The performer gets a thrill out of being on stage and delivering his lines so that everyone laughs. The writer may prefer to take time to get those funny lines just right. He may even perform them in his head, but he prefers to stay out of the limelight and watch someone else deliver the lines. So which would you rather do?
The performer needs to be an outgoing person who wants to make people laugh. Some people have this gift naturally. They are the ones who are surrounded by a crowd of friends and are delighted to tell jokes and make their friends laugh. But if you are not like this, don't despair. Sometimes it's the quiet ones who shine onstage. They find that another part of their personality seems to step forward and take over in a way they just don't feel comfortable doing in real life.
A writer of humor is likely to be a person who would just hate to have everyone looking at him on the stage. It would be his worst nightmare. He likes to write when the idea hits and not be confined to a time-slot of five minutes at 9pm or earlier for his delivery. He may or may not love to tell funny jokes to his many (or few) friends, but he does love to write them. He sees humor in every situation - even when the cat throws up on the new clothing on Christmas day.
The performer may not have a single humorous thought - ever. But he may be absolutely brilliant at performing someone else's humorous writing. He has an expressive face or expression that makes people laugh even if he only says one word. Or he may be the master of the straight face. He may be able to deliver his routine without any expression on his face at all and have people rolling in the aisles with laughter. He has that gift that when he walks onstage people start to laugh. He could read out a menu and make it seem funny.
So which one do you want to be? Or perhaps, more to the point, which one are you? The skills for each are sometimes inherent - either you have them or you don't. That's not to say you couldn't learn to be a comedian or a writer, but if you find it hard to see humor in everyday situations, then you might find being a comic writer rather difficult.
How to Test Jokes in Comedy Writing
So you thought up this hilarious joke that was ideal to include in your stand up routine at the open mic night - but it didn't raise a laugh and you were so embarrassed. What could you have done differently?
One main thing to do with material you write yourself is to test it out with a friend. In this way you'll see whether it is really funny, or only funny because of something you know about the situation you wrote up, but haven't put into the joke. If you wrote about something funny that happened to you or someone close to you, it could be the funniest part was the expressions on faces, and that is something that you can't really put into the joke - not unless you act it out.
There could also be something else that makes you think the joke is funny, that cannot be included for some reason. It could be something to do with the environment, lighting or timing, that for some reason, just doesn't come out properly in telling the joke. Perhaps you can rewrite the joke to include this information, or it may be you can't describe it adequately. In either case, you need to take a long, hard look to find out exactly what is the missing ingredient.
Friends will tell you if the joke you have written is truly funny or not. They may be able to point out an error that you can fix and save you from throwing the joke away. Friends are usually not going to try and save your feelings from being hurt. They will be honest and tell you if your joke doesn't work. Anyway, you'll be able to tell yourself, because they won't laugh if it's not funny.
On the other hand, your joke may be funny, but your friend might be in a bad mood, so pick your time for testing out jokes. If something makes you laugh when you write it, chances are that someone else will find it funny too. If your first friend doesn't laugh, try it out on a couple of others. People sometimes have different types of humor and what tickles one won't affect another.
To test a joke out with your friend may save you from a great deal of embarrassment - from bombing out in your routine - and thus help you on your way to becoming a comedian.