By Jonathan Wexler
Matt Wohlfarth’s ABC’s of Stand-Up Comedy is a must-read for any touring comedian not yet world-famous. In just under 100, this e-book (found here) covers everything from how to write jokes and perform sets to finding clean bathrooms – and does it succinctly and brilliantly.
Wohlfarth, better known as Buzz Nutley, is a veteran comic and writer who’s worked with Jay Leno, Jon Stewart and Mitch Hedberg. Clearly he knows his way around a guffaw. Just as important, Wohlfarth knows the business side of being a jokester. He fuses it all into a hodgepodge of vital information gleaned from personal experiences.
“Think of this book as a reference guide to comedy that isn’t weighed down by filler,” Matt writes in the preface. He promises that buying it will “save you some time, some missteps and most importantly, some headaches in your comedy journey.”
Wohlfarth keeps that promise.
He packs in tons of advice, humor and encouragement for an admittedly tough career. Though organized like a glossary, it’s not dry or top-heavy. The comedian’s conversational style and passion for the medium make it a fun and easy read.
There’s no narrative — after the introduction ABC’s jumps right into the A’s — but it still can be read front to back. Found under “A,” for example, are tips to take Acting lessons, to be able to Adapt material instantly, and to always be Aware of comedy potential.
Pearls of wisdom abound, forming a sort of “Zen of Comedy.” On bombing: “I learned more from my bombs than I learned from my killer sets.” On confidence: “Trust that you have all of the goods inside of you.” There’s even a passage on finding your Inner Tigger.
These are the most touching parts of Wohlfarth’s writing, doubling as life advice and lending massive amounts of strength when times are tough. His good nature shines through here; he honestly wants up-and-comers to benefit from his travails.
But, Matt intones, it’s not all about the laughs: “As oxymoronic as it sounds, comedy is a serious business.” He writes that the ratio is about 90 percent business to 10 percent comedy; organization and consistency can be more important than hilarity.
He notes that the early part of a career is “much more marketing than actual stand-up,” and hammers home the point that an aspiring comic must create his or her own breaks. You might get discovered by chance, but it’s not bloody likely. You’d better work it, girl.
Practical aspects of being a comedian are also given attention. Your car should function properly and, Wohlfarth says, join a car club. Also: Buy a dictionary, write down everything and take care of your physical and mental health.
ABC’s only weakness is the flip side of its biggest strength: It’s based on Matt’s life and what he’s done to clear the hurdles in his comedic path. Therefore, he generally only offers one solution to any given problem, that being the one he used. But by giving the reader enough tools for a life in comedy, the book has made any situation graspable.
Ã¢â‚¬â€ Jonathan Wexler