Studying the Greats in Comedy

You may have heard me mention before the importance of watching or listening to the greats to develop a thorough understanding of structure, form and style. It’s not only important for those reasons but also for the understanding that by exposing yourself—not in that way—to the varied styles, you will begin to subconsciously—or consciously—adopt some of them. You’ll start with a touch of Louis C.K., sprinkle in a little Lewis Black, maybe add some Chris Rock, and top it all off with some Jon Stewart. Whatever combination you choose, you’ll begin to fashion a brand new style—of your own.

There’s nothing wrong with borrowing from the greats—as long as it’s not borrowing their material! George Carlin once said during a comedy show acceptance speech, that he thanked many of the greats from radio, film and television comedy. He was grateful to all of them because he learned from them and adopted some of their techniques to form his own individual brand of humor.

You might look at this, as you would, a recipe. Whether it’s you or me working from the same recipe, we’re going to add our own unique finishing touches to give it a flavor that is more representative of our individual taste, because our own personality is put into the recipe.

By being aware of different styles, you’ll learn all the ingredients you can use in your own unique comedic recipe.

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