Stand Up Comedy – How and Why Do I Do It?

Comedy Meme-3The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is now in full swing, and as a comedian, the most common question I’m asked is, ‘How do you do it?’

Basically people want to know how I manage to overcome all that fear, and stand on stage in front of a group of strangers, then attempt to make them laugh.

Alcohol. Well that’s how I started.

Now it’s practice. Like anything really, do it enough, and make sure you do at least a little practice and preparation, and you start to know what you’re doing.

A quick tip for anyone complimenting a comedian – after a show don’t tell them how brave you think they are just for getting up onstage.

That’s the equivalent of telling a fat kid he might have come last in the 100m sprint, but good on him for having a go.

That someone’s homemade cupcakes might be inedible, but they still look sort of cupcake like.

It’s the equivalent of telling someone you don’t want to date them anymore, but you’re sure someone else one day will be interested.

All of these things have of course happened to me.

If you want to compliment a comedian, tell them that they’re funny, or nothing at all.

The next most common question is, ‘Why do you do it? I can’t think of anything worse.’Comedy Meme-2

Well if you can’t think of anything worse than attempting to bring joy to a bunch of strangers who are prepared to pay you money for the privilege, you’re really not trying.

Being forced to swallow the aforementioned cupcake. That’s worse.

Being squashed next to someone smelly on a crowded tram. That’s worse.

Being bitten by a strange dog then having to get stitches and a vaccination. That’s far worse.

All these things have also happened to me. This week.

Then often comes the follow up question, ‘Seriously though, why do you do it?’

There isn’t just one answer, and I reckon every comedian has different reasons.

Firstly, having a room full of people laughing at some original thing that you thought up, wrote down and then said is a huge rush.

Secondly, there is huge hole in most comedians that can only be filled with the adoration of strangers. If a whole bunch of people pay to spend an hour with you, then you must be worth something to someone right?

This need usually has its basis in being relentlessly teased in high school or primary school. Then shutting yourself in your room, and spending hours crafting the perfect comeback. Your first comedy set. Which if ever tried in public, always fails but for some reason we keep at it.

Thirdly, here’s the main reason I’m a comedian.

I do it because I think every single human being is capable of wonderful things, and

I don’t think anyone is stupid. I just think that a lot of us, myself included, don’t know enough and if we were more thoughtful, looked deeper into issues and knew more, we could as a society be making better decisions and live in a far better world.

With every piece of writing that I do, and most jokes that I perform, I try to inform. Prior to comedy, I tried doing this in a few different ways that weren’t that funny, and nobody seemed that bothered.

Once I added jokes, people started listening. If someone laughs at something you’ve said, it’s very likely that they’ll listen to the next thing you say and consider it, even if they don’t necessarily agree.

That said, I still adhere to one simple comedy rule. Not every joke has to be meaningful, but it does have to be funny.

Otherwise, you’re not a comedian, you’re just annoying.

Also to be a comedian, you need an audience. Otherwise you’re just a crazy guy shouting at an overflowing bin. Which I’ve also done in the past week. While dressed as a penguin.

Lastly, thanks to all the people who’ve seen a show so far during the comedy festival. Please, go and see some more. To those that haven’t, give it a go.

There are many far worse things to do with your night than pay a little for the possibility of a big laugh. During every day, every one of us does a fair few of them. So why not reward yourself with some comedy? Speaking on behalf of every comedian, we could really do with the cash.


Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

Catch him at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 27 to April 20.

His first book ‘Mining My Own Business’ about life on a FIFO mining site is available now.