When I started comedy, most of my stand up set was storytelling. I would tell stories, mostly true, about something that happened to me and make it funny somehow. For my "Tight 5" minute set (your best five), some comedians would have dozens of "set up, punchline, laugh" style jokes within that time, while my story would be the whole five minutes, after maybe a quick 20 second bit. Now that I do 45min- hour long sets regularly, I would say 50% of my set is story tellings but most all of my material started in story form.
My favorite comedians were (and are) storytellers and I had the pleasure of touring with two of them, Jen Kirkman and Gary Gulman and watching as they developed their stories over shows. I learned how to be a wordsmith and take out the unnecessary beats or information, if and when they did not get a laugh.
For me, the beats of the story are important and getting a laugh or at least a strong reaction every 20 seconds was vital. And of course ending with a huge pop. Truth is vital as well. There is something to be said about a true story hitting harder. I sometimes combine 2-3 stories or details to make one story better, but that is still based in truth.
When I have a new story I want to work on, I outline what really happened and then find a "safe space" where I can try it out, usually an open mic or a "new material night". I then whittle it down to the absolute minimum necessary. By the time I am done, a five minute story is now 90 seconds and a new part of my set.
The best story of all time is John Mulaney's "Salt & Pepper Diner". Check it out if you haven't already.
#storytelling #standup #formerlawyer #jokes
Paul Farahvar is a comedian hailing from Chicago, Ill.
Paul Farahvar Comedy