All of the exercises in the stand-up workshops for the Comedy on the Spectrum project are from Oliver Double’s book Getting the Joke: The Inner Workings of Stand-up Comedy (2nd Edition), published by Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. Sections explaining each exercise have been reproduced below with permission from Oliver and Bloomsbury.
N.B. The exercises were adapted by Oliver, who led the workshops, to make them age-appropriate where necessary.
‘This is a devilishly simple exercise. The students arrange their seating so that they form a small audience. The microphone stand is placed in front of them, to form a stage area. One of the students then gets up behind the mike, and simply has a conversation with the audience. There’s no requirement to be funny, or to assume any kind of formal stage attitude. This should be as much like a normal, everyday conversation as possible, in spite of the microphone and audience. The student can ask questions of the audience, and vice versa. The entire group should acknowledge the reality of the situation, rather than pretending that this is a real stand-up gig where the comedian doesn’t know the audience. All of the stuff they talk about to each other before the workshop begins can be used in the exercise. The subjects discussed can range from the banal (what you had for breakfast) to the profound (your philosophy). One potential hazard of the exercise is that sometimes it descends into members of the audience talking among themselves, and if this happens, the student behind the mike has to sort it out and restore order.’ (Double 2014:460)
Find the Link
‘The students sit in a circle, and the sequence moves clockwise around it. Person 1 starts the sequence by suggesting a subject, say, superheroes. Person 2 (to the left of Person 1) then suggests a second, completely unrelated subject, say, arson. Person 3 (to the left of Person 2) then has to find a link between the two subjects. This can be anything:
– A simple, factual link (e.g. you could use superhero comics to start a fire)
– A personal association (e.g. I used to be slightly scared of superhero comics when I was very young – and I’m quite scared of arson now)
– An imaginative connection (e.g. the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch would be brilliant at arson)
Then the sequence starts again, with the person to the left of Person 3 suggesting a new first subject. The game continues until it runs out of steam. Not all the links will be funny, but some of them will. It’s important to come up with subjects and find the links as quickly as possible, because thinking too much about it robs the game of spontaneity. There’s no way anybody can lose, because no link can ever be wrong. Sometimes the sequence is broken, for example, if the second person gives a subject which is clearly related to the first (Person 1: ‘Pants.’/Person 2: ‘Vest’). This doesn’t matter: a lot of comedy is made by breaking sequences. In fact, it’s good to vary the format.’ (Double 2014:462-3)