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The Evolution of Stand Up Comedy-Time for a History Lesson!

A brief timeline of how stand-up comedy evolved through time.


“I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line

is drawn and cross it deliberately.”-George Carlin


Stand-up comedy can be traced back to as early as the 1800s. (In American Minstrel shows).

Though it was not popularized until the mid 1970s.


Minstrel shows consisted mainly of musical theater performances, although some did include comics.

The (comic) performer would stand center stage, while the interlocutor would tell jokes/ask humorous questions while the end-men would then tell the punch line.

These shows were popular before, during and well after the Civil War during the abolishment of slavery.


However, as vaudeville kicked in in the 19th century, stand-up’s popularity began to fade.

Will Rogers was one of the more popular stand-up comics during the time of vaudeville.


During times of war (especially WWII) comedic performers would perform their art by way of radio, since it “brought Americans together” during such harsh times.


In the 1950s “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show” paved the way for more comedy shows and stand-up comics in the oncoming decades.

From the 1970s for the following four decades, the rise and fall of comedy would drastically change due to public appeal and historical events.

The 70s were really when the actual birth of stand-up took place, considering a new generation up comedians were born, including the “invention” of the comedy club.



In the 1980s, stand-up could be found most anywhere, from TV shows, to clubs, to stand-up comics.


During the 90s, however, stand-up had a slight downfall. But only to bounce back into the scene in the 2000s.
Through the 2000s to present day stand-up continued to flourish.


It not only was performed on television and in comedy clubs, but became a pastime for amateurs, becoming an actual activity at colleges, community centers and the like.


These days were are surrounded by stand-up comedy and stand-up comics.

And although more and more stand-up comedians are leaving stand-up for more scripted professions like TV shows and  movies,  the art is still booming with popularity.

Actors like Mindy Kaling of The Office (who now has her own show, ‘The Mindy Project’) started out doing stand-up.

And practicing stand-up in preparation for a scripted role can actually help your overall performance.

–Since you’re speaking directly to the audience you can build confidence and find out how the audience reacts to certain aspects of your performance. Which will eventually help you when you’re acting with other actors.


Overall, being a stand-up comic is never a bad idea!






My own mental library of knowledge


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