Just finished my first stand-up comedy Eurotour, where I performed 14 shows in 8 cities and 5 countries all over Europe.
One of the greatest experiences of my life.
It was transformative, and it taught me countless lessons about stand-up comedy.
The following two lessons stand out, and I hope they’re useful to you.
Yes, you. You in particular. Yes. Hello.
Lesson 1: The only goal for stand-up comedians is to do our best to make the audience laugh.
This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget.
I knew this lesson intuitively when I started doing stand-up. I had a sense of humor and was emotionally shut down. Perfect for comedy!
Then, after years of emotional maturation (gross!) and focusing more on literature and music (boring!), I lost touch with this lesson.
When I got back into stand-up in Miami in 2022, I wondered why things weren’t working as before.
The explanation came to me during my last few shows before leaving Miami, and I reconfirmed it during my Eurotour in 2023: I had forgotten about the only goal for stand-up comedians.
People don’t go to a comedy show to clap for statements they agree with or to hear the performer “speak their truth.” They’re not there to sympathize with the performer. They’re not their to satisfy the performer’s need for connection. And they’re certainly not there to be the performer’s therapist.
Unlike in literature and music (still boring!), where pathos, i.e., the appeal to emotion (still gross!), is necessary to establish a connection, comedy isn’t about truth, feeling, or vulnerability.
It’s just about laughter!
People go to a comedy show to laugh, have a good time, and forget about the rest of life. That’s it! And that’s awesome, and it’s what makes comedy special.
That’s the only job of a stand-up: To do their best to make the audience laugh. The method of going for the laugh will vary from one comedian to the next, but the goal is the same.
One more perspective: The stand-up comedian takes care of the audience, never the other way around.
It’s not the audience’s job to feel for the performer, or to otherwise make him or her feel heard and okay. The audience’s only job is to be at the show, if they want to.
And our job as performers is singular: To do our best to make the audience laugh!
Lesson 2: Context is a factor in how a stand-up comedy performance goes, and no comedy is for all contexts.
Literature and music don’t really need an audience to exist.
Stand-up comedy cannot exist without an audience.
If it did, it would just be a crazy person rehearsing a joke about farts in front of a bathroom mirror. Though maybe that’s just me.
This Eurotour confirmed my belief that the nature of the audience always influences a stand-up performance, because the comedian and the material are at all moments in a relationship with the audience.
Stand-up comedy is always contextual!
My act has not worked in a loud bar for a local crowd in Miami, and it has also worked very well in a comedy club for an international crowd in Prague, the only variable being the context: audience… and venue.
As all stand-up comedians eventually learn, the venue is almost like an extra audience member that affects the performer and also the rest of the audience.
I’m not saying it’s ever the audience’s or the venue’s fault if a stand-up set doesn’t work, because I don’t think that’s true.
What is true is that context is a factor in how a stand-up comedy performance goes.
And not all audiences will enjoy all stand-up comedy acts, and not all acts will work in all venues, and that’s okay and also kind of funny.
I have friends who can’t stand my favorite comedians. There are some wildly successful comedians who have never made me laugh.
A joke that kills at a dinner table can die a silent death on a stage in a theatre.
It’s all very contextual.
This is just the nature of comedy. No comedy is for all contexts.
It’s better to accept this and have fun while we continue to develop our comedy for ourselves and for the people who will laugh at it and the venues who will embrace it!
Looking forward to doing stand-up! In Europe! Thank you to everyone who made these shows possible and to everyone who showed up and to all the fascinating people I met. Thank you!