You may be the funny person at work, but being a professional stand-up comedian is more than just making people laugh. Sure, you have to be funny, but you also have to be tenacious about making it in comedy. It can take years to hit the big time. The following tips will get you started on a successful career as a stand-up comedian.

• Watch and Learn – Watch great comedians and learn from them. Study their personalities, comedic timing, delivery style, what makes them funny, and how they handle hecklers and jokes that bomb. Do not copy them. Use what you learn to come up with what works for your stand-up as a comedian.

• Take Classes – Comedy classes and workshops will get you up in front of an audience, sharpening your jokes and delivery skills. Classes will also help your writing and joke structuring techniques. Many good comedy workshops provide performing opportunities for students. Improvisation classes help with handling hecklers and coming up with funny lines spontaneously while doing your stand-up comedy.

• Write – Keep a notebook or recorder with you at all times so you can record every humorous thought. Write or record everything, even if you think the idea may not lead to a good joke. Weed out the great ideas and put them together into an stand-up comedy routine. Consider sticking with what you know when coming up with your act. Adding new material is easier when your comedy act it is about what you know.

• Practice – Videotape your comedy routine and watch the video to refine it. Practice your timing and delivery on your friends, family, and anyone else willing to listen. Perform for people known for their lack of a sense of humor. If you can make them laugh, you are on the right track. Switch out jokes until your comedy routine is consistently funny. Encourage friends and family to heckle you to practice handling hecklers.

• Open Mic and Bringer Nights – When you feel ready, it is time to hit the open mic nights at local bars, clubs, and restaurants. Have a friend or family member videotape your performance so you can see what worked and what did not. Many comedy clubs also feature “bringer” nights. Comedians earn a performing spot on bringer nights by bringing the required number of paying customers. Participate in open mic and bringer nights until your act sparkles and people are actually showing up just to see you. Start an e-mail list so you can e-mail upcoming performances to your new fans.

• Congratulations! You Are a Stand-Up Comedian – It can take a long time, but once you feel comfortable with your comedy routine and performing skills, you should start pursuing regular gigs as a stand-up comedian at comedy clubs, corporate and convention shows, cruise ships, and more. You should not pursue a stand-up comedy career just for the money, but when you start getting booked instead of just showing up hoping to perform at an open mic night, it is time to start being paid.

Do not expect being a great stand-up comedian to happen overnight. Be original. Do not imitate other stand-up comedians. Recover from bad shows quickly. They happen. Do not let hecklers get the best of you. Never respond to hecklers with anger. Heckle them back and shut them down with humor. Take your time in the early stages of your career. Time your leap to fame and you will have the stand-up career of your dreams.