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The Stand-Up Comic

Writing Prompts

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December 2009
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Writing Material for a Live Audience

What is a stand-up comic? A stand-up comic is someone who writes jokes, one-liners, and funny anecdotes, and then tells them in front of a live audience.

The comedic act is called a routine or monologue.

Most comics perform in a comedy club or night club.

Sometimes the comic uses props as part of the act.

Often, the stand-up creates a character or a persona—such as the political satirist, sad sack, or jester—to get laughs.

The jester uses one-liners and short commentary.

The sad sack is the comic of plays the insecure guy who seeks approval and who is confused about the opposite sex. (Example is Rodney Dangerfield.)

The political satirist mocks or ridicules political figures and makes commentary on political topics of interest.

The stand-up can use physical comedy, relying on facial expressions, sound effects, and props to get laughs. He/she can use slapstick. That is physical comedy, such as “horseplay” and farcical behaviour and make-believe violence.

 The stand-up comic also rely on deadpan—using an expressionless face to tell a joke.

The old style stand-up comedy relied on one-liners and jokes. The current school of comedy uses social commentary and rants and political satire to get laughs.

Popular stand-up comics include Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Richard Pryor and George Carlin.

Tips for Writing Jokes

The stand-up comic gets laughs by telling jokes and one-liners. Here are a few tips on how to write comedy for a stand-up routine:

  1. Use a simile to describe something. The simile makes a comparison between two things by using “like” or “as.”
  2. Create jokes from what you observe in your daily life. Write about everyday absurdities.
  3. Write about differences. Point out the differences between things.
  4. Find a way to use satire. For instance, mock or ridicule a celebrity or political figure.
  5. Learn how to write funny anecdotes. These are short stories with a funny ending.
  6. Create list jokes, such as a top-ten list.
  7. Learn how to write a joke. A joke requires a setup, which explains the joke. And it requires the punchline, which delivers the funny line.
  8. Learn from the best. Watch performances from your favourite stand-up comics.
  9. Learn the technique of the callback. It is a reference to something said earlier in the routine.


If you want to write comedy for a stand-up routine, here are three useful books:

  • “Stand-Up Comedy: The Book” by Judy Carter
  • “The Comedy Bible” by Judy Carter
  • “Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy” by Jay Sankey

A good website to checkout is  .

Next, I will write about shock humour, often called blue comedy, which is frequently used by the stand-up comic.

If you have any question or comments, please post them to this blog.


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