How To BattleCOM

May June 2013

May June 2013

Now that BattleCOM is a monthly English occurrence at The Comedy Nest, GladiaCOM is soon to launch for French and the Ottawa ComicCon will feature some BattleCOM, I guess it’s time to let people know what to expect when / if they participate in one.

Battle/Gladia-COM is a new form of comedy show.  Basically you have two performers onstage trying to out do each other for the audiences approval (and the ability to move up).  This article will serve as a primer for those who are participating their first time, or acts looking to critically examine the material they’re creating for a BattleCOM.  We’ll cover common misconceptions, writing strategy, tactics and presentation.

The Geek Battle of Comedy Shows

The Geek Battle of Comedy Shows

MISCONCEPTIONS

FACTS ARE JOKES
First misconception is that BattleCOM is a debate show – it’s not.  The primary purpose is not to defeat your opponents’ choices but to be more entertaining while arguing yours.  To that end, facts are irrelevant.

Where facts are important is knowing your audience.  The majority of people who come out to a BattleCOM (be it a Nerd Show, a Sports Show or a Dirty Show version) are there because they’re familiar with the subject matter.  Being blatantly wrong or misinformed on some major fact could potentially alienate you to the audience, or cause a significant enough disconnect for them to not catch the funny.  Given the brevity of your time to impress the audience, a misstep could be your final step.

ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
“Sure the show is fast paced, but I can pop out a couple of SSP (setup setup punchline) jokes when I have the mic.”  Wrong.  The goal is to get the audience laugh as quickly and as often as you can – in under 90 seconds (approximately).

“I have to explain my point of view.”  No.  Have faith in your audience.  Your choice is presented when you’re introduced, assume knowledge from the crowd.  In other words, don’t bore them / waste time explaining what is obvious.

Enter the arena with confidence, and speed.  Don’t wait for your full name, and your full choice to be declared before heading to the stage.  Grab the stage, and the audience’s attention by being dynamic in your entrance.

BattleCOM

BattleCOM

“I need to establish myself / my character each time I have the mic.”  Don’t underestimate your audience – establish yourself during the reverse curtain call and thumbnail everything if you feel the need to establish yourself.

So the primary misconceptions deal with the Battlers approach and how much time can be wasted onstage.  (That answer is “none”.)

WRITING STRATEGY

CHOICE OF VIEW 
Before you can even start writing, you need to choose your point of view for the various Battle Fields.  Once the topic is revealed, there is a race to get your choices to the Battle Marshal (moderator) – you don’t want to write too much then find out someone else has taken the point of view (pov) you planned on.  These should factor into your choice:

  1. Unexpected.  It’s good to keep the other Battlers on their toes with your choice, but you don’t want to go too obscure so the audience wouldn’t know what you’re talking about.
  2. Passion.  Find something that you can be passionate about, because if they don’t identify with your pov, they can at least identify with your emotive context.
  3. Be specific.  If you’re muddled in your choice, then the audience will be confused by it too.
La Guerre De Geeks

La Guerre De Geeks

BREVITY

Layering jokes with tags and double meanings help get you more and faster hits with the audience.  To that end, here are some other tactics to keep in mind:

  1. Thumbnail.  Analogies, similes and metaphors help paint mental pictures (and can be a punchline) if used correctly.
  2. Edit.  If you need to explain, edit your writing to make it as brief as possible.  The faster to the funny, the faster to a win.

TACTICS

The old military adage “No battle plan ever survived first contact with the enemy” holds true even in the battles of BattleCOM.

CHOICE
Again choice is important.  Do you:

  1. Choose quickly, to lock in a populist idea upon which you can build jokes to make people laugh?
  2. Choose something obscure that you are confident that you can quickly explain and exploit or make jokes about it’s obscurity?
  3. Wait to choose, the attempt to guess the most popular choices, hoping to be denied and possibly get insight on what the other Battlers have selected?

All of those methods of locking in your POV are valid, though waiting is most dangerous, as you may be left with a obvious choice and that no one had selected but that you have difficulty writing for.

RESEARCH
Know your Battle Field.  Research the subject matter (cult films, graphic novels, horror, sports video games), so you have some idea about what choices your fellow combatants may have made – and how to argue against them.

Know who you face, and research them, know their style.  Sometimes you may be at a loss to have a negative comment about someone’s choice – but you could just say something funny about them…

CURVEBALL
How can you keep your opponent of balance, but still keep the audience entertained?

Assume a character.  Take the Battlefield as the choice you represent.  This has the added benefit of thumbnailing some (or all) of your joke set-ups.  Plus your opponent isn’t facing “you”, they’re facing a character.
In the negative rounds, agree with them.  Use sarcasm and backhanded compliments to undermine the positive round of your enemy combatant.

PRESENTATION

With any form of comedy, I always say dress for the performance.  In stand-up, I say dress like yourself – but just yourself on a first date.  With BattleCOM dress in the way you wish to express yourself to the audience.

END ON A HIGH NOTE
Sometimes you get a big laugh, but still have more written material that logically follows.  Doesn’t matter – end your turn.  Brevity is the key.  Maybe, just maybe that next line could get an even bigger laugh, but just as possibly, it could fall flat.  Count on the audience to surprise you.

COSTUMES AND PROPS
A picture is worth a thousand words and dressing in costume, or hauling out an appropriate prop can seriously shortcut your set up time for a joke.  Plus the immediate impact of a costume (or prop) can be a source of entertainment on it’s own.

DIRECTION
Are you performing to the audience, or to your opponent?  It’s best to have that decided before you speak.  This will help you seem direct and cohesive in thought.

Can you use the limited stage available?  Know the limitations, and know that the Battle Marshal and your opponent will be giving you focus.  Wander if it will help, but remember strength comes from stillness.

Lead.  All the performers should be out there to entertain, that is rule one.  So feel free to (subtly) direct the action of your opponent and the Battle Marshal – this can possibly give you a big boost (or potentially give the big laugh to your opponent).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czuJLCauft4&w=420&h=315]

SUMMARY
So we learned preparation, not just for the your topic, but for the stage is key.  Writing helps, but editing makes it better.  Using thumbnail explanations, with or without the use of props and costumes, give you an edge in explaining your points to the audience.  Researching the Battlefield can give you knowledge that will allow you to topple your opponent’s arguments.  Most importantly we learned that this show format is meant to be fun, for the audience and the performers.

Yours,
Ash

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About Ash

Paul Ash is that special kind of person who sees the best in everyone, except himself. His self loathing comedy is peppered with rural charm and big city cynicism. This “muppet king of comedy” has been described as the “encyclopaedia of funny” and has an over ten year relationship with the Festival Just For Laughs, the world’s largest stand-up comedy fest.