How to be funny, according to Lance Woods
Lance Woods shares the do’s and don’ts of stand-up comedy
Lance Woods chases the next laugh like it owes him money. Over the last six years, the Sacramento comedian has performed alongside big names like Dave Chappelle and Tony T. Roberts, and even visited Okinawa, Japan, to perform for the U.S. Marine Corps. His ability to bring the audience into his world of hilarious and relatable stories seems effortless. Still, Woods admits it wasn't always so easy to get five minutes on stage. Here, he gives advice on how a fresh face with a couple of clever punchlines should get started.
Actually get onstage: “It sounds simple, but you actually have to get onstage. A lot of people who want to do comedy, they’ll do it in front of their friends or on the internet, but they don’t get onstage.
“It’s lonely up there. It’s just you, the microphone and a stool and everybody’s looking at you.
“My first time on a comedy stage was June 2, 2010, at the Sacramento Punch Line. I had performed at my church before that, but I had never done a comedy show. I remember everything. I remember I had to fight to get onstage. I didn’t know how it worked. So, I just walked in like, ‘Hey, what time does the show start?’ And [the manager] was like, ‘Who is you?’
“It took about 45 minutes of going back and forth before he was like, ‘All right. You’re going up third.’”
Confidence: “Challenge yourself to get better. You’re going to develop a point of view and the ability to deal with different types of crowds and different races and different ages. You’re going to develop the ability to confidently deliver your point to all of these people. When you’re onstage, you have to confidently deliver what you feel like is funny. How I view it is the punchline, which is like the boom of the joke, it has to be delivered with an exclamation point and not a question mark.”
Don’t feed hecklers: “The thing about hecklers is they always think they make the show better. That’s their mindset and most of the time they don’t mean any harm. I just take it as it comes. There’s no class for it. I’ve done comedy rooms that can get a little rowdy sometimes, but you develop that muscle.”
Be your toughest critic: “Comics are delusional people so you have to get honest with yourself. Honestly assess your sets and your material because that will help you grow. You should be your toughest critic. If your show was 8 out of 10, ask yourself, ‘How can I get it to a 10?’ And if it was a 4, call it a 4 to yourself.”
A fresh point of view: “I think the biggest mistake as a comedian is trying to write what you think people will find funny rather than writing what you find funny. Because really, what you’re trying to do is bring people into your world and have them see your point of view. So if I’m out chasing everybody else’s point of view and trying to make them like me, I’m not going to be authentic to myself.
“I think if you write a joke and it’s funny to you, you should try it. Every joke can be broken down into race, religion, politics, sex, family and observation. It’s not like you wrote the joke that’s never been written before. Every joke is a variation of something else, but it’s your point of view. I’m not the only person who’s dealt with crazy relatives, but this is my point of view on my crazy relatives. When your point of view is fresh and you’re comfortable with you, then it all feels fresh.”