1. Wear plaid, and lots of it.
Ideally you’d have a plaid shirt for every day of the week. Never wear shorts, not even in the summertime. Shorts are seen as lame, so if you wear them, you’ll be seen as lame, too. It’s also good to have quite a few ironic or thrift-store T-shirts for when you don’t feel like wearing plaid. If you really want to make an impression, wear a thrift store T-shirt and a plaid shirt.
2. Grow a beard.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a good beard or a bad beard—just having one is enough. If you’re really bold, grow a mustache. Not too many people have one. This will set you apart. People will talk about you as that mustached guy. Having adjectives before your name is good. Regardless of what you decide to grow, you can play with your beard or mustache whenever you feel nervous, awkward, or just plain itchy. Hiding behind the hair is perfectly fine.
3. When in Rome, drink as the Romans do.
If you’re with a group of people who don’t drink, then don’t drink. You don’t want to be seen as an alcoholic. If you’re with people who do drink, then drink. You don’t want to be seen as weird, or worse, straight edge. Regardless of which group you’re with, always be doing something with your hands. Smoking is very popular, plus it’s another opportunity to socialize. You can also pull a Mick Napier and play with a deck of cards as well. Pick one or the other, though—never both.
4. If you go to a show alone and you see someone you know and they don’t acknowledge you, take that as a cue to leave.
The show wasn’t going to be any good. If you go to a show alone and you see people you know, go up and talk to them. If after three sentences they ignore your presence, step back and sit by yourself near the front of the stage. Never look back at them. If you go to a show with a group, laugh at the people that are by themselves. They deserve it, ’cause they’re losers.
5. After a show’s over, linger for a bit, but not too long.
It’s important to network, but even more important to maintain a mystique. When leaving, say goodbye to the important people, or say goodbye to no one. In either case, never tell people what you’re doing after a show, and if they ask, tell them you’re going home to talk to your agents, plural.
6. If someone asks you what you thought of their show/performance, answer truthfully.
Honesty is the best policy. If, however, the person asking has a higher social standing than you, ignore this rule. Sucking ass is the fastest way to move up. Under no circumstances do you offer unsolicited criticism. That’s a fat lawyer move. You are not a fat lawyer. You’re a comedian.
7. Laugh only at what you truly think is funny.
Laughs that are given in pity are dead laughs, and no one wants those. Actually laugh—make an audible sound that leaves your mouth. Do not be one of those people who says, “That’s funny” and doesn’t laugh. Speech isn’t laughter. Remember: Comedians are needy people that need validation in a form other than words, love, or physical affection. Also remember: Having a distinct laugh will set you apart, i.e. Seth Rogen, Fran Drescher.
8. If you’re brainstorming, remember that no idea is a bad idea, unless that idea comes from someone you don’t respect.
In this instance, it’s OK to tell them, “No. Just, no.” Laugh while telling them this so it comes across as a joke.
9. Remember that the comedy world consists of warring subsets.
Standups don’t like improvisers, improvisers love everybody, and sketch is a wild card. Each of these three thinks they’re the shit. Adapt your thoughts and behavior accordingly.
10. If you’re at a party, do not freestyle.
Repeat: Do. Not. Freestyle. Talk about how brilliant the person you’re talking to is, how much you really like their work. Put everybody on a pedestal, literally. Bring a pedestal with you to parties. People will remember you. You want to be remembered.
11. If you’re hanging out, do not start doing bits until other people start doing bits.
If you’re just joining a group that has a bit in progress, do not attempt the bit yourself. You are not a part of the moment. You weren’t there. Wait until the bit is complete before introducing yourself. If with a group of all women, do not joke about rape or feminism, and even if they do, tread lightly. If with a group comprised solely of gays, do not joke about homosexuality. If you’re with a group of all blacks, then you are not in the Chicago comedy scene. Proceed with caution.
12. If dating a comedian, be careful: You are now a part of their act.
Everything you say or do can be used against you in a grimy, half-empty bar filled with other comics who won’t laugh. This is how they vent, so do not take it seriously. Feel free to take it personally, though; their parents do.
13. If a comic is moving to another city, say you will miss them, even if you won’t, and thank them.
There is now more stage time. Band with other comics to throw them a weeklong tribute/going away party. Pat each other on the back for a job well done.