How I got into Stand Up Comedy, My First stand up Set

Improv Comedy First

A common question people use to ask me when I told them I do stand up comedy is, “How did you get into that?”. To be honest, I really don’t remember when I first decided that I wanted to do stand up. Originally, I thought improv comedy was going to be my comedic outlet. In high school speech club, I competed all 4 years in “large group improv”. My team thought we were pretty great, but to be fair, every school thinks that they are great at improv. The main takeaway, at this time, was that I had tons of fun performing improv comedy.

Leaving high school, the one thing that I know for sure was that I wanted to do improv comedy going into college. Unfortunately for me, during my freshman year of college, I did not make the improv troupe at my university. Throughout my freshman year, I felt I had failed to do the one thing I set out to do. (I’ll have to make a whole different blog post about improv sometime).

                                                Me trying to make sense of the hills of West Virginia

Writing My First stand up Set

The summer before I started college I had worked at a Boy Scout Camp in West Virginia. While working at this camp, I had started writing jokes about the locals and how different the state was to Iowa. The majority of the jokes were pretty stupid observations, mainly about how many hills there are in West Virginia. Seriously, Iowa is so flat I had never seen so many hills! How do people drive in that state?! After leaving the camp, I didn’t think about the jokes until the winter break of my freshman year of college.

It was a few weeks into the break, and I had run out of things to do around home during the extensive break. I was clearing memory on my phone when I saw a notepad app that I had installed for my West Virginia jokes. It wasn’t until then that I started putting together my first set. At the time I thought my first set was absolutely beautiful! It had act outs, callbacks, different voices, defined punchlines, I even choreographed certain parts. Essentially, I had created a one-man show where I just unfairly shit on West Virginia, relentlessly! For my first set, I was very proud of it. The only problem was, it was about twelve minutes long.



Penguins Comedy Club

December 23rd, 2015, Festivus.




After some research, I learned that Penguin’s Comedy Club in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had an open mic night on Wednesday nights. Penguin’s Comedy Club was the nearest comedy club near where I lived. That week, so I made formal plans to go down by myself and perform the West Virginia jokes. When scouting out their website, I learned you had to be over the age of 21 for all their shows.

This was a problem because I was 18 at the time. I wasn’t in the mood to wait 3 years to share my hot takes about a state that nobody cares about. At the time, I was afraid I wasn’t going to be let in. I panicked the day of and called in to see if they would let me do the open mic. The bartender was way too cool about the situation; she said it was fine as long as I didn’t try to buy alcohol. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have called, probably could have scored drinks!

When I arrived, I learned that I only was allowed 5 minutes to do my 12-minute set. After learning this, I ran back to my car with my notes. I cut as much as I could and got the set down to about 7 minutes. I know it was 7 minutes because I kept speaking through it in my car with a stopwatch trying to cut it down. The night that I went up, many of the comics were veterans, but there were a few newcomers. Luckily for me most of the comedians that night bombed. (I know it sounds bad, but it was a huge ego boost).

When my name was called, I remember going up to the stage and heading straight into my material. The set was completely void of pauses. Even though I was rushing through, at a record pace, my set went long. However, it only went long by 30 seconds. Somehow I managed to get 7 minutes into 5 and a half minutes. It wasn’t great, but I got a handful of laughs that night, and all things considered, it felt pretty good.

I remember driving home that night just wanting to do it again. I did.

 Here is a video of one of my first stand up comedy sets, The West Virginia sets. It’s so hard to watch now, at the time I wanted to be a deadpan comic. I’m glad I stopped that.

The set was recorded in February 2016