From balancing the drama inherent in comedy to understanding wacky, slightly awkward characters, tackling comedic monologues can be one of the most difficult tasks a student undertakes. The first step to nailing comedy is finding good material. This can be challenging as students often fall into the trap of choosing generic monologues without depth or focusing on surface-level gags. It’s important to remember that monologues should be active instead of passive and be age-appropriate and relatable. It’s OK to piece together several small speeches to make a monologue cutting as well.
I’ve spent decades reading plays and helping young actors choose material. Here are seven comedic monologues I’ve chosen for teens to look at.
“A Midsummer Night in the OC” by D. Tupper McKnight
A modern interpretation of the jealous maiden, Helena’s monologue here oozes with teen insecurity and angst. Beneath the entertaining one-liners about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and middle school, we can see her insecurities peeping through as she tries to convince Demetrius, an equally awkward boy, to return her affection. It has all the humor of Shakespeare’s original play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” mixed with modern references that teens are sure to connect to.
“Serendipity and Serenity” by Jonathan Marc Sherman
Jonathan Marc Sherman wrote several plays for the Young Playwrights Festival in his youth, so you can rest assured he knows how teenagers think. That understanding comes through in every line of dialogue. His dark humor is tinged with adolescent fear without being overly melodramatic. You may be familiar with his play “Women in Wallace,” which itself has a great monologue. But he’s also written more obscure plays full of the authenticity that is essential to character-based comedy. I’ve seen Lionel’s monologue from this play, which takes place in a bathroom, performed by both boys and girls and it’s always a winner.
“All This Intimacy” by Rajiv Joseph
The title says it all. The character Jen’s hilarious attempts to wring some emotion out of her boyfriend are foiled by her own ineptitude in her monologue here. While we laugh at her seriousness as she spars with the laryngitis-stricken boy, we can also appreciate her genuine attempts to understand her place in the world, a connection that endears us to her beyond the surface-level humor.
“Dags” by Debra Oswald
This piece really does call out the oxymoron of adolescence. Teen girls will relate with not fitting in, attempts to be popular, and waking up with pimples which will ruin your day. Told through the eyes of a girl with her head in a bag, the monologue really just gives teens an opportunity to let loose about the stress of adolescence. It dials up the melodrama, angst, and confusion, making it easy to connect with it and really have fun. Written by an Australian writer, some of the words can be changed to Americanize it.
“Everything Will Be Different” by Mark Schultz
The confusion of this character is both hilarious and endearing as he tries to convince Charlotte, a girl who doesn’t know him particularly well, that they should “be like boyfriend and girlfriend or something.” After he stumbles through history’s most awkward pick-up monologue, the audience will be rolling at his final, darkly random apology over the death of Charlotte’s mother.
“From Up Here” by Liz Flahive
This piece is a more mature version of “Everything Will Be Different.” It has all of the awkward, stumbling romance that Schultz writes, but the character Charlie is slightly older and more in control of what he says. It’s a dynamic monologue, with beats of contemplation juxtaposed with Charlie’s anxious ramblings. It is an easy monologue for lovesick teenage boys to understand.
“I Ought To Be in Pictures” By Neil Simon
Is there anything more awkward than a girl and her dad having “the talk”? Not when Libby is in charge. Although Libby doesn’t have one long speech you can splice together some of Simon’s witty dialogue. This cutting is more of a dramatic comedy as Libby transitions from her initial nervous ramblings about her crush into the pain she feels over her strained relationship with her mother, and the lyricism is impressive throughout. The subject matter is more mature, so I’d recommend it for an older teen, but Libby’s sporadic changes in tone make this an impressive monologue for anyone who likes a multi-layered character to explore.
When looking for a great monologue to perform, read this past article of mine to understand how to choose a compelling piece. While searching for your next comedic piece you are sure to have fun exploring different playwrights and styles of writing to see what speaks to you.
*This post was originally published on Jan. 21, 2020. It has since been updated.
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