Developing my comedy voice

I don’t mean silly voices, although that might be part of it. I mean developing a personal style as a performer, your persona if you will.

Voice is very important. When you have a distinct and strong comic voice you can hold the audience’s attention without rapidfire gags. Your jokes become so “you” that they are very hard to steal and if you do it well enough you might not need any jokes at all. (Bill Hicks for example. Read Love All the People and tell me if there are any jokes in it. I think Bill would be – posthumously – very disappointed if you found any.)

There is something of a paradox about having a strong individual (some might say odd) comedy voice. The most successful performers, those who can sell out  theatre or even a stadium on their name alone, have very distinct individual voices. Think of Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard or Flight of the Conchords. All of these performers have dedicated fans who will go to see them specifically, knowing exactly what to expect. They have the advantage of years of shows and TV appearances and DVDs that tell the audience, “this is the sort of thing I do”.

That’s quite hard to manage in 5 minutes in the back of a pub. To succeed in such a small amount of time you need accessible comedy that is similar to what the audience already knows and laughs at. There is no time to develop something new. A number of now successful acts spent years baffling audiences who hadn’t got them yet.

The test of comedy is whether people laugh. But some great comedians teach us to laugh at things or in ways we never did before. But that takes time. Sometimes it means when these acts started out they didn’t get as many laughs as less challenging, more predictable (OK, I mean “hack”) comics.

This is a convenient excuse for those of us who don’t set each and every gig on fire. But while that might be due to the brilliant novelty of our comedy it might also be because we are not very good. The only way to tell the difference is lots of time, lots of gigs and large dose of self-awareness.


2 Responses to “Developing my comedy voice”
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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by said: Developing my comedy voice « David Sharpe – Wannabe Stand Up Comedian: But some great comedians teach us to laug… […]

  2. […] all want to develop our own voice (as I have said before here) but maybe it can also be good to learn from the greats. That might mean sounding a bit like a sub […]

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