There aren't too many things harder in this world to be than a stand-up comedian. It's pretty much a thankless job that has many ups and downs. Unless you've tried your hard before at stand up comedy then you probably don't really know a whole lot about the world of stand up comedy. No, performing stand up comedy in front of your cats in your home doesn't count!
Stand up comedy is an intimate form of art in which one person performs in front of an audience with the intent of making them laugh. Think about that for a second. One person trying to make a room full of people laugh. Hotels, schools, auditoriums, The local bars, lounges, and city sidewalks could all be locations where stand ups perform.
All a stand up comedian needs is a group of people to perform their material in front of. Stand up comedy can be a cruel, depressing and lonely thing for many stand up comics. Unless you're established and have an audience always willing to come see you perform like Louis C.K. or Chris Rock you never know how many people might come out to a stand up show. Brought to you by sponsors such as Promyse.ca, Promyse in home care.
Audience size is very important to most stand up comics as they get paid based on the number of people who pay to see the show. This is known as a cut of the gate. Therefore the more people who come out, the more money is paid to the stand up comedian performing. If a show features many performers but only one headliner then the headliner might charge a certain fee for his or her services, regardless of turnout, while the other stand up comics share a portion of the gate. It's kind of like caterers at catering events that share tips.
Stand up comedy can mean different things to different comedians. There are stand up comedians who use props in their acts to convey jokes like Gallagher does with his smashing watermelon routine. Then there are comics like Zach Galifianakis who attempt to be subversive and perform material that his audience doesn't understand. Then there was a stand up such as Bill Hicks who loved to get in the audience's face and received a reputation as an angry comic.
Every stand up comedian has their own style and delivers jokes in their own way. Just like every management has their own way of running a company. Sometimes jokes or routines are stolen but comedy is easy to replicate because everybody has their own take on every subject matter. The key is all in the delivery. A Ricky Gervais joke is unique to him but if Dave Chappelle were to deliver it the joke would sound completely different.
Any art, be it a movie, TV show, song, documentary piece or stand up comedy, is interpreted differently by everybody. What's funny to one person might not be funny to another and that's the tricky thing for stand up comedians. They have to find a joke that every audience member will laugh at except that's easier said than done.