I'm about a year out from getting my college degree, and I want to take the six months to a year following that day to busk across the nation.
My plan was to perform some stand-up comedy. I've been writing jokes for a couple of years, and have had three performance opportunities (two open mics and a five-minute set at my college talent show), so I know some of the material I have works. Has anyone done comedy busking? How has it worked out? Any tips?
I was thinking of putting up a sign saying that I would have a 5-10 comedy set every half-hour or so, and fill in the rest of the time with music (I'll be graduating with a degree in music and am an accomplished singer and guitarist). I've busked before solely on music and made a considerable chunk of change, so I know the music for sure is no problem.
I would imagine comedy busking would be very difficult, unless you have very short, Mitch Hedberg/Simon Wright style jokes. You're basically a guy there just talking, which people find very easy to ignore and probably will think you're selling something. Also, people typically don't stand around to watch buskers unless there's some type of show (dancing, fire arts, etc). It will be very hard to draw a crowd no matter how funny you are.
I would suggest combining the two. If you don't write funny songs, try working short bits in between songs while you strum something simple. The music will grab attention and hopefully hold them for the punchline.
Ideas while reading your post:
It could be in the evening,with light,unusual closths,and sing with text will help for sure.
Small carpet,so it could look like scene,...something like that...
Hey man, I'm a comedian based in Melbourne, Australia and I've been kind of grappling with the idea of comedy busking as well. Not so much as a means of making money, but as a tool for promoting myself and an open mic room which I hope to start up in the first half of next year.
I've been doing comedy since February this year and have done around 40 gigs, so I have about five-ten minutes of solid material, and I've considered the whole idea of standing in the street or in a pedestrian mall and doing comedy quite a lot. It seems to me that if I'm doing ONLY comedy (I only play piano so musical busking is a bit out of the question for me... devo) then just standing there and telling jokes isn't really going to cut it. As Mack said, a person standing in the street and talking is very easy to ignore and, as such, a comedy busker would need to be much more aggressive in getting, and maintaining and audience. This is why I've started doing something I have tentatively named street comedy. I don't know if you guys have read The Game by Neil Strauss, but it's about picking up women, and many of the rules they use for approaching girls in that book are applicable to street comedy - one I'm thinking of frequently is the three second rule, which states that as soon as you see a group you want to approach (in their case, with a girl you fancy, in ours, an audience for comedy) if you wait longer than three seconds before moving in, then you've hesitated too long. This rule allows you to ignore creeping doubts and hesitations and makes it impossible for excuses to start rolling through your mind for why you couldn't do it 'this time'.
Street comedy is brutal, and it's fucking terrifying, but I think this is the only way that a comedian can feasibly hope to build an audience in a public situation. The atmosphere and context of a comedy night at a bar or a club is such that it can dilute failure and take away the danger of bombing that should be a constant fear in the mind of a comedian, street comedy revives that danger. If you want to busk as a comedian, then I suggest going out into the street or your local mall and trying this to groups of two, three or four and seeing how you go. let me know man.