The Edge told Rolling Stone that Jimmy Page and Jack White's penchant for blues-based rock influenced his guitar playing for this song, after he hang out with them for the documentary It Might Get Loud. The U2 guitarist explained: "I was just fascinated with seeing how Jimmy played those riffs so simply, and with Jack as well."
The Edge told Q magazine February 2009: "If you're gonna do a big guitar song I think you have to push it all the way, and that's where we ended up with that one. It started out with this very Moroccan-influenced rhythmic thing. And it's very interesting that it's gone from North Africa to rock 'n' roll- and in that process you really see how connected they are, the music of Africa and the United States. It's all there."
The song's title was inspired by the Stand Up and Take Action Against Poverty movement.
In this song there's a line about "small men with big ideas." Bono admitted to Q magazine that he was referring to himself in that lyric. He expanded on the line in an interview with The Observer Music Monthly February 2009: "It's saying, stand up to Rock Stars. That's about choosing your enemies, too. What are you gonna stand up for and what are you gonna stand up against? I love the notion of standing up to Rock Stars. Because they are a bunch of f---ing megalomaniacs [laughs]. If you don't laugh at the end of that line, there's no hope. When I wrote it, I burst out laughing."
This song originated in sessions in Fez, Morocco and wasn't completed for another 18 months. The band's perfectionism sometimes annoyed producer Brian Eno. He told The Observer Music Monthly: "It can be frustrating at times when they sometimes take a song and work it into the ground, then work it back to life again. That's what happened with 'Stand Up Comedy.' I was thinking the other day that Edge has probably heard that song more times than even the most dedicated U2 fan ever will."
Bono also explained to The Observer Music Monthly, the lyric: "The right to be ridiculous is something I hold dear." Said the frontman: "That's me, That's not an in-character song. I mean it in the literal sense [laughs]. It's actually very important. One of the things I think we've been good at is not letting people put us in any kind of pious light. That happened to us for a while in the 80s and we never want to go back there. I'm always shocked that people are so shocked when they discover the silliness that is an everyday occurrence with U2. It's the final blow to people who can't stand us. That we seem to be having a better time than everyone else as well. It's like, it's not enough not to have broken up, to have made some hopefully inspiring music over the years, but also to be having a lot of fun. The mischief is part of our story and it isn't represented or read about. That's one of the reasons that people do a double take when they see me staggering out of a pub in Dublin at 4am. It can't be Bono, can it? Nah."
Co-producer Daniel Lanois explained to The National Post why the earlier version of this song was ditched: "In the end it felt crafted - more craft than soul. And we like to make soul music. So we moved off the earlier versions and settled on that one."