Comedy·NEXT UP

Getting started in comedy? Ivan Decker has advice for you

The 2018 Juno winner for Comedy Album of the Year Ivan Decker shares his tips for amateur comedians.
Ivan Decker grew up 45 minutes outside of Vancouver in Ladner, B.C.

Ivan Decker grew up watching Ha!ifax ComedyFest and Winnipeg Comedy Festival from his home in Ladner, B.C.

Since then, he's performed at some of the Canada's biggest comedy festivals — including Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Ha!ifax ComedyFest and JFL — made his American television debut on Conan and was featured in the Comedians of the World Netflix series.

Not only that, he also won the 2018 Juno award for Comedy Album of the Year for his debut comedy album I Wanted to be a Dinosaur.

It was a no-brainer to ask Decker for some tips for success for up-and-coming comics. The CBC Comedy crew caught up with him in Los Angeles.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.


Never be the funniest person in the room

"The best thing you can do for yourself as a comic is to be around people who are extremely funny — funnier than you. If you're the funniest comic on the show, you're not working hard enough."

"Find out who's on shows and who's killing constantly and say to the booker, 'I want to go after them. I'm gonna go after her. She smashes every show. Let me follow her.'"

If you're the funniest comic on the show, you're not working hard enough.- Ivan Decker

"Never assume you're smarter than the audience. That's a that's a big no-no in comedy. As soon as you have high-and-mighty complex, it's going to bite you."

Step out of your comfort zone

"If a comedian is going to make it, the best thing they can do is not quit. That's a big one. Stay doing comedy, keep writing and understand that it only gets harder."

"There's never a point you cross where suddenly it's easy. It's only more difficult."

"Go to new rooms, go to places where you would bomb. When I started out, I would do jokes about having a pet hamster at an oil camp in northern Alberta. They hated it. I bombed horribly but I learned and it's important to try to get out of your comfort zone."

"Don't stop writing and don't stop getting up on stage. Get on stage as much as you can in the first little while and and never stop."

"Overnight success is always the result of unseen hard work."

Study your craft at comedy festivals

"Performing at a comedy festival is a very life changing experience because you get to be in a place where comedy is not only legitimized ... you get to be around other comedians, like-minded individuals like yourself… it's like comedy summer camp."

It's like comedy summer camp.- Ivan Decker on comedy festivals

"That's why festivals are so good. It's what I always found with Just for Laughs and Winnipeg [Comedy Festival] and Halifax [ComedyFest] is that you get to perform on the same shows as these comics you wouldn't normally get to perform with. And if you don't come home from there with a sense of inspiration, you're doing it wrong."

Social media vs. stand-up comedy

"People want that blue check on Instagram now more than they want to be on The Tonight Show."

"As a new comic starting out, you have to be aware of your your social media presence and also looking back at things like Kevin Hart. Be aware of things that you have said and be careful. Don't say anything horrendous."

"Memes: they're like chips and stand-up is like a meal… You can have these little bits of comedy just to get you through the day at your terrible office job. But if you really want an event, you want to go out and see an evening of comedy."

"People think Youtube is like, 'Oh, it's going to kill stand-up.' I'm like, maybe but think about ice. Everybody's got a freezer in their house that makes ice. But there's still trucks out there delivering ice. I don't know why, but it's happening. Stand-up is not going anywhere."

With files from David Elmaleh.

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