Five “Tight Fives” that inspired me to start writing standup

Sure, I was funny before this. But, sometimes you have to see people be great at something before you figure out that you want to be great too! That’s what these Tight Fives gave me.

1. Taylor Tomlinson

I saw this set in the fall of 2017. I was obsessed with standup, and getting into a deep hole of Tight Fives on Youtube.

Taylor’s made me laugh out loud. But, it was also a set that blew me away because of the writing, of course, the relatability, and the skill of getting a laugh every 15 seconds. I related so much to the awkwardness, growing up religious, and the lowkey being a prude. This is why we all love comedy so much: relatability! And Taylor knows how to be both relatable and extremely personal all at once. Boring people will tell you that generalities make something relatable. But, the best comedians know that the opposite is true–specificity of experience leads to relatability! 

She talks about growing up Catholic, and my favorite is, “If God’s not real, then I told the wind… a lot of secrets.” Because same. And as far as hookups go, Taylor’s take is, “In bed, I’m a wild animal– way more afraid of you, than you are of me.” It was one of those moments where I was just so enraptured by the wit and style and wanted to start doing it myself. 


2. Mary Beth Barone


I still really want to emulate Mary Beth. The first line that gets me in this set is, “I used to be Catholic so I’m really into astrology right now.” I’m like, ok @ me.

Mary Beth is one of those comedians that I saw a couple of years ago on my computer and thought God, I wanna do that. I’m obsessed with the way she writes, the wit, the cleverness, how every line seems perfectly crafted, and most importantly– the trust in every line.

To say something and let that statement stand on its own. As someone who just started doing standup (IRL) about a year ago, I have this nervous habit of laughing, stepping on my jokes, and trying to cover them up with mumbles and other words if a joke doesn’t immediately land. I could never picture Mary Beth doing this. Maybe it’s just practice. But it’s a subtle sign of confidence that I aspire to. 

Her set was also my introduction to misdirects. And she is so good at them. This set is chock-full of them. Like this one: “My relationship with my dad fucked me up–because it was super healthy, so I like, trusted men for a long time.”  



3. Mae Martin 


Let me skip to the point: I think this is the perfect Tight Five. Honesty. Every single line is a laugh line.

Tight Fives, to me, are almost like albums. And each joke is a track. Sure, you could have favorite albums that you absolutely love and adore, but some songs you probably love more than others. Right? Right.

Not this one. This one has no skips. Everything hits.

But I still think my favorite is Mae talking about playing ‘Fuck, Marry, Kill’ at a dinner party. And their response is, “Fuck no one, I’m too fragile. Marry everyone. Kill myself.” Chef’s kiss.

I’m sitting in bed right now and literally didn’t even need to look up this set or go to Youtube. There are some lines of standup that I’ve committed to memory and this is one. The obsession runs deep.  I used to randomly quote this set at parties. 

So thank you, Mae. This one made me sit back and think, Wow. I wanna be this good. 


4. Beth Stelling


Beth is someone whose persona and joke style, I immediately admired. Late in college, when I wanted to do standup, but was still too scared, I stumbled upon this set. I just couldn’t believe how confident and cool she was on stage. I would watch her sets and think, how does someone just do that??

In this set, (and all of them, to be honest) Beth just seems so comfortable on stage. Like she knows she belongs there. 

Watching this set again, I laughed and was left wanting to be a better writer. More importantly, a better writer of standup. Anyone can tell jokes, but I was so invested in the creativity, the quick quips on dating potheads and losing weight for a wedding, and most importantly: the everlasting question– “What it’s like to be a woman in comedy.” Beth tackles it all. 

Fave line: “I usually date potheads. I guess you can’t leave if you’re already gone.” 


5. Aparna Nancherla 

I love this set so much. When I think about really good writers, I think of Aparna. Every line feels thought out, important, and makes you laugh. You can’t turn away or you may miss one.

Aparna is the queen of introverted humor. This set is a reminder that a good Tight Five should tell the people a small story about yourself, and that it should all be ~somewhat connected~. Through this set, (with a laugh line every 30 seconds) we learn about her awkwardness, and being a homebody. 

She is really good at talking about the loneliness of New York and making it funny. One of my favorite lines is her talking about finance bros, and trying to describe their conversations by saying, “Money makes my blood move!” It’s too good. And then, of course, she circles back to her introverted ways with the line, “I don’t have fear of missing out, I have fear of missing in.” 

My favorite thing about Aparna is that she is always original, and I never know where a line is going to go. She’s an inspiration to me and my comedy.

Do you have a favorite Tight Five? Or a comedian who inspires you to be a better writer? Tweet and tag @goldcomedy! We’d love to see the jokesters you love.