs.

Listen to the audience (Salman)
Audiences have a special way of telling you immediately if you’re funny or not funny – it’s called laughter. Silence is usually bad. If your material isn’t working then tweak it, try it again, tweak it, try it again, and if it’s still not working, tweak it out of your set.

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Never turn down a gig (Ray)
The more you perform, the better you will become. Aim for three or four gigs a week, or even more if you have the time. This will probably mean becoming a stranger to your own family, but that’s okay because they’ll all come running back when you’re famous.

Don’t bring your friends (Ray)
It can be tempting for new acts to fill the audience with their friends and perform to their own little fan club, but that’s super-lame. All their laughter proves is that you’ve got good friends. A real audience is a much better test of your hard-written material. Turning up somewhere you’re completely unknown and making a room full of strangers laugh is the real test of a standup comedian.

Film yourself (Ray)
When you’re on stage and the adrenaline is pumping it can be hard to gauge the audience’s reaction. What did they love? What did they hate? And what almost got you slapped? That’s why you should always film your sets. Watching your performance back will give you the chance to decide what needs changing and what should be binned, buried or even burned.

Have perseverance (Salman)
Always remember that standup is a roller coaster ride – a great gig, another great gig, then the worst gig of your life. Pick yourself up because the next fun gig is just around the corner!

Hang out with other comedians (Salman)
We’re a fun bunch and we love sharing tips and giving feedback on each other’s material (everybody is an expert!). We love talking comedy. And we have a simple initiation ritual – get up on stage and do a few minutes. Congrats, you’re now one of us.

Dubai Laughing at McGettingan’s


When: Jul 21
Start: 19:00

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