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Stand-Up Skills to Land the Job

By The Second City | Mar 24, 2014

Stand-up comedians work tirelessly to perfect a solid set that’ll leave people hysterically laughing and club owners paying attention. Help yourself nail your next interview and put some green in your pocket by applying 3 easy tricks that stand-ups have mastered.

Be Aware of Your Environment

Whoa… how 80s is this comedy club’s decor? That waitress– she’s quirky, right? And how ‘bout that drunk dude in the Hawaiian shirt way in the back? Comics wow audiences by sharing seemingly “improvised” observations on environmental aspects. While it might seem like improvised genius to the inexperienced, many comedians sit in the back of the room writing feverishly as they prepare, listening to the opening acts, watching the audience’s every move and taking note of the gaudy wall art.

This exercise in paying attention to details pays off with belly laughs. The next time you’re in the lobby waiting for an interview or hanging in the office waiting for your potential future boss to enter, take note of the magazines on the table. Listen for the name of the receptionist. Check out the photo frames.

Opening your senses to the current environment will help you focus on something– instead of your fear– and might just give you that little bit of information you need to seal the deal: “From that trophy on your bookshelf, I see you played football. I used to be a male cheerleader! What a coincidence!”

Hone Your Point of View

If you were describing Woody Allen or Louis C.K. to someone that lived under a rock, you could probably do it in a sentence or two. That’s because they’ve worked their tails off building a strong and memorable persona that you feel like you know.

Comics invest a lot of time and energy into creating a comic persona that they can write for. While it may not be a good idea to try out your “neurotic dweeb daughter-lover”’ during an interview, it is important that you are aware of how you come across to others and know what you are trying to communicate.

Are you a…

  • Hard-working potential leader trying to build business relationships one handshake at a time?
  • Creative team player interested in breaking new ground?
  • Just totally stumped when it comes to how others see you?

Every interview and job position is different, so there are no cookie-cutter answers, but it’s important to know how others see you and what steps you can take to control your image.

And don’t fall in love with your daughter.

Over-Prepare and Go with the Flow

A comedian won’t do all 12 of their terrorism jokes if the first three don’t land. It’s not uncommon to write 10 minutes of material for a five-minute slot and carve away the “sub-jokes” as you read the room.

While you won’t be shouting one-liners at a drunken mob, it may behoove you to learn as much as you can about the company and the position— and let the conversation lead the way. Don’t force in the fact that you know who the owner’s cousin is (unless it happens to come up naturally), but do educate yourself on what might be important. And stay away from any terrorism bits.

Andrew Thorp is a writer, director and performer in Chicago. He is the Marketing Manager at The Second City Training Center – Chicago, teaches Teen/Youth improv, sketch writing and stand-up and produces comedy shows via Thorpedo Productions.

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