Before you get on stage, you have to figure out what you are going to say. Even a great improvisational comic like Robin Williams writes down his material first. He has his act all planned out, then he improvs around it.

If you're wondering where to get your material, the answer is that depends on the brand of comedy you decide to embrace. One universal starting point, however, is to look within. Much of today's humor is personal, meaning it's derived from one's own experiences and eccentricities.

Here are three nifty exercises to get you started:

  • Divide a sheet of paper into three columns. In the first, write down things that worry you. In the second, things that make you angry. In the third, things that frighten you.
  • Make a list of all your negative personality traits. Self-effacing humor is always safe territory because if you laugh at yourself, others will feel comfortable laughing at you too. If you're ugly, talk about it! Think of yourself as a safe venue for mocking the ugly, since you're really just making fun of yourself.
  • Make a list of things that are unique about yourself, both inner and outer. Do you have freakishly large hands? An unusually high tolerance for alcohol? A phobia of eating in front of people? Or maybe you're an extremely nebbishy-looking man who has trouble relating to others. In that case, congratulations! You're Woody Allen!
These lists will provide you with the raw material from which to write your jokes. As you go through the process of writing all of these lists down, remember to always carry a little notebook with you wherever you go.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW do stand-up comedy?