The Do’s

  • Always prepare your set. No matter how off-the-cuff you might usually be, preparation/rehearsal compensates for any stage jitters. Preparation also indicates commitment – which bodes well with the judges. It shows.
  • If possible, try to see some live comedy before your audition and heat. Often, there are trends in material so, if you see a trend emerging, then you can steer away from it in your own set. Repetition is boring and, of course, unoriginal.
  • Use the stage to your advantage rather than hiding in the corner (unless that’s your style). This is your time to shine so command attention by opening up to the audience, engaging with them (look out at them) and using the mic correctly (a muffled voice means they literally can’t hear you).
  • Hit the ground running. You only have 3 minutes to make an impression so don’t go saving your best until last or leading up to it with a long, drawn-out story. Get the audience and the judges on-side – immediately!

The Dont’s

  • Don’t abuse the audience (or the judges), especially if your set’s going badly. If you’re falling short of the five-minute mark and you don’t have enough material, just cut it short. It’s better to bow out gracefully.
  • Don’t imitate or steal material from others. While you think it is unlikely the judges will pick up on this, they most certainly will! Trevor Noah has been successful because nobody else is Trevor Noah. Be yourself.
  • Don’t step on your own punchlines. If a joke has gone well, give it time to breathe – let the audience laugh before moving on. Similarly, if the joke has not gone well, move on quickly! Good timing is very important.
  • Don’t be vulgar for the sake of a cheap joke. There’s a very fine-line between funny and just plain offensive.