Recently I've been on a quest to figure how to do what professional comedians call "writing on stage". Which is the ability to come up with funny off the cuff material on stage. Or in other words, comedy riffing.
This is a highly coveted skill for many comedians, and it is a sure tell sign that you understand your audience, what is relevant to them and how to use your well-understood humor as a tool for comedy on command.
However, this isn't and easy skill to acquire. The same way someone can walk up to you and have the audacity to say "make me laugh" is an example of being entertaining on the spot when you least expect it.
If you are a comedian that performs regularly you know what its like to have those moments when you have the audience rolling with words that are coming out of your mouth - and you don't know where they're coming from.
But the more you understand something, the more you can speed up the process.
So far, here are some tips that I am currently using in order to hit those comedy riff chords on stage more often.
Treat Everyday Communication As A Chance To Practice Comedy Riffing
In person conversations are a great way to get started in finding the funny on the spot.
The secret is to be subtle about it, which may take on another skill set. But that's for another blog post.
You don't want to annoy the other person as you find a way to get your comedy thoughts out there, especially if the gift of gab is not fully developed.
However, you can start by asking a question similar to what you're trying to work on, and have them invested in the idea. If they are, start riffing about it - and get them involved.
The thing about riffing is the spontaneity behind it. The best kind of comedy is when people least expect it and seems like its happening naturally. That is the entire magic trick behind jokes, its like the TADA part of a magic trick. A funny conversation with someone you know is the safest and most effective way to make these more possible.
Another way to practice being more spontaneous in your conversation riffs is to look at headlines or trends happening online as a starting point.
Learn to segue something of relevance into your riffing topic and see if it all connects. This is a fantastic way to practice your ability to make it interesting, surprising and your ability to tie it all together quickly.
Make a list of what you want to talk about that day go out in the world and challenge yourself to have that conversation - and make it entertaining.
Practice Comedy Riffing Online Virtually
There are so many social channels online where you can hop on and practice having comedy conversations more often.
In the year 2020 virtual comedy boomed, but I know many comedians who have shown their disinterest in it.
But as someone who has been performing comedy in podcast livestreams on a daily basis, my comedy writing has improved immensely.
Whenever I jump on stage I feel as if the experience of performing in front of a camera knowing people are watching, is a way to sorta trick myself into thinking its an audience in front of me.
Doing this often has shown me how to differentiate between on and off. Knowing when I have to be on and riff and knowing when I don't have to. There's a big insight when you get this understanding.
Here are some ideas on where you can easily hop online and work on your comedy riffing:
Tik Tok Live
Get together with friends on whatsapp or Zoom
Find or start a group online where you can do this more often and watch your gift of gab grow through repetition. With enough practice, everything you learned can be used on stage in front of a live audience and those moments of writing on the spot will happen more often!