Comedian Kate Carlson Carlsen co-hosts the Comedy Garage, a weekly comedy showcase and open mic at Tony V’s Garage in Everett. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Comedian Kate Carlson Carlsen co-hosts the Comedy Garage, a weekly comedy showcase and open mic at Tony V’s Garage in Everett. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Eight easy rules for putting on your own comedy show at home

Comedians Blake Kiltoff and Kate Carlson Carlsen turn their jobs into a game you can play with your kids.

If you love stand-up comedy but hate that you can’t go to a show because you’re quarantined, here’s an idea: Put on your own comedy show.

We asked comedians Blake Kiltoff and Kate Carlson Carlsen, the hosts of Comedy Garage at Tony V’s Garage in Everett, for some tips on how to turn their jobs into a game you can play with your kids.

Kiltoff, 35, of Snohomish, has been a comedian for 11 years. In addition to the show at Tony V’s, he hosts a comedy show at Collector’s Choice Restaurant in Snohomish on third Tuesdays. He has two young daughters.

Carlsen, 45, also from Snohomish, has been performing stand-up for about four years. When she’s not on stage, she is a stay-at-home mom to four foster children — three of whom are in the seventh grade.

“Comedy dried up overnight,” Carlsen said of Washington’s stay-at-home order. “It came to a quick halt, so I’ve been missing that a lot.”

Since they can’t host the comedy open mic at Tony V’s Garage on Hewitt on Monday nights, Kiltoff and Carlsen both liked the idea of performing stand-up at home with their children.

Kiltoff joked that you’ll be grateful your comedy show isn’t at an actual open mic, which can have its disappointments for comedians eager to try out new material: “Open mic comedy at home is, basically, you make your kids wait three hours and pay $5, and then they don’t get a turn.”

Here are Kiltoff and Carlsen’s eight simple rules to put on a comedy show at home:

Have a “microphone.” It doesn’t have to be an actual microphone — it could be a hairbrush — but the mic is an important part of the performance.

Set the stage. Set up some chairs so they’re facing the comedian. If you have an actual soap box, have your comics stand on that, but it’s not required. The “stage” could be a corner of your kitchen or the living room. “You don’t need a curtain, you don’t need a special stage,” Carlsen said. “Most comedians don’t have those things.”

You could also set up the stage with a stool. Most comedy specials you see on Netflix have a stool so the comics can incorporate it into their act if they want. It’s also a great spot to put your drink or your notes, Kiltoff said.

Give time limits. Give each comedian three minutes to tell jokes. Time them when they’re performing so that they don’t go over their allotted time.

Kiltoff and Carlsen light their comics. The light is a cue that lets them know how much time they have left in their set. If you know how to run a flashlight and a timer, you’ve got the job. When it’s been two minutes, flash the light to let them know they need to wrap it up in one minute. When their time is up, flash it again.

“They have to finish on time,” Kiltoff said. “If you go over by a certain amount of time, then they need to get pulled off stage. They’re going to get the hook.”

Designate a host. This rule only applies if you have enough members in your family to play the timer and the host. The host kicks off the show and introduces each comedian as they take the stage.

Determine house rules. Their suggestions include not allowing heckling and to keep jokes clean. We’re thinking, “No, you can’t boo your brother off the stage” or “In this house, ‘stupid’ is a bad word.”

Find jokes you like. This game isn’t about writing your own jokes, it’s about the delivery of those jokes. Look up your favorite jokes online and write down the ones you want to tell. Kiltoff recommends websites like or watching Dad Jokes videos on YouTube to get ideas.

“It’s perfectly fine to tell jokes that you didn’t write,” Kiltoff said. “This is a performance art, not just a writing art. Just tell the audience, ‘Hey these are some jokes I love.’ If you tell it well, that’s what you’re getting the laughs based on.”

But if you want the challenge of writing your own jokes, go for it! No one is stopping you.

Expand your audience. Skype, FaceTime or Zoom with your extended family so they can enjoy your comedy show, too. “Get your kids to entertain the grandparents who are maybe just 15 minutes away, but who are missing their family so much,” Carlsen said. “We all need humor right now.”

It’s not just about jokes. No matter if you have the microphone, the stool, the flashlight, Kiltoff wants us to remember what stand-up comedy is all about. He explained it’s not just about telling jokes, because then it’s just telling jokes — and you can do that around a campfire.

“It’s an opportunity for you to play the court jester,” he said. “If you have the microphone, you have the talking stick, and you’re allowed to say whatever you want. When you’re playing with the kids, it’s not so much about being funny as it is for you to get to say whatever you want.”

If you stream

See Snohomish’s Kate Carlson Carlsen perform stand-up in the Cross Border Live Comedy Show from 8 to 10 p.m. April 10 via Zoom. The virtual show will feature five comedians from the U.S. and Canada: In addition to Carlsen, see American Cavin Eggleston, Canadians Desmond Williams and Cindy Rivers, and American host Mycole Brown. Go to for more information. You’ll get the Zoom link from the Facebook event.

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