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Funny 101: How to make people laugh
Why do news reporters hang out at ice cream shops? To get the latest scoop!
Today’s scoop includes figuring out how to tickle funny bones — and find the confidence to do so.
While comedians can be found on TV, the radio and on their very own specials on Netflix, they’re also easy to find at clubs and venues in Cedar Rapids.
Theatre Cedar Rapids, Penguins Comedy Club and various coffee shops and venues host open microphone events as well as comedy camps, improv shows and a variety of events for aspiring comedians and comics.
Comedians put together a bit, or short performance, and perform solo on stage. Improv groups, however, are given a prompt or one-liner, like “if adults settled arguments like children” or “bad parental motivational speeches,” and then have to roll with the punches and create something new and funny together.
“Nothing is scripted, and it’s all responding honestly and earnestly to the circumstances that you’re given,” said Anthony Jensen, an improv comedian in Cedar Rapids. “That resonated with me because I wasn’t good at memorizing lines, but I still liked that feeling of making people laugh.”
Coming up with topics to joke about can be tricky because not everyone has the same sense of humor. But once you get a feel for brainstorming jokes, you can begin to test them on family members and friends.
“I talk about my life because that way no one can steal it,” said Nathan Timmel, a comedian at Penguins Comedy Club. He said his sets are often inspired by things that happen to him “because it’s original, and I know that they’ll be a surprise for the audience.”
Having something fresh to say can help boost your confidence to share your jokes with an audience. Telling a joke that’s relatable, too, can make people laugh.
“I resonate with things that I think are funny, so I’m going to do and say things that I think are funny. The hope is that other people relate to that,” Jensen said. “Because we all have shared experiences.”
Once you have your set, practicing is the best way to become a top-notch comedian.
Whether it’s reading jokes alone in your bedroom until they sound right, sitting your family down on the couch and reading your jokes off index cards, or taking the leap to sign up for an open mic night or improv camp, Timmel emphasized the practice-makes-perfect method.
“The only way to try it is to do it,” he said. “You can do that in your bedroom, you can do it riding your bike, wherever you are. Then when you feel comfortable and confident enough, you can find that open microphone. Or, if you’re too young, you can do it for your family.”
Jensen said confidence is key.
"That’s the cornerstone of performing,” Jensen said. “ … The more you do it, the more confidence you’re going to get. That first step feels like a big one, but the second one feels a lot easier.”
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