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Getting started in comedy? Mark Critch has advice for you

Mark Critch from ‘This Hour has 22 Minutes’ has tips for amateur stand up comedians.
(Aaron McKenzie Fraser/Pigeon Row)

Stand up comedy "is unlike anything else in the arts," explains This Hour Has 22 Minutes funnyman Mark Critch.

And he would know — the Canadian quipster has performed on stage many times in his comedic career: from impersonating Trump on This Hour Has 22 Minutes to hosting the Ha!ifax ComedyFest.

"Stand up can be one of the scariest things anyone can do," says Critch. "It's probably the most vulnerable that a person will ever be."

We asked Mark Critch for tips to help hesitant new comers warm up to an open mic — here's what the Newfoundlander had to say.

Stop trying to be somebody else

Critch cautions against trying to emulate famous stand up comedians.

Just be yourself.

From dating advice, to job interviews tips: you've probably heard this cliche before. But when it comes to performing stand up comedy, "you are more interesting than anybody else."

Until you stop trying to be somebody else, you won't connect with anybody.- Mark Critch

"There is something in you that is going to connect with people," says Critch. "Until you stop trying to be somebody else, you won't connect with anybody."

Write and deliver material from your own unique perspective and "you'd be surprised how many people out there who are as weird as you."

Don't blame a tough crowd

Audiences want to see a performer do well, explains Critch. They paid for a ticket, they commuted to the venue and their butt's in the seat. If you're playing to a "tough crowd," don't turn the blame on the audience before examining how you presented yourself on stage.

"Maybe there's something in you that you're not being honest about,"  explains Critch. "You're not doing the best job you can do and that is holding you back a little."

If you've never done stand up before, Critch warns that "the first time is probably going to be terrible."

Writing is the most important thing.- Mark Critch

Bringing a group of friends to watch your first few sets can be a comfort to new comedians.

"But until you're in a room full of strangers, you'll never really know" how good your material is.

"You're going to fail a lot," says Critch. "What breaks people apart from the pack is someone who is willing to fail and then come back, fail and come back and fail and come back."

"Not only do they have enough of hunger but they probably something worth saying."

Write every day

If stand up comedy is your dream career, Critch says it is your job to write every day — after a few months "you might have something worth saying."

If a joke fails, he recommends rewriting it until it works.

"Writing is the most important thing," says Critch. "Anything in life can be mined. Even a personal tragedy, something horrible that happens to you. That's something that can be mined for comedy."


Think you're funny?

Show us what you got — submit your funniest material to CBC Comedy's Next Up talent search until February 21, 2019. The winner will get a chance to perform at the 2019 Ha!ifax ComedyFest. Enter now and find more details at cbc.ca/nextup.