11 Reasons Why Doing Stand-up Comedy Has Made Me A Better Writer
September 27, 2019 § 2 Comments
By Carmella de los Angeles Guiol
- It gets me writing. Ever since I started doing stand-up, I find that I’m constantly jotting down ideas in my notebook—way more than before! Perhaps I feel less pressure when it comes to stand-up and therefore, I’m more energized and motivated when it comes to creating material.
- Stand-up comedy is just another avenue for self-expression. I have many thoughts and ideas that I don’t want to write an entire essay about, but I’d still like to express them. Comedy gives me the chance to explore themes that I wouldn’t necessary explore on the page.
- Truth makes the best comedy, and the audience will sniff out any hint of inauthenticity—a good lesson to learn both on and off the page, no matter what kind of writing you do. Good stand-up is based on personal experience; as a memoir writer, stand-up comedy has allowed me to hone my voice and find out what matters most to me.
- Having to speak my words aloud is good practice for the page. In comedy, like with prose, syntax matters. The way you structure your punchline can be the difference between a room full of laughs or dead silence. Writing for comedy has made me pay closer attention to syntax in a way that translates positively to my longform writing.
- In comedy, there’s a clear goal: make people laugh. I’ve begun to think about what goal I have for my prose writing. This can help me streamline what projects I work on and how I go about them. It’s another reminder to infuse any writing I do with intention, from drafting a joke to working on the 10th draft of a mammoth essay.
- Trim the fat. In comedy, it’s all about getting to the essence of your joke with the least number of words. As a long-winded writer, this is a great lesson for me.
- Kill your darlings. The crowd will give you instant feedback—either your joke is funny, or it’s not. If it’s not working, it’s important to ask—why not? Is this helping me pursue my goal of making people laugh or is it getting in the way of what I’m trying to say? As writers, we fall in love with the sentences we spend hours working on, but sometime we just have to learn to let them go.
- It’s all part of the process. Like with each essay or story draft, each set is a chance to tweak, learn and improve. During a set, I may add something new, take away something, or do something totally spontaneous. I always record my performance so that I can review it later, the same way athletes do. I study my performance to see how it lands with the crowd. While we don’t usually get instant feedback when writing, it’s important to have beta readers who can share the way a piece landed on them emotionally.
- Take the long view. No set is going to make or break your career, same as no rejection is going to be the end of you as a writer.
- Get out from behind the computer and get out into the world! My writing mentor Heather Sellers always said that being in the chair is just as important as being out of it—it’s what you do when you’re not in the chair that makes all the difference. Stand-up comedy is a hobby that brings me joy while also sharpening my craft as a writer.
- Comedians just wanna have fun. Even though it’s a lot of work writing jokes, attending open mic nights and waiting late into the night for my turn on the mic, the essential truth is that I love making people laugh. That’s why I do go through the trouble to do stand-up. Although it would be fantastic to get famous and have an hour-long Netflix special, that’s not the goal. The goal is to make people laugh. Same with writing. Writing, revision, editing, and submitting is a lot of work, and it would be fantastic to be rewarded with a spot on The New York Times bestseller’s list, but I write because I love to write. I love to work with words, share ideas, and express myself on the page. Whether I make it big or not—on stage or on bookshelves—I’ll still be happy because I’ve spent my life doing something I love.__
Carmella de los Angeles Guiol is a Pushcart-nominated writer, educator, and polyglot. She is the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship in Colombia as well as Crab Orchard Review’s Charles Johnson Award for fiction. Her haiku about starfruits can be found at a Miami bus stop and stamped on a sidewalk. Check out her newsletter, Dispatches from a Digital Life.