The most common definition for a hack comic is a comedian that is not funny. While this is true, in a sense, it doesn’t really look into why the comedian is unfunny in the first place. There are a number of reasons why a comic can be considered a hack.
They Don’t Have Punch Lines
It’s just not comedy without laughs, unless you live in the Bizarro world. Now, it’s possible the comic is a beginner, but if they’ve been at it for a long time and stubbornly keep plugging away without changing anything about their act, then they are a hack.
Their Jokes Aren’t Original
This could be a comedian that steals material from other comics or a comic that just keeps on beating and beating a subject that is a horse so dead its bones are petrifying. If you must tell a joke about a subject that has been done a thousand times, make sure to make it personal so your jokes are original.
Their Jokes Have no Personality
Writing is essential to a comedian. A good joke, though, will be told in your voice even if it is written down. Jokes that start with something like “what do you call a” usually are hack…usually. They are the kind of jokes that anyone could write.
They Don’t Try to Improve
These are comics that just plug away despite the you-need-to-work-on-your-act coughs night after night. They may feel the audience should be entertained by them instead of realizing their job is to entertain the audience. In other words, it isn’t a given.
Now, if you’ve done a few of these things before (minus the stealing of jokes) that doesn’t mean you’re a hack. I know I’ve done a few of the things on this list before, but a hack is someone that does most if not all of the items–to the extreme.