How to compete in a Stand-up Comedy Competition

Published by Chet Kennedy on

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The Origin of Chet’s Comedy

I have been listening to comedy for years. I love comedians. I love how comedy disarms an audience and allows people to set aside their lives for a short while. I’ve used jokes or humorous stories in all of my sermons.  In August of 2013 I attended a comedy show at a local comedy club. At the end of the night my friends and I were talking about how, I should try this. That night I went home and emailed every club in Edmonton. I asked for information on their open mic nights. I wanted to at least try it.

The only club to reply was The Comedy Factory. Bob Angelli, the manager of the club told me to show up on September 12 at 8:30 pm and I could have my 5 minutes. Then the fear started… How would I do 5 minutes of StandUp? What if I’m not funny? I had a month to prepare, I wrote jokes, I tried jokes on people. I got generally over prepared and grew confident that I would have a good 5 minute set.

Through a subsequent series of emails Bob informed me that he had actually placed me in an amateur Comedy competition called “So You Think You’re Funny.” Over the course of 5 weeks my set would be competing against 30 other comics. Suddenly, it was real.

I still wasn’t too freaked out because I knew I was up against guys just like me. That is until I sat down in the green room of the Comedy Factory on the night of September 12. I arrived early and was wandering around meeting new people and trying to adjust to these new surroundings. I had never been to this club before. I had never done comedy before. Everything was new to me. As I sat down in the room I was looking around at my competitors. Most people seemed to be around my age… except for this young kid named Ryan. He was in his early 20’s. He looks me right in the eye and says,”I know her” and points at the lady in the room. “I know him,” points at another guy. “I took a comedy class with them.” Pointing to more guys in the room. “and… I’ve seen his act. I haven’t seen you here before, who are you?”

Ryan then went on to explain that they had all been doing amateur comedy for at least 3 years and some of them had been doing comedy for a lot longer than that. As it turns out the competition I entered is used by amateur comedians to jumpstart their professional comedy careers. I was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Up go the nerves, up goes the anxiety and I started to tell myself it will be over soon, just do your set and go home.

Chet’s Comedy Debut


I hadn’t really planned on filming it. So my wife actually filmed part of it until her phone informed her that it was full. Luckily though friends of mine had also been filming with their phones. So… I managed to piece together the entire 5 minute set.

In the end, I actually got laughs. I did my five minutes, as you can see, some jokes were great, some jokes not so great. I still have such high hopes for that jetpack joke. When it came time to announce the 3 comedians who would be moving in to the semi finals of the competition they announced 3 of my competitors and then they also said my name. They had decided to send me on to the semis because they thought they saw something in me and would like to see more.


Winning is fun, but practice and preparation are not really my thing. Now that I was moving on to the semi finals, and I actually found the whole stand up experience fun, I wanted to do better for the next night. I wrote more jokes. What I mean by that is I actually sat down and wrote out the entire joke. The setup and the punchlines for all my jokes. Why? Because Bob told me to hone my 5 minutes. He told me it needed to be memorized so that it looks spontaneous. So that’s exactly what I did.

I then showed up on Saturday nights for the late show at the Comedy Factory and did my new material. It’s important to try jokes out in front of a real audience. Some of the jokes that I thought were definitely keepers actually turned out to be duds. Even more surprising was that some of the jokes that I liked, but wasn’t really sure about got laughs and even clapping. When you get applause at a comedy show it’s very, very good.

The Semi Finals

A month later, I find myself back at the Comedy Factory. I have more jokes and I am more prepared. I am less stressed and more confident. I honestly believe that this is my last show because I am fairly certain I won’t win the semi-finals and go on so I figure I will go out with a bang.


At the end of the night, when Bob Angelli declares the winners, he announces my name first. Suddenly I find myself in the Finals. The competitive part of me is pumped, but the rest of me is tired… Tired of writing jokes, tired of being stressed about the competition, tired of the whole thing. I was ready to be done, but I was not done.

Back I went to writing jokes, to pulling out jokes that didn’t work, throwing in new ones that might work. Back to the late shows at the Comedy Factory to test out my material. Writing 5 minutes of comedy is, in my opinion, harder then anything I’ve ever done. I can write sermons, songs, seminars… nothing is as difficult as coming up with 5 solid minutes of engaging, funny material.

The Finals

A month after the Semi finals I find myself back at the Comedy Factory. Lots of familiar comedians now. Honestly, I’m not looking to win, I’m just hoping to be worthy of the competition. If these are Edmonton’s best amateur comics then I really have no business being on the same stage as they are.


Ultimately, I didn’t win, but I did get to the final 6 out of 30 comedians. According to Bob Angelli I did very well. He says I have great stage presence and good delivery. I need to work on my timing, and… I need to work on my pauses.

Here is what I mean by that… when the audience laughs or claps… it’s important to let the joke hang in the air… allow the audience to get it, to relate to it. Sometimes the laughs, or applause will grow and then die down. If we jump too quickly into the next joke, it’s called “Stepping on your audience.”

One more thing that I learned… Every comedian in the finals, except for me, brought their best jokes. Every one of them did the same routine for each round of the competition. They have a 5 minute routine that they have crafted over the years and they use that one to compete with. Writing new jokes is important for comedy but delivery is KING, when you are in a comedy competition use your best material every time.

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