10 Things Not to Say to a Stand Up Comedian

This list is not exhaustive by any means but here are some common topics to avoid when talking to a stand up comedian.

  1. On no account tell us a joke. It’s bound to be one that’s been doing the rounds for years; we – along with everyone else – will have heard it before; it’s also bound to be long-winded; and it is bound to be crap. It is even more irritating when after regaling us with this nonsense, you then lean over in a rather conspiratorial fashion and tell us “you can have that.” Believe me, we don’t want it. And though it may come as a surprise to some, particularly to those who have not sampled the delights of a new material night, comics are more than adept at coming up with their own crap, new material. It’s all part of the process after all. Secondly, all (well almost all) comics pride themselves on coming up with their own material so rehashing some old pub joke is seriously not our bag.
  2. Ask us questions such as what do we do for a real job? How do we earn a living? Look astounded/seem incredulous/refuse to believe that stand up is what we do for a living. This is particularly irritating after you’ve just been on, even more so when it’s the promoter who’s doing the asking.
  3. Inform us you too could be a comedian because you are really funny down the pub/when you’re out with your mates. It’s not the same thing you idiot. That’s like me thinking I have the makings of becoming an eminent surgeon because I know how to carve a turkey. (I don’t by the way).
  4. Ask us to prove it then and there and tell a joke. Comedy doesn’t work in a vacuum (and I can think of several gigs I’ve done that prove that point most effectively). There is probably no other profession where people seem to think that’s a valid response on hearing what one does for a living. After all, no one would ask someone who’s just told them they are a fireman to set something on fire and then show them how to put it out. If you want to see comedians “prove it”, then go watch us at a gig and decide for yourself.
  5. Tell us what we really need to do to take our career up a level is appear on Live at the Apollo/Michael McIntyre’s Road Show or the various panel shows that generally feature the same set of people. Not surprisingly, this thought may well have already crossed our minds. Moreover, given the amount of comics there are out there, those shows would be running on a daily basis all year round, several times a day, if it were seriously that easy for every comic to get on them.
  6. Tell the compere at some point in the evening that “They should do stand up because they are really funny”. For the uninitiated, that’s what they have been doing all night.
  7. Do not tell a female comic how much you enjoyed their act immediately followed by the caveat that you don’t normally like female comics but they are an exception. Believe me, we won’t be impressed by the fact that your misogyny is apparently not so ingrained that when faced with the stupidity of such a prejudice you’ve deigned to make an exception.
  8. Please don’t sidle up to us after a gig to inform us that you think someone else on the bill is crap and do we think so too? We might indeed think they’re crap and were wondering how in hell they were on the bill or, alternatively, we might know they’re usually hilarious and they’ve just had a bad gig; they could be a good friend or simply we need to keep them on side as they are the one giving us a lift back home after the gig. However, as professionals, we’d rather not get involved in such conversations with a member of the public, thank you very much. However, should you feel the need to tell a comic you enjoyed their act (which personally I always appreciate) just try and be diplomatic about it and choose your moment. Telling a comic they were fantastic while steadfastly ignoring the comic standing next to them and making it clear that you think the other comic wasn’t as funny is embarrassing for BOTH comics.
  9. For those of you fortunate enough to be friends and/or family members of comics, when something bad has happened to us, and we are clearly upset, please refrain from dismissing our feelings by pointing out we can use it for material. (Although of course that is precisely what we will do. And if we are particularly unfortunate of course, with a bit of luck, we may even get an Edinburgh show out of it.)
  10. Tell us you were offended by something we said. If that’s the case, then maybe stand up comedy as an entertainment form isn’t for you; and to be perfectly frank, we won’t give a shit.

p.s. For the record heckling is not “helping us”. No comic has ever written a joke and thought what I really need here is for some drunken twat to interrupt me – preferably just before I say the punchline.

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