So you wake up early today. Maybe you go for a run, maybe you walk the dog, maybe, like me, you’re up early because you have a toddler in the house who wakes you up, because they don’t know that you’ve been up the night before trying to write.
But you feel like today is a good day.
It’s so good in fact, that today you’re going to get some good comedy writing done. You’re going to spend today writing some funny!
So you grab your coffee and you sit at your computer and you…
Look at CNN.
Look at E.S.P.N.
Check the Huff Post.
You look in the Top Stories, The sports section, the entertainment section for something that pops out at you that is funny weird, whacky or quirky.
You spend so much time trying to find inspiration to write some thing that could be funny that you don’t wind up being able to write funny at all.
In fact, you write nothing.
Hovering over you is this big amorphous goo labeled “funny” and you can’t seem to make heads or tails of it. (Does goo even have a head or tail?).
Mistake #1: You sat down to write something funny.
Mistake #2: You looked for things that are already funny, quirky or weird in stories, news or events.
Mistake #3: You forgot to start with anything that affects you inspires you or pisses you off.
One of the best lessons I ever learned in comedy, I learned from George Carlin. He changed the way I looked at comedy. He said, “Take the stuff that drives you crazy… the stuff that makes you mad… the stuff that makes you want to call ‘bullshit,’ put it all down on paper… then MAKE IT FUNNY!
Take events, situations—whether they be political, sociological or interpersonal—and if they trigger you to call bullshit, get pissed off, angry, upset, confused and write them down; facts and all.
Don’t think about being funny, think about telling the audience what you think is wrong with the idea. How you would fix it. What dumb things have been said about it by dumb people.
Remember the Maxim of the five W’s: Who, What, Where, Why and How. (and Who cares, if you want to take your audience into consideration).
Just write down the facts like a rant.
Then you can go back and plug in the funny using the 12 Major comedy structures and 8 Major psychological elements that trigger human laughter.
I looked at the news, saw that Proposition 8 is trending and read a story on it.
Some parts of the story bothered me so I looked into it and wrote down the facts, wrote down how it affected me. Then I talked it out loud, revisited it and plugged some more funny into it.
Wash, rinse repeat.
Rarely is anything ever ready after the first draft. Most comedy—certainly most stand up—takes rewrites, tests before an audience, then another couple of rewrites.
But if you get the ideas down on the page first, you’re already half-way there. Now you just need to plug in funny.
After a few drafts and some testing this is four minutes or so, of an hour that I did at a fund raiser in front of a predominantly conservative crowd… remember the bit started out with something that pissed me off.