Carry a small notebook or tape recorder with you.
Go over ideas with someone else.
Develop a funny, unique (non-hack) opening line. It is the most crucial part of an act. From it the audience will decide if they like you or not.
Use no more words than necessary.
Arrange material as setup/punchline, setup/punchline, setup/punchline…
Prepare a set list. Organize the act in a definite progression.
Keep a guaranteed killer bit for the end of the set. Always end on a laugh.
Stay away from anything mean spirited.
Keep “inside” jokes to a minimum.
Try out new material at an open mic — not at a paying gig.
Prepare some heckler comebacks and tag lines for jokes that fail.
Practice, practice, practice and then practice some more.
Realize that a blue (dirty) act won’t help you get work — especially as an opener. Clean acts can make very good money working colleges, cruise ships, TV and corporate functions.
Deliver your material effectively and with confidence.
Read the audience. Watch how they respond to the MC and other comics. Determine their mood and tastes. Adjust/edit your act to achieve maximum laughs from that particular crowd.
If using the microphone hand held, put the mic stand behind you. If not, adjust the stand to your height and then leave it alone.
Keep the microphone aimed at your mouth at a distance of about 3 inches.
Use the stage space inclusively. Remember the people to your left and right (and in some cases, behind you).
Stay in the light.
Have comedy “work clothes”. Your appearance should reflect your stage persona. How you look influences how the audience reacts to you and how it interprets your material.
The Text Book
Judy Carter’s “Stand-Up Comedy: The Book”. It’s around $10 and It’s the best.
Always have fun.