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Stephen Rosenfield

“Mastering Stand-up” Quotes

Monday, March 26th, 2018

I recently read “Mastering Stand-Up: The Complete Guide To Becoming A Successful Comedian” by Stephen Rosenfield (no relation to me, Ben RosenFELD without an “i” – although his publisher did send me a complimentary review copy of this book). Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, buy the book here.

“Comedy is not nice. It is unflinchingly, unapologetically honest. Comedy looks unblinkingly at life and says, “A lot of this sucks. Let me be specific.” Adn a lot of life does suck. Always has, always will. Comedy is an entertainment hat calls out the bad stuff. It ridicules the bad stuff. By taking the things we struggle with and worry about, and by ridiculing these things, comedy transforms them from overwhelming to laughable. It enables us to laugh at the struggles and problems we share. And when we can laugh, we know we’re OK. And when we hear other people in the room laugh, we know we’re not alone. For a glorious moment the comedian lifts our worries off our shoulders and unites us in laughter. The underlying message of comedy is this: You have problems; I have problems. But we’re OK. You are not alone. We’re in this damn thing together.” (40)

“Comedy has a much higher purpose than being nice. It helps us survive.” (40)

“Ultimately, what gives an audience the license to laugh at your problems is a clear signal from you that you’re OK with them. If they feel you’re devastated by your problems, the audience can’t laugh.” (61)

“PHyllis Diller achieved what all great comedians achieve: she found her story. Her story way, I’m an oddball, I’m not hiding it. I’m putting it in your face. I don’t fit in at all and I find that absolutely hilarious.” (63)

“When a comedian creates a persona that embodies a shortcoming, this form of stand-up comedy is called the comic flaw.
There are two keys to creating this form on stand-up. The comic flaw comedian must not be aware of his or her flaw. The cheap person doesn’t know he’s cheap, the dumb person doesn’t know he’s dumb, and so on. We know it, but they don’t…
The second key is that if the shortcoming is a malicious one like bigotry, it must be clear in the writing that it’s being held up for ridicule. It’s there to be laughed at, not taken as a valid, albeit controversial, point of view. Otherwise, the audience will detest the comedian.” (73)

“Audiences often love comedians who master the comic flaw – in part because their vulnerability is so out there. They make no attempt to disguise their flaw because they don’t know they have it. This creates a persona that is so very human and identifiable… Audiences also enjoy feeling superior to flawed comedians: we know them way better than they know themselves.” (76)

“The really great edgy stand-ups shock audiences as a means of jolting them into confronting inconvenient truths about themselves and their ways of living.” (92)

“Talent is work, and brilliance is obsession with work.” (106)

“Writer’s block is not caused by your sense of humor disappearing; it’s caused by you rejecting your sense of humor. The problem isn’t that you’ve stopping coming up with funny ideas but that you’re snuffing them out as soon as you have them. You’re not letting them see the light of day. You’re not doing what you need to do to discover if something is funny or not: write it down and try it out.” (114)

“The cure to writer’s block is to stop editing yourself.” (114)

“A performer who has talent but lacks joyous communication may be admirable but ultimately in a live performance is a stage weight.” (156)

“Focusing your mind on realistic, positive thoughts will enable you to consistently enter the emotional sweet spot that is joyous communication. Make it an essential part of your warmup. When you’re up next, consciously think this: I’m going to go out there and have a great time talking to these people. Make it your mantra.” (157)

“Don’t wait for the audience to show you affection. Bring the affection onstage with you, and because they feel what you feel, they will give it back to you in return.” (157)

“Remember that every setup should be clear about its subject and about your attitude toward it.” (159)

“If you can’t define the emotion, you need to rethink the joke. Adjust the writing so that it expresses how you feel about your subject.” (160)

“A stand-up always performs the form of the emotion, not the real emotion.” (161)

“For a comedy club audience to give its full attention to a stand-up, they need to feel that he or she is talking not at them or even to them but with them, as if they are in a conversation with the stand-up.” (163)

“When an audience is unable to see how you feel about what you’re saying, you lack personality.” (168)

“You will find your way into the zone by replacing your preshow thoughts with this thought: I’m going to have a great time talking to these people. I’m going to have a great time expressing myself. I’m going to have fun!” (184)

“If you have a good time when a joke works, your audience will have a good time. If you have a good time when a joke doesn’t work, your audience will still have a good time. They feel what you feel., remember? People go to comedy clubs to have fun, not to evaluate each of the stand-ups’ jokes.” (188)

“The final and ultimate way of moving a joke up to an “A” is to change the attitude underpinning the joke to its exact opposite.” (198)

“The question to ask yourself when a joke gets a big laugh is What attitudes did I play on that joke?” (204)

“Don’t feel that you need to be nice. Nie has nothing to do with likability.” (214)

“Whatever you’re talking about in your stand-up, strive to make it personal; make it clear how strongly you feel about it and why it matters to you. And position it so that it’s something you’re struggling with not in the past but right now – this moment on stage. When an audience sees your wrestling with something that really matters to you, they laugh and they love you, because you’ve just made their own struggles easier to bear.” (215)

“We like comedians with struggles because we identify with them. All of us, in some ways, are struggling. When stand-ups speak about their struggles, we identify and laugh. And we hear other people laugh. We realize we are not alone in our struggles. We’re in this thing together.” (216)

“It’s important to realize that having a struggle does not make you a victim. It makes you the leading character in your comedy. It makes you the person the audience is rooting for. And make no mistake, you want the audience to root for you.” (216)

“You causing a struggle for someone else makes you an unlikable bully. You in a struggle makes you a likeable hero.” (216)

Liked the quotes? Click here to buy the book.

The post “Mastering Stand-up” Quotes appeared first on Ben Rosenfeld - Comedian.

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