Structure is everything
So I went to a stand up night last night. 18 acts of 5 minutes each. In a room over a pub just above Oxford Street. It was a "bringer" which means everyone had to bring someone. It's sort of like a class. A few things to think about, the main one: why do people want to do stand up? But also I thought about what worked and didn't work and one thing that struck me was that the biggest problem is trying to be funny.
On the other hand what I craved was structure. I wanted cues for the beginning middle and end. Watching people trying to be funny sometimes seems like a desperate business. Being made to laugh feels like faking an orgasm or something. On the other hand if you give the audience structure then we can relax. If you let the audience know you've begun, that now you are in the middle (so maybe you will be improvising for example), and that now you are wrapping up, it's incredibly relaxing. Structure relaxes us. It's more important than being funny.
The funny follows and the audience starts laughing and isn't even sure why. Or something like that.