Comic Timing

I recently decided to learn more about comic timing or as some would call it the delivery. There are two schools of thought when it comes to this: “Either you have it, or you don’t” and the “it can be learned” school of thought. I like everything in my life was not born with this so I am a firm believer that anything can be learned. (Even though I never learned to spell!)

The comedians that I like all have great timing, strong characters and smart jokes. I need to get my timing down in order to get my character or persona, with that I can deliver and write great jokes for myself.

Timing became my next area to work on when I recently sped through my set in a contest because I was nervous and felt I could have done so much better. Not saying I would have placed in the competition, but better competing with myself. (I am always competing with the Jess that performed his last show)… I watched my video and was so let down that I did not pause in places, speed through the set so fast that what I had timed as 5 min was 4.5 in the end… that is 30 seconds of timing out the window.

Here is the bad set and you can see that I was way too fast… My start was rough, so I think I did the age old beginners mistake of trying to get to a punch… I am a story teller that is the kiss of death for my style of stand up.


Here are some basic things to keep in mind.

One thing I have done is stepped on my laughs… We work so hard to get them to laugh, and you don’t want to squash that, this is when you go into another joke too early and don’t enjoy the praise… this does 2 things… one they will not really hear the beginning of your next joke or the set up… and two… you are actually training them not to laugh… seriously! There is like a bell curve to the timing in this situation… You need to wait till they get to the loudest point of that laugh then once they go over the top and start to go down in volume you can start to go into your nest set up or tag what you just did.

Vocabulary: A beat is a pause taken for the purposes of comic timing, often to allow the audience time to recognize the joke and react, or to heighten the suspense before delivery of the expected punch line.

Slapstick timing Comic timing can also be seen in the more physical forms of comedy as well. Every slapstick comedian from Charlie Chaplin onwards has relied on the physical joke being made at justthe right time. The bucket of water never falls until the audience has built up for it to just the right level. Farce The farce is another example of comic timing. Here, the humour is derived both from rapid speech and rapid movement — people running into and out of rooms at breakneck speed and managing to cause havoc in the process as done to perfection in the series Fawlty Towers.

Pregnant pause A pregnant pause (as in the classical definition, “many possibilities”) is a technique of comic timing used to accentuate a comedy element, where the comic pauses at the end of a phrase to build up suspense. It’s often used at the end of a comically awkward statement or in the silence after a seemingly non-comic phrase to build up a comeback. Refined by Jack Benny, the pregnant pause has become a staple of stand-up comedy.

Here are some great things I have found on the internet pertaining the Timing. If you know me I have not leaned to do these yet. I am just sharing the information I find as I learn it… so don’t judge me…lol You must know the joke. You have to know exactly where the laughs are and leave room for the audience to react. Your laughs come from your knowledge of them, not accidentally.

Hint: Punchlines do NOT have to be just words. There are a number of reasons that new comedians don’t pause enough to allow an audience to laugh:

1. Having a set that is too long for the time allotted—so there is no time built in for the audience to laugh.

2. Nervousness and increased adrenalin, causing the comedian to “barrel through” their act.

3. Lack of confidence in their comedy material.

4. Absence of proper preparation or improper preparation that doesn’t account for pauses for laughter. Most new comedians don’t even really know when to start talking again when they do get a big laugh (Hint: You don’t wait until there’s complete silence to start talking again).

Here’s my stand-up-showcase tip for today: There are only two things that happen when a comedian is on stage—the comedian is talking or the audience is laughing. Giving audiences sufficient time to laugh is a HUGE part of comedy timing.