19 female comedians who are about to be HUGE

There are so many female comedians who are CRUSHING IT right now. And as a result, we here at GOLD ComedyTM are crushing on them.

Comedy nerds and podcast junkies will know these women—and likely every word of their acts. But we want all of our GOLD readers to be able to say they knew about them before they were A-list household names. Now we just need to get them on the Forbes list of highest-paid comedians.

 

Huffington Post

1. APARNA NANCHERLA

 

“When a cat ignores you, you think “that’s on you.’ When a dog ignores you, you think “you saw into my dark soul.”

What you know her from

  • Pete Holmes’s HBO show Crashing
  • Has opened for John Oliver and Tig Notaro on tour
  • Former staff writer for Late Night With Seth Meyers
  • Hosts podcast Blue Woman Group with Jacqueline Novak

Why she’s on the cusp

Please just go read her Twitter. Variety named her one of the top comics to watch in 2016. She tours ALL THE DAMN TIME, so follow her. Her debut album Just Putting It Out There is hilarious and perfectly tackles all of our anxieties and discomforts.

Where you can follow her

http://aparnacomedy.com/

https://twitter.com/aparnapkin

https://www.facebook.com/aparna.nancherla?ref=ts

 

Squarespace

2. CAMERON ESPOSITO

 

“As you can tell by my haircut, I am a Thundercat—and also a giant lesbian.”

What you know her from

  • Her original Seeso series with wife Rhea Butcher Take My Wife
  • Several appearances on the late night circuit including Conan & Chelsea Lately
  • An awesome episode of Drunk History and BuzzFeed’s video series “Ask a Lesbian

Why she’s on the cusp

Between her Seeso series, constant touring, and her amazing support of other women in comedy, she’s sure to land a killer TV or movie deal any moment now. Or who knows, maybe she has and she’s keeping it secret.

Where you can follow her

http://cameronesposito.com/

https://twitter.com/cameronesposito

https://www.facebook.com/cameronjokes/

 

Just For Laughs

3. CORINNE FISHER

 

“Feminism has made me hate both genders more, but equally, and that’s the important part.”

What you know her from

  • Her show Sorry About Last Night… with fellow badass Krystyna Hutchinson
  • Her anti-slut shaming podcast Guy We F****d also with Hutchinson
  • Her much-talked-about feature in HuffPost

Why she’s on the cusp

Using her awesome feminist powers, she has created a body of comedic work that not only acknowledges women’s sexuality, but encourages it. Her stand-up style is raunchy, delivery-heavy, and most of all fun to watch. She and Hutchinson are also scheduled to perform at the Just for Laughs Comedy Fest in Montreal this year!

Where you can follow her

http://www.corinnefisher.com/

http://www.sorryaboutlastnightcomedy.com/

https://twitter.com/PhilanthropyGal

 

Houston Whatever Fest

4. EMMA WILLMAN

 

“I get so frustrated when people think I’m trying to look like Ellen Degeneres. It’s so frustrating because I’m trying so hard to look like Nick Carter.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

This radio darling has been making our ears laugh over the airwaves for a while now, but we think she’s got the charisma and the material for TV. Her own SiriusXM show The Check Spot is now a year old and we’re excited for her next steps.

Where you can follow her

http://www.emmacomedy.com/

https://www.facebook.com/EmmaWillmannShow/

https://twitter.com/EmmaWillmann

 

Gina Brillon Comedy

5. GINA BRILLON

 

“I have girlfriend who says ‘30’s the new 20.’ Really? What kind of math are you doing? Cause I don’t see any 20-year olds walking around going, ‘Oh my god, I’m 10.’“

What you know her from

  • Her comedy special Pacifically Speaking
  • Her appearances and collaborations with comedian Gabriel Iglesias
  • Her appearances on Chelsea Lately, The View, and Live at Gotham
  • (The GOLD Comedy advisory board!)

Why she’s on the cusp

She just signed a sweet deal with comedic actor and Paul Blart-look alike Kevin James to star in a new CBS show, Kevin Can Wait. Her stand-up style oozes confidence and all of her performances are incredibly polished.

Where you can follow her

http://ginabrilloncomedy.com/

https://twitter.com/GinaBrillon

https://www.facebook.com/Gina-Brillon-154334244583453/

 

Paste Magazine

6. JEN KIRKMAN

 

“Parenthood can be very rewarding, but let’s face it, so are margaritas at the adults-only pool.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

Jen has a huge body of knockout comedic work.  Not to mention her book “I Know What I’m Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself” just came out in paperback in April of this year. She’s hitting her stride and we can’t wait to catch her on her “The ‘All New Material, Girl’ Tour” this year.

Where you can follow her

http://www.jenkirkman.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JenKirkman/

https://twitter.com/JenKirkman

 

Paste Magazine

7. JENA FRIEDMAN

 

“I feel like Citi Bikes come in pairs of bored couples. With the silver lining being that none of them are wearing helmets.”

What you know her from

  • Her critically acclaimed stand up special American C*nt
  • Her writing for the Late Show with David Letterman
  • Her field work for The Daily Show

Why she’s on the cusp

She’s a total go-getter. Her hard work and poignant feminist critique shine through her act and we’re totally eating it up. Also, her original web series about an engaged serial killer was actually assigned to me as homework… so if she’s already invading our classrooms, she might as well invade our TVs!

Where you can follow her

http://www.jenafriedman.com/

https://twitter.com/JenaFriedman

https://www.youtube.com/user/JenaFriedman2

 

The AV Club

8. JO FIRESTONE

 

“There’s only about 7 or 8 genuinely good people in the whole world. Seven of them are hospice nurses and the other is Michelle Obama.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

Her sweet voice and quirky elfish persona is a perfect fit with all of the new fun-loving comedies coming out. She’s the creator and host of the hugely successful Punderdome 3000 show in Brooklyn alongside her goofy dad Fred and her TED Talk is also in the process of becoming a fan favorite.

Where you can follow her

http://www.jofirestone.com/

https://twitter.com/kingfirestorm

 

Nerdist

9. KATE BERLANT

 

“Where are we? I mean it was like coming up here, intellectually I knew but spiritually it was still very open. It was kind of this process of ‘Okay, it’s a show coming up, expectations, who I could’ve been, right? Who I could be, right? The dichotomy of mother, father, always here, right? Divorce right? Duffle bag? Different stage, right? Endless shuffle, right? A kind of shuffle that becomes constantly replicated in the future.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

Kate’s style is unbelievably original. It’s thoughtful, meditative, philosophical, and simultaneously  very fun. Her new Vimeo original series 555 is already getting attention from some very important eyes. In February, she and Early gave a meta-comedy performance on Jimmy Fallon that was lost on some of the audience. But us comedy geeks LOVED it.

Where you can follow her

https://twitter.com/kateberlant

http://kateberlant.tumblr.com/

 

IGN.com

10. LAUREN LAPKUS

 

“I believe that each person can make a difference, but it’s so slight that there’s basically no point.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

If the rest of the women on this list are “on the cusp,” then Lauren might be the first in line for the slide. She’s already been crushing it on her own cheekily titled podcast, With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus. She’s also found success at her UCB Franklin show Wildhorses.

Where you can follow her

https://www.laurenlapkus.com/

https://www.facebook.com/laurenlapkus/?ref=br_rs

https://twitter.com/laurenlapkus

 

The AV Club

11. MEGAN AMRAM

 

“After he gets impeached, Trump is going to brag that he was the fastest president ever.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

In the comedy world, we sometimes refer to certain performers as a “comedian for comedians.” Megan Amram is definitely one of these people. Her wordplay and one-liners on Twitter are a true work of genius. Her absurdism style is super fresh and she’s killing it on the Trump stuff.

Where you can follow her

https://twitter.com/meganamram

http://meganamram.tumblr.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MeganAmram/

 

Chicago Reader

12. MEGAN GAILEY

 

“It gets a little tricky because my mom is Irish Catholic and my dad is Irish Protestant. Very bad in white people land. For those of you who don’t understand what that means it’s kind of like saying my mom was raised believing in magic and my dad was raised blowing up magicians.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

She brings new life to some classic jokes and her set/material have only grown edgier since her Conan appearance. Not to mention she’s been knocking it out of the park with her live showsTo give you an idea, I saw her open at a show in Nashville recently and she got way more laughs than the headliner.

Where you can follow her

http://www.megangailey.com/

https://twitter.com/megangailey

https://www.facebook.com/MeganGaileyComedy/

 

Comedy Works

13. MICHELLE WOLF

 

“You know how when you break up with someone and they gain weight, and that makes you really happy? I bet that’s how England feels about us.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

What more can I say? That voice. That hair. She’s to die for! She was featured on Vulture’s list of “50 Comedians You Should Know in 2015” and her most recent tour for her debut hour-long special, MIchelle Wolf: So Brave, sold out across the country. Personally, I’m in love with her squeaky style and jump on tickets any time I see her name in the line-up.

Where you can follow her

http://www.michelleisawolf.com/

https://twitter.com/michelleisawolf

https://www.instagram.com/michelleisawolf/?hl=en

 

StandUpPlanet

14. MICHELLE BUTEAU

 

“I have a very simple wedding band, because I’m anti-diamond. I saw this crazy documentary about these kids in Africa.… Just kidding, he’s broke.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

Her sassy style and high energy delivery is helping her KILL it in the New York standup scene. Plus Comedy Central’s been showing her plenty of love and I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave her a show of her own. As long as she doesn’t name the show after her brother-in-law.

Where you can follow her

http://michellebuteau.com/

https://twitter.com/michellebuteau

https://www.facebook.com/michellebuteaucomedy

 

The Comics Comic

15. NAOMI EKPERIGIN

 

“Or my new favorite, Swamp Murders. It’s exactly what you think it is. You find a body in a swamp, you work your way back.”

What you know her from

  • Her Comedy Central half-hour special
  • Writing for the show we love Broad City
  • Her awesome Q&A with us! (GOLD Comedy)

Why she’s on the cusp

Besides being incredibly talented in writing, her stand-up style boasts a unique stately delivery and a keen sense of word choice. She’s been featured by a ton of stuff already and we’re excited for her and her husband’s new TruTV series, Inside Caucasia.

Where you can follow her

naomisfunny.com

https://twitter.com/Blacktress

https://www.facebook.com/blacktresscomedy/

 

Salon

16. NEGIN FARSAD

 

“The American population can be broken up into three main categories: there’s mostly wonderful people, haters, and Florida.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

A self-described social justice comedian, Negin has a stand-up routine that often revolves around her Muslim background. She uses humor to fight prejudice and bring understanding, especially in a contentious time in our country for Muslims. Her book How to Make White People Laugh has a permanent place on my coffee table and constantly makes me laugh on cue.

Where you can follow her

https://twitter.com/NeginFarsad

http://neginfarsad.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NeginHFarsad/

 

 

Jewish Ledger

17. OPHIRA EISENBERG

 

[Describing her online dating profile]

“Finally I just put “as is.” Yeah, a real fixer upper. Hobbies include depression and making you guess why I’m angry.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

Ophira tackles the tough stuff like advanced age motherhood, surviving cancer, and other topics most comedians wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. She’s also got an unusually soothing voice so it’s no surprise that she’s frequently featured on the radio. AND her new Brooklyn show Ophira and Adira has already drawn big names like David Cross, Lewis Black, and Uzo Aduba.

Where you can follow her

http://ophiraeisenberg.com/

https://twitter.com/OphiraE

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ophira-Eisenberg/141303629228679

 

Buzzfeed

18. PHOEBE ROBINSON

 

“So I met my boyfriend’s parents recently which stressed me out. Because he’s white, so his parents are white. Hate when that happens. Why can’t it just skip a generation?”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

She’s been bringing some serious truths about gender, race, and equality to the comedy scene for a while now. Her new podcast with Broad City’s Ilana Glazer is called Sooo Many White Guys, and honestly, we’re sold on the title alone. Plus, she thought the ending to Colin Firth’s Kingsman was as weird as I did.

Where you can follow her

http://www.phoeberobinson.com/

https://twitter.com/dopequeenpheebs

https://www.facebook.com/DopeQueenPheebs/

 

Comedy Heights

19. TAYLOR TOMLINSON

 

“Everyone always says the same thing to my dad when they find out there are four girls in my family. They’re like, ‘Wow four girls! That’s gonna get expensive.” Which is true, because he has to pay for three weddings AND get all of my cats spayed. It’s gonna add up.”

What you know her from

Why she’s on the cusp

Her self-deprecating style is endearing, effective, and impressive considering she’s only 23. She’s got a certain honesty about her performance style that is very refreshing. She’s a true inspiration to us young comics.

Where you can follow her

http://www.ttomcomedy.com/bio

https://twitter.com/taylortomlinson

https://www.facebook.com/ComedianTaylor/

 

Do you know any comics that you think will be huge soon? Tell us! Tweet @goldcmdy!

9 best commencement speeches by comedians

Nothing says springtime like graduation! And nothing says graduation like long, cliché speeches about “following your dreams” and stale jokes about bad dining hall food.

via GIPHY

But we here at GOLD prefer a commencement speech with a bit more flair. So before “Regalia” makes it into this year’s list of top baby names, we wanted to share with you some of our favorite commencement speeches ever given by comedians. Sorry, Steve Wozniak. Maybe Rutgers will call next year.

 

This list includes speeches given at a diverse group of schools including a few prestigious Ivy leagues, some southern gems, and even a high school in Lexington, Massachusetts (Lynn’s hometown. Also, Rachel Dratch’s!). So what do they all have in common? Every speech acknowledges that we comedians are never truly qualified to do anything, let alone give a solemn commencement address. Hell, I still have trouble remembering whether the word “address” has two D’s or one. They both look right to me.

 

Ranked in no particular order, here are some of the wittiest speeches given at some of the weightiest ceremonies:

1. Maya Rudolph – Tulane University, 2015

Hilarious, versatile, and fresh, Maya Rudolph never disappoints. She certainly didn’t disappoint during her 2015 speech to the seniors of Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. In her address, she covers her dreams of being on SNL, a roast-like description of herself as a hippie college student, and her identity crisis as a closeted thespian.

 

“I didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do with my life when I finished college. I wasn’t any clearer about my direction than the day I graduated high school. I wore Birkenstocks and smelled like a patchouli fart.”

 

This speech is particularly appealing to us comedy nerds as Rudolph invokes the crucial improv concept of “Yes, And.” Not to mention her passionate “interpretation” of the National Anthem.

Check out the speech here: http://time.com/3883091/maya-rudolph-tulane-university-graduation-speech/

2. Jon Stewart – College of William and Mary, 2004

At the height of his show’s popularity, Daily Show host and comedy god Jon Stewart took a break from his busy schedule to give a gut-busting and rather cynical warning to William and Mary’s graduating class of 2004.

 

Early in his speech, Stewart apologizes on behalf of his entire generation for “breaking the world.”

 

“I know some of you are nostalgic today and filled with excitement and perhaps uncertainty at what the future holds. I know six of you are trying to figure out how to make a bong out of your caps.”

Check out the speech here: http://www.wm.edu/news/stories/2004/jon-stewarts-84-commencement-address.php

3. Stephen Colbert – University of Virginia, 2013

Former compadre and counterpoint to Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert is a top dog when it comes to political satire.

Though Colbert has imparted much graduation wisdom over the years, no speech compares to his 2013 speech to the Hoos of UVA. Colbert cleverly muses on secret societies, the infamous Thomas Jefferson, and even his own marriage.

 

“But perhaps the real reason UVA is so great is that it trusts its students. You have the nation’s oldest student-run honor code. Say it with me – on my honor, I pledge that I have neither given nor received help on this assignment, so help me Adderall.”

 

Since giving this speech, Colbert has “graduated” himself, making the shift from his Comedy Central show to hosting primetime’s The Late Show on CBS, where he has recently found a new pastime in poking fun at President Trump.

Check out the speech here

4. Mindy Kaling — Harvard Law School, 2014

Former intern to Conan O’Brien, Mindy Kaling has been a dynamite actress and writer since bursting into the comedy spotlight as Kelly Kapoor on The Office. Since then, Kaling has found massive success with her own show The Mindy Project—and her address to the Class of 2014 from Harvard Law.

 

“You are the nerds who are going to make some serious bank, which is why I am here today…to marry the best-looking amongst you.”

 

As to whether or not she was qualified to speak at the commencement, Kaling claimed, “I do know a ton about the law because I sue everyone.”  

Check out the speech here

5. Conan O’Brien — Dartmouth College, 2011

Former boss of Mindy Kaling, Conan O’Brien has been a late-night staple since the early 90’s. Standing proud behind what he describes as a podium like something a bear would use at an AA meeting,” Conan brought his self-deprecating charm and good-natured quips to the graduating class of 2011 at Dartmouth.

 

“New Hampshire is such a special place. When I arrived I took a deep breath of this crisp New England air and thought, ‘Wow, I’m in the state that’s next to the state where Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is made.’”

 

As most comedy geeks know, Conan went to Harvard, not Dartmouth. But in his speech he claims, “If I had gone to Dartmouth, right now I’d be wearing a fleece thong instead of a lace thong.”

Check out the speech here

6. Ellen Degeneres — Tulane University, 2009

Mononym queen and daytime sweetheart Ellen Degeneres has been crushing the comedy scene for almost four decades. From her work on her own ‘90s sitcom to the more recent Finding Dory, Degeneres has found popularity across a huge variety of age groups and demographics. I can say with 100% certainty that my 62-year old mother is catching up on Ellen clips at this very moment.

Her speech to the so-called 2009 “Katrina” class at Tulane is both funny and poignant, goofy and incredibly sincere. Degeneres tackles topics such as sexuality, tragedy, and fame.

 

“I thought that you had to be a famous alumnus, alumini, aluminum, alumis; you had to graduate from this school. And I didn’t go to college here, and I don’t know if President Cowan knows, I didn’t go to any college at all, any college. And I’m not saying you wasted your time, or money, but look at me, I’m a huge celebrity.”

 

But there’s one thing she has in common with the grads, Degeneres says:  “I was born and raised here, I spent my formative years here, and like you, while I was living here I only did laundry six times.”

Check out the speech here

7. Will Ferrell — Harvard University, 2003

A USC grad, Will Ferrell had no business giving the commencement speech to the Harvard University class of 2003. And yet, here we are.

Packed with jokes, Ferrell’s script is full of twists and turns, outbursts, and even some impassioned singing. Hard to believe his 50th birthday will be occurring later this year. (I could’ve sworn he was 60.)

 

“Some of you will be captains of industry and business. Others of you will go on to great careers in medicine, law and public service. Four of you—and I’m not at liberty to say which four—will go on to magnificent careers in the porno industry. I’m not trying to be funny. That’s just a statistical fact.”

 

As of 2017, Ferrell is both a comedic powerhouse AND a household name. And with all those houses, his upcoming 2017 flick co-starring Amy Poehler, “The House,” is sure to be a winner.

Check out the speech here

8. Eugene Mirman — Lexington High School, 2009

These days, it seems like high school humor consists of nothing more than a few well-placed emojis, fleeting dance crazes, and more shareable memes than original jokes.

But in 2009, Bob’s Burgers actor and human beanbag chair Eugene Mirman gave a hilarious five-minute speech to the 2009 graduating class of Lexington High School that perfectly incorporated teenage angst and youthful energy. The speech is one of the wittiest and most honest of the bunch.

 

“The main difference for you, between life yesterday and life tomorrow, is you can go to the bathroom whenever you want. It’s a pretty big responsibility, but you’ve earned it. A few more things: you can vote, start a family, go to war, even buy a beer. Just kidding, you’re only mature enough to shoot our enemies in the face.”

 

Mirman knows how to use absurdism to appeal to distraction-prone high school audiences, saying “I won’t lie to you, there is an asteroid heading for the earth and you only have four days to live. I’m sorry, where was I?”

Check out the speech here

9. Amy Poehler — Harvard University, 2011

Last but not least, one of the grand empresses of comedy: Amy Poehler. Armed with experience and talent out the wazoo, Poehler is the kind of comedian who can do anything– including ending a hysterical graduation speech with a quote from OutKast’s “Hey Ya.”

Harvard clearly has no shortage of comedic guests (or anything, for that matter.) Poehler’s speech to their 2011 graduating class was punchy and sharp.

 

“And I am here to tell you, life is like a heist that requires good drivers, an explosives expert, a hot girl who doubles as a master of disguise, and this is a hard and fast rule: if the Rock shows up, they’re on to you.”

 

As of now, we’re looking forward to her new BBC show and apparent biographical series about my life, Zero Motivation.

Check out the speech here

Did someone give a funny speech at YOUR graduation? Tell us about it!

Tweet to us @goldcmdy!

 

6 reasons why shy people are great at comedy

So many people say, “Oh, I would do comedy, but I’m too shy.

 

Sorry, but that excuse is made of NOPE. Comedians ARE shy. Why do you think they like to talk on stage, or wear giant funny mustaches? So they don’t have to talk TO PEOPLE. Carol Burnett, who describes herself as shy, has said she can perform only when she’s in character. Joan Rivers–yes, Joan Rivers—has described feeling uncomfortable chatting in real life, one on one.

 

“Even though standup and comedy seem like mediums that lend themselves to the extroverted, most comedians are actually shy or grapple with some form of social anxiety,” writes self-described shy comedian Scarlet Meyer. “Just because we have confidence on stage doesn’t mean it follows us off stage.”

 

Anthropologists at the University of New Mexico studying the evolutionary value of humor found that professional comedians are very likely to fit the definition of introvert. Makes sense when you recall that if you’re a comic, the biggest slices of the pie chart of your life are probably being (alone) on the road and writing jokes.  

 

So being shy isn’t an excuse not to do comedy. Being shy is a reason to do comedy. Comedy is about being who you are. And if who you are is shy, then shy is part of your funny.

 

More reasons why you, our shy friend in the corner, should do comedy:

 

Shy people may have more to say.

As Judy Carter says in her iconic Standup Comedy: The Book: “Most standups are very shy in their personal lives, and going on stage is a great outlet. The stage gives you an arena to vent your repressed criticisms of the world. I find that the quieter the person is offstage, the more he or she has to say onstage. Once they get the chance to be heard, my shy students are the ones I can’t get to stop talking.”

 

Shyness itself is funny.

Your comedy can be ABOUT how shy you are. Comic Daniel Simonsen, for example, says (around 7:00 here), “One of the hardest things about being shy is that you don’t have anywhere to live. Because all of the ads for [apartment] shares are for ‘outgoing’ people.”

40% of teens and adults consider themselves shy. That’s a lot of people who will directly relate to your “I’m shy” material and persona. And not come up and tell you that afterwards! HA!

 

A lot of comedy happens in your head.

“I didn’t talk to anybody in school,” says New York comedian Carly Aquilino. “Maybe I started doing comedy because I talked to myself for a really long time.” Think of comedy like a funnel: the big top part is the observing and thinking you have to do, which you then narrow down, and then—only then—do you get on stage and tell people what you’ve been thinking. The capacity to hang back and observe and cogitate can only work in your favor.

 

Shy people are super observant.

If you tend toward introversion, you may excel at empathy and reflection—both essential for writing authentic jokes that truly land. That’s because you’re both self-aware and aware of others’ vibes, and you’re also able to learn from what worked and what didn’t.

What’s more, the things you notice because you feel awkward can lead directly to nuanced, personal) jokes. “A simple reflection like, “‘Why did they make that face when I said x?’ might lead to an amazing bit about being awkward,” notes comedy and creativity coach Jared Volle, M.S. “Introverts love asking themselves these types of questions, which can be a powerful ally in their comedy career.”

 

Shy people know how to listen.

“Shy people are often gifted listeners,” write shyness experts Bernardo Carducci, Ph.D. and Philip G. Zimbardo. That means you’re more likely to be noticing what people say (or what they avoid saying) and how they say it—all of which is potential material.

This also may mean that you’re good at listening to your audience—an essential skill for connecting to the vibe in the room and the only way to perfect your sense of timing.

 

Outside your comfort zone lies comedy gold.

“A lot of comedians are very introverted, very shy, very sensitive to humiliation,” says Patton Oswalt. “The only way to combat it is to go to the one place where you are stripped bare.”

Arguably, anyone who has more at stake and more to fight in order to get up on stage is going to have more of a raw, vulnerable comedy edge. And letting yourself be vulnerable is actually the bravest, most assertive—and funniest—thing you can do.

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Vital comedy writing exercises to get you started

Heard the one about how sitting still will kill you? The same is true of comedy. In comedy as in life, exercise is vital. Repetition, frequent workouts, even a little sweat: they will all keep your comedy healthy and your head in the game. Whether you want to do standup, become a comedy writer, or just be 30% funnier in general, comedy exercises are key for generating original ideas and finding the funny in them. They’re not just for noobs; pros do them too. (Jerry Seinfeld, famously, wrote something every single day.) But they are essential to getting started. Here, friends of GOLD and other skilled comedy coaches share their favorite exercises for getting yourself into comedy shape. Just please make sure to get up and walk around every 20 minutes, k?

Prompts

This one is a classic. (We use it as homework before our workshops). It’s the perfect starting place because it helps you not just churn out random detached jokey-jokes that anyone could write, but jokes that could come only from you.

Fill in answers to the following:

I hate…

I love…

I’m annoyed by…

The best is when…

I’m proud that…

I’m terrified of…

I’m embarrassed by…

I’m obsessed with…

You should totally be my friend because…

  1. Round 1: Don’t try to be funny. Don’t overthink. Be truthful. One-word answers are fine, to start. You can list as many responses as you want for each prompt, and you can skip any that don’t inspire. (Bonus: If you happen to gravitate more toward one “mood” of prompt—negative vs. positive, mainly—you may start to get a sense of your natural comedy voice or persona.)
  2. Round 2: If you haven’t already, go back and add “because…”.
  3. Extra credit: Switch them up. Move the things you love to things you hate, and so on. Be sure to add the “because.” See how sarcasm serves you.
  4. Extra-extra credit: Pick one prompt. Write as many short answers as you can. The results could become a list joke.

Free association

This one’s from Elsa Waithe. Pick a topic or even a small item—anything from “being a twin” to “gum”—(pro tip: use something you wrote about above). Get some blank paper (or a blank screen), a pen (if applicable), a timer, and GO. Write down everything you can think of about that thing, for 15 minutes, without stopping. EVERYTHING. Every damn thing. Don’t try to be funny. The results will be roughly 80% filler or nonsense. But without that, you won’t get to the 20% potential gold: weird stuff you forgot about, words that are just funny (“Bazooka”). This one’s a great one to do when you’re just plain stuck. It’s also good practice for letting your mind roam and explore all the possible shapes a joke can take or directions it can go in.

Twitter fitter

This one’s inspired by Kerri Louise.

  1. Pick a short personal anecdote you like to tell or—extra credit—an anecdote that came out of one of the above two exercises.
  2. Write/type it out on one page (about 250 words double-spaced).
  3. Now write the same story in 100 words.
  4. Now write the same story in 50 words.
  5. Now write the same story in 25 words. (You GOT THIS. Hemingway, legend has it, did it in 6 words. Yes, he is Hemingway, but it also wasn’t funny.)
  6. Now write the same story in 140 characters. WHAT? Yes.

Whether or not you ever use this joke, this exercise is useful because:

  • Rookie comics almost always use too much setup. This helps you pare that part down, for one thing, showing you exactly how little context, premise, and information you need to get the audience on the same page as you.
  • Concise is better.
  • It helps you literally choose your words carefully. Shorter words are generally stronger, so you’ll thesaurus your way down to those with the most punch.
  • It forces you to identify the ONE CORE IDEA that makes this thing funny.
  • Advanced move: Many comics try out their jokes on Twitter. Get good at this, and that could be a great testing ground for you, too.  

News you can use

This one’s from GOLD advisory board member Eddie Sarfaty. Open up today’s newspaper. Rip something from the headlines and make it personal using a formula like this:

X thing happened. If that happened to me/in my life OR if I did that…

Example: [Wily politician or powerful person of choice] lies and no one punishes him. If my mother found out I lied about something like that [she would/I would]…”.

Write 10 of these a day. Don’t try to be funny. Let them be funny when it happens, which it will about 1 percent of the time. The practice is what matters. As you do it more and more, you’ll see the funny and make associations faster, and your percentage will go up.

This is a great way of

  • Training yourself to riff
  • Exploring what’s funny TO YOU about the news AND about your life at the same time.
  • Keeping up with current events!

 

When you did one of these exercises, did something crack you up? Doesn’t have to be a fully-formed joke. An embarrassing moment, or just a funny word? Tweet it @GOLDcomdy and let us know!
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