I’ve never blanked on a joke but I’ve worried that I would before getting on stage, to the point that I start forgetting parts of jokes while backstage, but thats only before big shows. Once I’m on stage it comes back.
Personally, I use one word for each joke worked into a sentence. For instance, (these aren’t real jokes, just made-up examples): If I’m doing 5 minutes that night and my set list looks like this:
Green Bay Packers
My memorization tool would be (I write it down and capitalize the taglines that help me remember jokes):
I was sitting on my WHITE COUCH with my GAY DINOSAUR friend, watching a GREEN BAY PACKERS game on my 4D TELEVISION
The tactic will probably make you laugh, but I’ve memorized 20 minute sets in three sentences. Its an easy tool once you’re on stage.
This is harsh but its something you’ll have to learn:
As far as the semantics of your jokes go, you need to know your jokes. If you don’t, either take a break or go for smaller crowds til you’re ready.
No matter how bad a set is going, you have to do your time. I’ve watched bad comics do 40 minutes because they were paid to do so, and I recently saw a normally-awesome comic storm off stage after 20 minutes for what was supposed to be a 60 minute set.
Don’t accept opportunities you’re not ready for. Its much better to say to a promoter/club owner “maybe next month” than it is to bomb and mess with your reputation.