This post is dedicated to the comedians that I’ve watched totally bomb in front of college student audiences. I’m trying to help you, because frankly it’s uncomfortable to watch a comedian fail. I want you to make my audience laugh, cry and pee their pants. To aim for such glorious laughter, here are 6 things to especially avoid:

1. Underestimating your audience’s intelligence

I cringe every time I hear a comedian resort to traditional “drunk frat boy” jokes. They are outdated. Today’s college students are predominantly smarter than the stereotypical depictions of them in movies. It’s awkward when a comedian performs unintelligent, outdated jokes at a school known for brainy engineering students who simply aren’t a reflection of Hollywood’s frat boy meat heads. Come up with more intelligent jokes for today’s students.  

2. Repeating jokes we’ve heard 1,000 times

Please, please, please don’t tell the joke about burning you’re a$$ on the metal slide when you were a kid and scraping your body on rusty metal swing sets. I’ve heard it. We’ve all heard it. From multiple comedians. (And honestly, today’s college students probably grew up with nice orange plastic slides and their tetanus shots were just a formality.) Listen to other comedian’s sets as much as you can, especially if they are on the same lineup as you are so you don’t accidentally repeat similar content.

3. Being mean

I know all the roast comedians out there frown at this one. But there is a fine line between roasting and being just plain mean. Referring back to #1, make sure your roast jokes are intelligent and not the equivalent of a 12-year-old bully throat-punching someone. If you don’t want to get booed offstage, think harder about your jokes targeting the real live humans sitting in the audience.

4. Being oblivious of campus news

First of all, don’t make a rape or sexual assault joke. Ever. (Although I might make an exception if it brings awareness, like this.) And always ask the leaders putting on the event if there are certain sensitive subjects you should avoid. If students are dealing with a current situation or culture on campus, it may be too soon to make jokes about it. Use your best judgement on this one.

5. Assuming every college student loves swearing

I don’t know why some comedians (and musicians for that matter) assume that the average college student curses like a sailor. Too much foul language is actually a turn off for most students, but a few properly placed tactful curse words eloquently scattered throughout your material can be very effective.

6. Lacking confidence

If you aren’t confident in your jokes, the audience won’t be either. Some jokes might fall flat. It happens to everyone. Move on and don’t be phased. Self-deprecating comments can be funny occasionally, but dwelling on a joke that bombed onstage and then appearing frazzled will make everyone uncomfortable. You’ve got better material – move on to that!

Jolene Chevalier

Founder & Talent Buyer | How To Concerts

Jolene has been a middle buyer for over a decade, helping colleges and others with their concerts, comedians, and speakers. (And, yes, she is named after the Dolly Parton song.) She would love to talk with you about helping to book, plan, and prepare for your event.

920.764.1200   |   [email protected]

Jolene Chevalier

Founder & Talent Buyer | How To Concerts

Jolene has been a middle buyer for over a decade, helping colleges and others with their concerts, comedians, and speakers. (And, yes, she is named after the Dolly Parton song.) She would love to talk with you about helping to book, plan, and prepare for your event.

920.764.1200   |   [email protected]