There are two distinct types of stand-up comedy that are easily identifiable:
- The one or two line type type of stand-up comedy.
- The topic based (or story telling) type of stand-up comedy.
Both types can be very effective when it comes the audience laughter results that can be generated.
Here are the differences between the two types of stand-up comedy:
I tend to refer to the one or two line type of stand-up comedy as “old school”.
I don’t call that “old school” because it’s not effective. It stems from the fact that this particular type of stand-up comedy is based on early 20th century vaudeville type comedy that was delivered before stand-up comedy as we know it today developed.
It also stems from a time when there was a distinct separation from comedy “writers” and comedy performers who did not produce their own stand-up comedy material, but ultimately merged into a single entity.
Note: This is no different than the time when there were a distinct separation between singers and songwriters, which also merged over time.
Examples of comedians who perform this type of stand-up comedy include Jack Benny, Henny Youngman (very old comedians) all the way up to Jay Leno, Conan, and David Letterman who use this same style of stand-up comedy today in their intro monologues.
The “newer school” style of stand-up comedy is primarily topic based (also referred to as story telling comedy), meaning that the comedian introduces a particular topic, then expands upon that topic as the stand-up bit progresses.
This sort of topic based stand-up comedy started with the likes of comedians like Mort Saul and Bill Cosby and has become more and more prevalent among comedians today as opposed to the one and two line stand-up comedy style (topic based comedians include Bill Engvall, Gabriel Inglesias, Kevin Hart etc.)
Here are the primary differences that I see between these two different types of stand-up comedy:
Producing single “jokes” that work in tandem (or in a flow that builds momentum) is much more challenging than topic based stand-up comedy.
With topic based (or story type) stand-up comedy, it’s easier to produce a large quantity of stand-up comedy material than trying to “write” or develop one joke at a time.
Once a topic or area of interest has been introduced by a comedian, there is less “set-up” needed in order to get to the punchlines related to that topic being expressed by the comedian.
I have another article on a different blog you may want to check out regarding the advantages of topic based or story telling type stand-up comedy.
Here are the most important things to note:
The type of stand-up comedy material a comedian performs DOES NOT MATTER.
What matters is that the audience laughter results generated are noteworthy and grab the attention of talent pros.
For those who want to tackle producing jokes one at time, you may want to check out Jerry Corley’s system.
For those who may be more inclined to tackle a topic or story based approach to producing stand-up comedy material, you may want to explore my system.
But what matters most is identifying and using the approach, techniques, methods or system that gets you the laughter results that you want in the shortest time possible, no matter where they come from or where you find them.
In other words…
Don’t focus on the style or type of comedy you should or should not use. Focus on what will work for you (and will ultimately entertain audiences at the highest level).