Stand-up comedian

 22 March 2011

A stand-up comedian performs a humorous solo act in front of live audiences in clubs, pubs, theatres and a range of other venues. They might perform on cruise liners, at holiday resorts and for private and corporate events. Highly successful stand-up comics may be filmed for television broadcasts or become part of radio programmes.

David Hardcastle, stand-up comedian.
David Hardcastle, stand-up comedian.

Stand-up comedians often work in a distinctive and highly-individual style, and usually tell a series of humorous stories, one-liners and jokes in the form of a monologue. Some have a particular perspective, such as political or observational humour or may adopt a particular fictional persona for some or all of the performance. Props, costumes and music may occasionally be incorporated into the routines.

Most stand-up comics work alone, although some work as part of an improvisation troupe.

The work also involves:

  • Writing highly original material, often alone, but sometimes working in collaboration with one or more other writers
  • Spending many hours, weeks and months working out, learning and rehearsing routines at home or in small venues or rehearsal rooms
  • Promoting the act to potential venues and managing bookings
  • Interacting and engaging with the audience during live performances, and quickly and effectively building their responses into the routine.

Stand-up comedians may also use agents, managers and occasionally producers/directors in their work. Most stand-up comedians direct their own work.

The working hours are always irregular and most work is done during the evenings and at weekends. Many stand-up comedians, certainly at the start of their careers, have another job to fall back on to provide regular income.

Successful stand-up comedians may also run courses in communication skills or work as coaches. Others undertake scriptwriting work for radio or television.


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