Understanding Stand-up Comedy

Stand-up comedy is a popular genre and form of entertainment, but a couple DALN authors see it as something more. For Trevor Williams, learning to perform stand-up was a literacy event built on observation, conversation, and memorization, among other things. Additionally, Ryan Dickson’s young interest in comedian Dennis Miller is what sparked his understanding of literacy. Both of these stories are great. I really enjoyed them, and I hope you do too!

In the eighth grade, Trevor Williams completed an eight-month long project that introduced him to the art of stand-up comedy, a type of performance he had no previous background in. Under the guidance of a mentor, Williams soon realized “how little [he] knew about stand-up and the process of assembling an act.” He observed his environment and wrote down notes as an attempt to develop funny material; but to no avail. Instead, he and his mentor began improvising the comedy through conversations. When time came for him to perform his act, Williams had no written document for his performance. He had it memorized.

Ryan Dickson defines literacy as “the ability to interpret, the ability to understand,” which includes “learning to read everything around you.” Growing up, Dickson’s family didn’t have any bookshelves, so reading wasn’t an essential part of his upbringing. His interest in literacy, however, developed when he began watching Dennis Miller’s  stand-up comedy, which contained literary references. He learned that in order to understand the jokes, he would have to understand their context, a revelation that led him to a degree in English.

Check these narratives out to hear/read what else these authors have to say about their experiences!


photo credit: damien cuillery