4 Fun Article Writing Tips — From a Stand-Up Comedian


Write like a stand-up comedianBy Michael Devaney

Want your next freelance article to pass muster? Imagine a stand-up comedian reading it onstage.

Would the funnyman reading your words fire up the crowd? Or would they politely smile and remain quiet?

You can use this article writing technique even if there’s nothing laughable in your piece. Good writing is lively, crisp, and flows logically. This is true even when the subject is highly technical or complicated.

Leave the thick, plodding stuff to academic journals … they do it better than you anyway!

Stand-up comedians, like writers, have very different styles, but the format for winning over a crowd is always the same.

The best comedians make well-rehearsed routines seem random and spontaneous. Those who try to wing it usually bomb.

Likewise, when you write an article, sticking to a proven formula is the surest way to benefit your reader. Your attention to detail also increases the likelihood that peoplewill remember your writing.

So what is the format for writing an article like a stand-up comedian would?

Craft a killer headline

The headline is ultra-important. It’s the first thing in the article your reader sees.

They make a quick decision whether to read further or skip. The lead follows the headline and must further draw your reader in.

Comedians know this instinctively, so when transitioning to a new topic, they’ll often begin with a shocking statement (Louis C.K.) or a question (Bill Cosby: “Why is there air?”).

After the opening statement, they have to follow-up with enough laughs to keep the audience interested.

Pick up the pace

An article should hit the ground running. Whether it entertains or informs, you owe it to your reader to proceed quickly; their time is valuable.

Weaving a story into the lead will help the reader connect the dots. You can also summarize the article in the subheading.

A stand-up comedian, likewise, cuts the fat and includes only the relevant information in their act. They work details into the routine as needed, which also serve as brief stopping points for jokes.

Set your tone

You set your article’s tone in the first paragraph. It must remain consistent for the sake of the reader.

An article that’s begins as an objective, behind-the-scenes piece should not morph into a screaming editorial.

Similarly, anyone hoping to win big at the next open-mic night will probably not mix their ventriloquist act with burlesque.

Don’t miss the point

Your article should make it easy to recognize the “big idea.” And the main point should match the headline.

Comedians working the stage structure their routine so that it rises to a crescendo. Then they deliver the biggest punchline. It’s what a captive audience will remember most.

This punchline is the main point of the stand-up comedian’s act.

Kill with your closing

Your article should close with a neat summary or a call to action. The ending should be obvious and not leave the reader hanging.

A stand-up comedian does not end his act quietly. He may not save the best joke for last, but his close is certain. The audience always knows when it’s over.

If you work these five tips into all of your articles, you’ll kill it every time.

What are your go-to tips for writing articles? Share them in the comments below.

Michael Devaney blogs at Very Simple Thoughts. If forced to choose between writing well and making people laugh, he’d probably choose the latter.


  1. J. Delancy

    In speech writing and in company annual reports, you don’t cut the fat, you add it to the middle. That tends to be the area where people’s attention will naturally wander. The substance (if any) goes to the top and in the conclusion.

    • Mike

      “Add the fat to the middle?” I’ve never heard that before but I like it!

      I’m gonna keep that in mind the next time I speak.

  2. Brian

    Very helpful article Mike!

  3. Janice

    Great reminders here, Mike! In my process, I’ve always started any article that I’m writing with a ton of research and reading. Immersing myself in the topic and often wading through bone-dry facts helps me to absorb information that I wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. Then the fun part – the actual writing – will often flow after that (most of the time).

    • Mike

      Agreed Janice.

      Once you know the topic like the back of your hand, you can relax things.

      There’s a 2 minute video on the NY Times website where they interview Jerry Seinfeld. It’s fascinating because Seinfeld reveals all that goes into his stage act. He plays on simple words and phrases for hours and days on end…it’s his version of research.

      And then he tests it out on stage!

  4. Holly Bowne

    That was a fun analogy, Mike! This has nothing to do with the writing end, but your description regarding Craft a Killer Headline made me totally flash back to an opening line I heard once at a Steven Wright performance:

    “Why are there no ‘B’ batteries?”

    Ha, ha!

  5. Duncan Randall

    You nailed it Mike,,,WoW!!

    Killer titles can boost or damage your image as well as your valuable posts. For me, if I have to read your article, then it has to create the title impact. Things like “how to” “why” “benefits “ don’t work anymore.

    I have used Killer titles to build blogs that command the audience. You will want to sit and listen. Nevertheless, Above all, the TONE matters Most.

  6. Hong Lee Chang

    Thank you for this post! But do you think that these tips can be applied to essay writing?

    • Carol Tice

      No, they can’t, Hong — and writing essays for students is unethical. It’s a niche I advise freelance writers to stay away from.

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