A beginner’s guide to starting stand-up comedy in your 40s

Paul McMullan left it late to join the comedy circuit. Here’s what he learned…

So you’ve watched Michael McIntyre skip across a stage, maybe you’ve seen John Bishop use his Scouse charm and thought ‘I could do that, I could be a stand-up comedian’.

But hang, on you’re not a young wannabee, you’re a someone in their 40s. ‘Am I too old?’ you ask yourself.

Well yes and no.

Let me explain. It takes years to get good enough – some say 10 years to truly be a great comedian.

You might do it quicker but it’s a long game, so be prepared that it can take years to be an overnight success.

I started comedy in my 40s and here is what to expect.

Forget what you see on TV

The beginning is nothing like that, you’ll be starting at the very bottom.

Welcome to the world of open mic comedy. You’ll be performing in basements so damp that the rats have moved on, in basements with no obvious fire exit, or failing that, you’ll be performing in a corner of a pub where the locals are getting annoyed that they can’t hear the football on the TV.

There are some amazing and well run new act nights, but you’ll need a decent video to send in so there is no shortcut here: you have to put in those horrendous nights to get to the good ones.

Everyone will almost certainly be younger than you

And fresher.

You on the other hand will be tired from a day’s work in a job you probably hate and full of the cynicism of life.

Be prepared for the “edgy, dangerous and unpredictable” comic, also be prepared to hear a lot of jokes about masturbation and bodily functions. Mister Young Edgy Comic will no doubt throw in a few dead baby and rape jokes for good measure. Your heart will sink a lot.

There are loads of new comics

You know when we have a bit of nice weather and you think, let’s go to the beach. You get there and its packed and you can’t believe so many people had the same idea as you.

Well the same can be said about comedy, it’s full of people wanting to “have a go” and like at the beach it will be full of young good looking people full of enthusiasm.

You’ll be tired a lot

You will spend many hours at comedy nights honing your skills, firstly Monday to Wednesday then as you climb the ladder Thursday to Saturday.

But you will still be working during the day, and as you climb the ladder you go from open mic to open spot. An open spot is an act on the bill of professional comics who doesn’t get paid, but is there to be seen. Most of the top clubs have these spots and there is the chance of progressing to a paid spot, so when they pop up you grab it with both hands.

London to Liverpool is 250 miles. I’ve done that and gone to work the next day, but boy is it hard when you’re older.

You’ll spend more than you earn

Let’s be honest now, the big money is earned by a few, and a lot of comics that are way better than you only scrape by, so if you’re in this for the money, stop reading now.

Is it all worth it?

The nights when you’ve made 100 maybe 200 people laugh their socks off yes.

The nights you’ve crawled in at 3.30am because the M6 decided to send you on a 60-mile detour and your alarm goes off at 5.30am for work, maybe not.

But you’re older and wiser and you know life isn’t always fair.

See Paul McMullan: Alocopop at the Pleasance Bunker 3rd – 28th August, 9.15pm. For tickets visit www.edfringe.com