Got an email from someone and I thought it would be best addressed in my comedy-blog. Read on:
"I have a question which has been messing with me when writing my premise or setup. i find myself trying to produce material before wednesday which are the best nights in florida for open mics. my issue is not coming up with an idea its just getting it across so before i saw your blogs i went and got a book on comedy " The Comedy Bible" which states when writing your premise you need to have a topic + attitude which i understand that concept but it also states that when starting out a joke or building the premise you never want to use I or me. i saw your blog for the 1-2-3-joke about your poker app and in your premise you start off with I. i just want to know is that a myth as well? should i throw away that idea of when writing my premise not to include I or me?"
Great question! First of all, let me get this straight: there are rarely definitives in life like "never" and "always."
Maybe some exceptions could be
- "Never perform fire eating tricks after drinking One-Fifty-One."
- "Never joke about bombs in the security line at the airport and expect to board your flight," or
- "Never use the "N-word" as a white comedian while performing at a fund-raising benefit for Malcom X."
Those might be a few things that could fit in the "never" category. But when it comes to comedy theory there are few "nevers."
I’ve never heard the rule "never use ‘I’ or ‘me’," however. And I’m glad I haven’t because I do it all the time. My comedy is about my life and it would be hard to discuss my life without using those pronouns. There are no rules to that effect as far as I’m concerned.
In fact, if you watch Louis C.K., he talks about ‘I’ and ‘me’ quite often. Same with Lewis Black, John Stewart, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby… the list goes on.
I don’t know what Judy Carter was thinking or maybe she meant something different. But remember she named the book The Comedy Bible. It was named after a book that is so filled with distortions, contradictions and falsehoods, even the churches pick and choose what parts of it to believe!
The two things that I think are valuable in that book is that humor should come from an emotional foundation and it’s nice to have a comedy buddy.
In the end think about this: Tom Dreesen, one of the most successful comedians of his time said that comedy is 90 percent surprise. If your material has surprise, incongruity, recognition or benign retaliation, odds are it has the elements to get a laugh.
Finally, in the end, whether or not the joke contains ‘I’ or ‘me’ if the audience laughs, it’s a keeper.