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Tell a Joke with Sam Lowy

Photo by Anthony Lowy, courtesy of Sam Lowy
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Sam Lowy

wears many hats -- one for improv comedy, one for sketch comedy and one for stand up comedy.

Lowy, an English Literature major at Arizona State University, has been sharpening his comedic skills since he started college three years ago. As the director of ASU's Barren Mind Improv, he is heavily involved in the comedy scene on campus. But hilarity is nothing new to Lowy, who took on the job of a self-professed class clown as a child and slowly climbed up the funny ladder.

Today he has evolved into what he describes simply as a "funny guy." We asked this aspiring comedian to share some advice on how to tell a joke. Find out what it takes to clown around, after the jump...


1. Confidence does the body good.
Confidence is key when it comes to comedy. Lowy says it starts with knowing your joke, inside and out. If that means you have to rehearse a billion times in the mirror, do it. No one wants a doctor who is not confident conducting surgery, so why would they want a comedian who isn't confident giving laughter (it's obviously the best medicine)? Turn this sick, sad world around.

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2. Know your audience.

"I can get away with telling a dick joke or a fart joke at an ASU show because college kids want to hear that. They laugh at the dumbest shit. No offense, I laugh at dumb shit too." Knowing which type of person is sitting in your audience can make or break you.


So how do we "know" an audience full of strangers?
Listen to them. Lowy says it's all in their reactions. See what they respond well to and incorporate that into other jokes. Avoid an accident -- push the gas on the good jokes; pump the breaks on the bad jokes. Remember: The audience establishes the boundaries. Don't cross the line.

What if we hear hecklers while we're listening to the audience? Hecklers can be scary for newcomers. When you hear a heckler, control your instincts to run off stage, sit in a corner in the fetal position or projectile vomit all over the audience (not cool). According to Lowy, the best thing to do is embrace the situation.

Here's an analogy: Hecklers are like baseball coaches during practice. Coaches will toss you a ball in the perfect spot so you can hit it. A heckler will toss you the joke and you have to hit it out of the park or hit them with it so they'll sit down and shut up. Lowy predicts that an audience will respond well if the heckler is made the butt of the joke. So try that. You have the power because you have the microphone.

3. Sell your joke, collect commission
"No matter how dumb your joke is or how poor you think your joke is, sell it like it's the funniest thing ever." Here's a hint: "If you have to explain your joke, it's not funny. Period." Once you give birth to your joke, cut the cord. Let it stand on its own.

So what happens when you try to sell your joke, but the audience isn't buying it? Panic. Just kidding. Don't do that. If your audience isn't providing (positive) feedback, don't get discouraged. A negative experience can yield a positive result. "Bad shows can be like a slap in the face. Like the comedy Gods saying 'you're not that funny, don't get ahead of yourself.'"

What if you forget your joke? Panic. Just kidding again. Don't do that. Improvise, if you can. Switch on your natural instinct and roll with the punches, but whatever you do, don't tell the audience you forgot your joke. Oh, the horror.

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Let's recap:

  • If you're going to do any sort of sweating before or during the show make sure you're sweating pure confidence. That's it. Don't let the audience see you sweat anything else, especially not Gatorade...that's just weird.
  • Know your audience or they won't want to get to know you.
  • Sell your jokes. Make them believable. Satisfy the audience. They're making the purchase.

There's no step-by-step formula on how to tell a joke because every joke and every comedian is different. Develop your own style and voice. Overall, Lowy says it's best to not freak out your audience. Keep them in mind with every decision you make.

For more information about upcoming events, visit ASU Comedy's Facebook or website.

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