Science Riot
For Scientists Resources

Elsa Waithe’s “How to Write a 5-Minute Comedy Set” tutorial

My first time on a comedy stage, I just got on stage and started talking.


I jumped from one topic to the next and back again like a kindergartener on a sugar high. One joke led into the next with no rhyme or reason. I was so all over the place that I forgot to do a bunch of the jokes I actually had written. (Ever listen to someone start to tell a long-winded story and realize 60 seconds in you’re not interested? That’s what minutes feels like to the audience if you aren’t prepared.)

I did get some laughs THANK YOOOUUU, but inside my head? Mostly screaming.

That’s how I learned the importance of preparation—and specifically, of writing not just a random string of jokes, but an actual SET, with a beginning, middle, and end. In other words, an outline. Think of your set outline as the track list of your favorite album.


Here’s how: