Writing Jokes 1-2-3

Writing Jokes 1-2-3
by Jerry Corley founder of The Stand Up Comedy Clinic

One of the most common concerns I hear from humor writers and comedians is that they have days and sometimes weeks where they “can’t think of anything funny.” I thought to myself that I’m never without something to write or make jokes about. There’s always something there, it seems. So I thought about how my mind comes up with stuff.

I broke it down into steps and I’m going to give you that process right now. I’m calling it “1-2-3 JOKES.”

Start with stuff that is close to you. Look around you, think about your surroundings, situations, behaviors and ask yourself 3 questions:

1. What is new?
2. What has changed?
3. What have I acquired?

What’s new? Every day is a new day. With all the holidays and special occasion days we celebrate in this country and worldwide, almost everyday of every week gives us something to joke about. Did you know March 1st is National Pancake Day? Of course, it is immediately followed by National Maple Syrup Day.

As you ask yourself these questions, don’t leave anything out! Write it all down! Just looking in the mailbox, I’m sure everyone has acquired a cell phone bill, heating bill, water bill, cable bill, etc. You have a new pair of sneakers, let’s talk about them!

Too many comedians and humor writers stop too soon. They think, “there’s nothing funny there. They don’t take the time to write out everything about their sneakers and use their imagination to develop material. Every comedian and humor writer should be able to take any logical grouping of words and make it funny. But it takes dedication and work.

Okay, let’s get back to 1-2-3 JOKES.

Let’s look at a situation that happened to me recently. I asked “What have I acquired?” I just got a new video poker app for my Smartphone.

So now we have a premise: Video Poker App. How do we even start writing a joke for it?
Most jokes are a convergence of two or more clearly defined ideas. So let’s go to work.

Let’s utilize the oldest tool known to writers and investigators. It’s the Maxim of the 5 W’s. Let’s ask:
Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?

Okay so it’s 5 W’s and an “H.” No investigation is considered complete unless all of those questions have been answered. So if we go back to the Video Poker App premise and ask those questions we might come up with something like:

Who plays the video poker app? Me
What is it? Video Poker or What happens when I play? I can upset my wife sometimes.
Where do I play? I play at the airport, in line at the bank, on a plane, in the bathroom…
Why do I play? To have some mental downtime, to get away from work. To have something to occupy me while I’m in the bathroom.
When? Whenever I have nothing else to do.
How? On my phone, by myself, with my thumbs.

With this information we have all we need to develop material for the premise “video poker app.” If you’ve read my blog or have taken my classes you know the science of why people laugh. Two prime reasons (especially with regard to commercially acceptable humor), are surprise and embarrassment. So let’s ask ourselves how we can utilize a set up line that might present surprise or embarrassment. The first thing that comes to me is “bathroom.”

So, if I look at the entirety of the material I’ve collected I can put together a set up line that might go something like this:

I just got a new video poker app for my Droid. I love playing it in the bathroom.

Now we have two or more clearly defined ideas: Video-poker App and bathroom. If we were to use the listing technique that I teach in my seminars we could easily come up with phrases that we could easily combine to make a joke. The first one I came up with was:

I just got a new video poker app for my Droid. I love playing it in the bathroom.
My wife’s feelings are mixed on that. She says she loves the fact that I found a new way to play with myself, but she gets a little irritated when I’m on the toilet and she hears me yell, “Full House!”

If we really took the time and flushed out all the possible plays we have with those two ideas, we could come up with an easy 10, 20 or 30 jokes on just the video-poker app premise, alone 20-30 jokes!

And just think we started the day thinking, “I can’t think of anything funny…”

Jerry Corley is a professional comedian with over 25 years of experience and a former writer for Jay Leno and The Tonight Show. He teaches a comedy writing and performance at the Stand Up Comedy Clinic. Visit http://www.standupcomedyclinic.com

Comedy Clinic Advanced Class at The Comedy Store Tonight

Comedy Store Tonight at 8pm in the Belly Room Stand Up Comedy Clinic’s Advanced class will be performing thier 5-7 minute sets. They’ve worked the past 8 weeks writing and honing, adding new material, testing and re-writing so they are ready for tonight. Come down and see the quality material these guys and gals put together.

It’s a great lineup with personalities that test the age-range threshold of comedy. We have 12-year-old, Justin Tinucci and our sassy senior Esther Hersh. I don’t know exactly how old she is, but she was there for the moon landing…and by that, I mean when it landed in the Earth’s orbit!

The show is always quality. The comments we receive back from industry support that statement too. So come by and check it out. We also have a couple of other special guests dropping in. In our last showcase, Sarah Silverman dropped by to do a set and Vargus Mason is usually there to light up the stage with his always funny and entertaining comedy.

Here are some comments we received from various personalities:
“These things are usually an embarassment, but this was really entertaining…”
“These are students? I can barely tell the difference between them and the regulars…!” (name withheld…former Manager of the Comedy Store)
“I can’t believe I’m dying in Santa Monica…!”  – George Carlin

So come down and check it out. If you’ve been interested in attending one of our classes or workshops, this is an excellent opportunity to see how it all culminates into an legitimate comedy act and you’ll understand why my students get work.

Here’s the lowdown:
WHERE: COMEDY STORE (BELLY ROOM) - 8433 SUNSET BLVD. HOLLYWOOD, CA
WHEN: TONIGHT 8PM , WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30TH, 2011
PRICE: $10 AT THE DOOR (with a 2-drink min.)

STAND UP COMEDY CLINIC STUDENT WINS FUNNIEST COMIC IN L.A. CONTEST!

Funniest Comic in L.A.I am proud to announce that JC Morgan, who started comedy 18 months ago at the Stand Up Comedy Clinic has just won The Funniest Comic in L.A. (Under 2 years  category)!

It’s proof that the techniques taught by Jerry Corley in the clinic, work. JC is one of those students who studies hard, writes hard and works hard. His hard work and dedication to writing and getting up on stage as often as possible, paid off!  He still attends classes when he can and still writes like nobody’s business. He tore it up at Jon Lovitz’s club in Universal City, CA.

In Our classes and seminars we teach structure. That’s the key to laughter. Learning how to map our your routines so that you can utilize the techniques and formulas that trigger human laughter. Once you learn the techniques you can consistently write material that you know will get laughs. These are the same techniques that are used by all the greats.
 
The Stand Up Comedy Clinic will be hosting a Weekend Comedy Seminar in Las Vegas on April 9th & 10. It’s a 16 hour seminar packed with information; the same information that helped JC Morgan earn the title: FUNNIEST COMIC IN L.A.

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.

Comedy Clinic Student Books a Week in Ohio

Jason London at the Comedy Store

Jason London at the Comedy Store

It’s always a pleasure to share in the success my students. That’s what I’m going to blog about today. One of my students, Jason London, went out to Toledo, Ohio to visit his girlfriend’s family. If that wasn’t courageous enough, he called the Funny Bone in Toledo to ask for a guest spot. And in taking my suggestion, he told the manager of the Funny Bone that he plays regularly at the Comedy Store. They loved the idea of having a comedian who plays at the world famous Comedy Store, so they gave him an audition booking. He went out there and did his thing putting on a show that was so good, the booker booked him at the club for a week!

That’s a very impressive start for someone who’s only been doing stand up for 24 weeks. He’s already getting paid bookings in an A-Club in the midwest. this is big news for any comic. How did it happen? Well, first of all Jason works hard at writing his material. Despite having a job that keeps him busy, sometimes for 12 hour days, he musters up the energy to write his material. Then he comes to class religiously at the Stand Up Comedy Clinic and gets notes on his routines and incorporates them. He makes sure his material has structure because it’s the structure that get the laughs.

And without belaboring the point, let me just say Congratulations to Jason London for booking his first week-long gig at an A-Club! Let’s keep this up and get more bookings!