Standup Stand Out

Posted on 12 July 2009

Dressing for success in comedy is a whole different world than dressing for success in any other field. You aren’t dressing to fit in, you’re dressing to stand out. Here are some tips on what a comedian ought to wear.

Persona

We all have a multitude of facets to our personalities and can be five different people depending upon the day of the month or hour of the day. However, as a comedian you need to find a signature way to present yourself, so that people recognise you and your style of comedy straight away. This has everything to do with marketing and selling yourself to the audience.

One comedian in Adelaide likes taking on a sort of 1960s Rat Pack persona. So, he either wears a suit and tie or a polo shirt and slacks. Either way you can easily see him taking a relaxed pose, sipping a martini, and tossing out smooth
lines to the ladies. I know a couple of women who like the Gothic Lolita look: a bit girly and a bit edgy at the same time.

If you find this too limiting, you can always go the Sir Barry Humphries route and instead of cultivating a persona, create several memorable characters with individual looks. Remember that Humphries has created a theme of Australian types to coherently weave his characters together. You too will want to find something that connects your characters for marketing purposes.

Visibility

A lot of guys want to look dark, mysterious, and dangerous, therefore they tend toward black shirt, black pants, black shoes, black socks, and black lace underwear. DON’T DO IT (except perhaps the lace underwear). You are not a ninja, you do not wish to hide in the background. You are a comedian. Comedians need to be seen in order to be heard. You can get away with the black pants, but you must wear a light or bright shirt to catch your audience’s attention and direct their eyes to your face.

If you are a large person and are using darks to hide your shape, DON’T. A part of comedy is about accepting your humanity and embracing your physicality. In that way you give yourself more comic material and you help others to become more accepting of people like yourself through laughter. However, if you need to take babysteps toward finding that sort of self esteem, take a few tips from how the larger opera singers dress.

Wear that light shirt or blouse, but go ahead and wear an unbuttoned dark jacket. If you were to wear a uniformly dark outfit, you would simply create a large dark outline. The jacket will cause people’s eyes to be drawn to the light
shirt which now has a very slim line leading up to your face where all the action is.

Comfort and Flexibility

It’s hard enough standing in front of an audience not knowing whether or not they will like your humour. You do not need to make yourself even more uncomfortable by giving yourself uncomfortable clothes. Make sure that whatever
you’re wearing will not constrict your body anywhere or cause you pain (eg high heels). If you like your comedy to get a bit physical, then also make sure your clothes are flexible enough to handle it. You don’t want to go ripping clothes on stage and then having to pay for their repair or replacement.  I own some dance clothes specifically
for physical comedy.

Do NOT rely on t-shirts and jeans even though they make you feel emotionally comfortable. The vast majority of young comedians are doing that and you will disappear amongst the crowd. If you must go that direction, then at least make sure you have a collection of unique t-shirts that match your persona.

Upstaging Yourself

Here I’m pushing you to be a bit more outrageous and flamboyant. However, you must always be more outrageous than your clothes. If you have extremely loud clothes, but your humour is subtle, you may find your outfit is wearing you and it steals the show. Some of the artistry of comedy is found in striking the correct balance in presenting yourself. Dame Edna gets away with sparkly clothes and big eyeglasses because she’s larger than life. I will suggest that if you do find a vibrant wardrobe you like to wear and it’s overtaking the show, turn yourself up rather than the clothing down.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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