Wanna learn what makes Daniel Tosh tick? Some people just think he’s an arrogant A-hole. But there’s more to Tosh than meets the eye.
Take a look at this deconstruction of an 8-minute segment of Tosh’s special “Happy Thoughts” and learn exactly the tools Tosh uses to get laughs.
Some Background on Tosh
Happy Thoughts was released in 2011 and was Daniel Toshâ€™s second big comedy special after his acclaimed debut stand-up special, ‘Completely Serious.’
Prior to this, Tosh was already hosting and executive producing Tosh 2.0 for Comedy Central. He already had a huge fan base thatÂ knows his character and what he does as a comedian; he presents you with a slice of life from a cynicâ€™s double-edged switch blade.
Tosh was born in Germany and raised in Florida as the son of a preacher, which may explain his notorious cynicism toward life. I know if I was raised as a preacherâ€™s kid, I would think the world was full of crap too.
So as we deconstruct a little Tosh here, (about 8 minutes), understand that most of the audience already ‘gets’ him and his point of view and if you donâ€™t, itâ€™s basically through the eyes of a bit of a clever, nerdy, skeptic.
I say, nerdy because the Tosh went to Astronaut High Schoolâ€¦ and yes, he did graduate.
He couldâ€™ve been named â€œMost likely to have a countdown,â€ because on his website, he actually had a clock counting down to his thirty-eighth birthday. It was then where he said that if he wasnâ€™t a success, he would retire from comedy and kill himselfâ€¦ or move to the beach.
When the clock finally counted down his fans sent emails telling him he was a success.
He now lives at the beach.
HowÂ Tosh Gets Laughs
Watch how Tosh uses all the comedy structures and taps into all the laughter triggers we discuss and have made our mantra at the Comedy Clinic.
So watch the video then come back and see line-by-line, how Tosh triggers the laugh each and every time. Thereâ€™s almost no mystery to how or why he gets laughs.
One absolute take-away I got from this video is that Tosh is NOTÂ just an â€œattackâ€ comedian. Tosh continuously uses self-deprecation to remind the audience that he doesnâ€™t take himself that seriously. Count how many ways he uses it.
Youâ€™ll learn a lot about diversifying your own self-deprecation and how many different ways you can write it.
Itâ€™s all in the structure. Here we go…
TOSH: San Francisco..
TOSH: Alright youâ€™re ruining the show.
TOSH: Thank you for clapping for what my parents are ashamed of.
TOSH: San Francisco. Yes.
TOSH: My third favorite city to do comedy in.
(LAUGHS). Surprise. Unexpected. Ambivalence. Most comedians give praise. He tells them pretty much that they weren’t good enough for first. Think about it this way:
When someone gives praise, weâ€™re so used to hearing them say something like, â€œyouâ€™re the best.â€ Instead he gives them a solid and specific ranking of â€˜third.â€™ (Unexpected). And because of the tension of the live audience, it heightens the moment.
Itâ€™s almost like if a guy and girl are in bed and he he says, â€œIf we were in school what kind of grade would you give my dick?â€ Girlâ€™s like, â€œC-minus.â€ That would be a funny situation.
You would expect in a heightened moment like that the girl would absolutely give her lover an A but she not only surprises us with less than that, she actually gets really specific with the â€˜minus.â€™
TOSH: Thatâ€™s not bad right? Top ten. Congratulations.
Tags to the previous line. The audience is laughing at the quirky incongruity that heâ€™s congratulating them on placing third.
TOSH: More butt-fucking per square footâ€¦ (LAUGHS) than anywhere else in the world.
There are many times when you hear a skilled comedian say something that elicits a groan, or makes the audience pull back, but instead of dropping it, the comedian will repeat it and repeat it again. What he is using is the the ambivalence laughter trigger at its essence.
It’s like he’s saying, I will say it over and over letting you know that I know itâ€™s inappropriate, but Iâ€™m saying it anywayâ€¦ that totally pulls the ambivalence trigger and that also creates surprise. Itâ€™s also part of Toshâ€™s rules-donâ€™t-apply-to-me character.
TOSH: Thatâ€™s you guys, thatâ€™s you.
Talking right at them, creates tension and release and also embarrassment, again, because of the outlandish accusation.
That takes balls people.
But heâ€™s not done yet. He carries it further when he then uses incongruity and association in his next jokeâ€¦
TOSH: Put that on your post cards. (LAUGHS) â€œSan Franciscoâ€¦ more butt-fucking per square footâ€¦ miss you.â€ Tosh adds the â€œmiss youâ€ line as part of the the recognizable piece of the post card tag.
Recognition is powerful. How many of you saw the image of the postcard; especially when Tosh said â€œMiss You?â€
Tosh now transitions, by using some self-deprecationâ€¦
TOSH: Now, if youâ€™ve not seen me perform before, I am NOT good liveâ€¦ heads up.
Perfect time to knock himself down a peg after picking on San Francisco. And notice the tag ‘heads up…’ It might seem innocuous, but it’s well-planted to get another tickle from the audience to keep them rolling.
Everyone should consider reviewing their core act and really studying where one might put some extra tags and toppers that ‘color’ their jokes. Not only do tags and toppers addÂ more laugh points, but they serve the purpose of making the jokes sound more conversational.
This is one of the key reasons people don’t think Tosh does ‘jokes.’ Â Reading this break-down you can clearly see that he does. He’s just terrific at finessing the material!
Quick side note: the San Francisco-Butt-Fucking premise is nothing original. But he does approach it in an interesting way.
TOSH: If I offend anybody tonight, I apologize. Thatâ€™s not my intention. Iâ€™m not going to guess what your personal line of decency is, I cross my own from time to timeâ€¦ itâ€™s how I know I still have one. (LAUGHS)
Itâ€™s simple truth and also a little bit of self-deprecation, in that he implies that he has to check to see if he has a line of decency. (and thatâ€™s funny!) And itâ€™s a terrific way to ease into his next joke which is an attack joke. But not directly, as he finesses into it by sayingâ€¦
TOSH: I have no problem with illegal immigration in this country… except for the fact that they donâ€™t serve on jury duty.
I love this line because it is so unexpected, right? Who wouldâ€™ve thought to use illegal immigrants on jury duty?Â Brilliant!Â But that just warms up the audience for his next lineâ€¦
TOSH: Thatâ€™s horse shit! It should be the other way around, they should serve exclusively on jury dutyâ€¦ yeah!
This elicits laughter and a solid applause break, first because the incongruity (we donâ€™t usually think of illegal immigrants on jury duty and secondly the audience applauds because itâ€™s a social situation that creates a lot of tension and he found a way to utilize illegal immigrants to solveÂ what is considered a hassle for most people (jury duty), imposed on us by the ‘Man.’
So thereâ€™s benign retaliation and paradox present because we utilize whatâ€™s considered a social problem to take care of another social problem. Benign retaliation is like the perfect joke structure because it has an antagonist and a protagonist.
Tosh finds a way to have the antagonist (illegal immigrants) used to go after the other antagonist (government mandated jury duty). Clever & Paradoxical.
Paradox is one of those structures that doesn’t always reach the level of comedic irony. But it is an impressive tool that can take your writing to the next level.
But that only sets the audience up for the double edge of the jokeâ€¦
TOSH: Then it finally would be a jury of oneâ€™s own peersâ€¦ (ouch)
Laughter, applause, groansâ€¦ (And notice how he letâ€™s them have their moment), because he stepped over the â€œline.â€ But being Tosh, he doesnâ€™t pull back he presses the subject furtherâ€¦
TOSH: Itâ€™s not a stereotype if itâ€™s always true. (Simple Truth. His simple truth, but we get it).
This goads the audience in typical Tosh fashion;Â not apologizing for the overreaching statement, which through his character, is what makes it funny.
On top of that, notice he said, “always true.” That surreptitiously takes this joke to a level of absurdity, so that if you’re listening closely, you can tell he’s clowning and not serious. You can get away with this level of absurdity when you’re using the ambivalence laughter trigger as well as benign retaliation.
It gets the audience laughing at the fact that they shouldnâ€™t be laughingâ€¦ then he pushes again.
TOSH: Yeah, then it becomes law.
Then he pushes yet again, but then teases the audience.
TOSH: That joke is called, â€œLatinos are Criminals.â€ (They laugh-groan), Thatâ€™s just the title, it doesnâ€™t mean anything. (Using simple truth to call them out on their judgement of the material).
This one of my favorite things Tosh does. He says â€œLatinos are Criminalsâ€ with his tongue planted deeply in his cheek and when the audience still groans, he remains playful and calls them out by saying, â€œThatâ€™s just the titleâ€¦â€ Itâ€™s his way of continuously reminding the audience that they just might be overreacting.
After another hard-hitting bit of material, Tosh then does some more self-deprecation; this time by using his girlfriend. The girlfriend in this case is sort of used in a quasi benign-retaliation scenario. He also uses compare and contrast to build it more into a joke formatâ€¦
TOSH: Sometimes before I walk on stage my girlfriend might say, â€œHave a great show. Break a leg.â€ This is what she said to me a few weeks ago, right before I walked on stage, she said, â€œHey, you ever worry about gettinâ€™ shot when youâ€™re out there?â€
Iâ€™m like, â€˜what the hell is wrong with you?â€™
She followed it with, â€œYou should move around more.â€
This is a perfect setup for benign retaliation, with which Tosh responds…
â€˜Uh, You should go back to reading your vampire books.â€™
I should move around more? As if a sniper would get frustrated; â€˜I canâ€™t keep up. He lives.’
(Notice how Tosh doesnâ€™t bail on the act-out, he continues to play it through even as the audience is laughing. He gives the â€œthumbs-upâ€ as though he was the sniper).
TOSH: You ever scratch your girlfriend with a hangnail and pretend youâ€™re Wolverine?
This is an interesting joke choice. Itâ€™s almost a non-sequitur. It seems to come completely out of left field. Itâ€™s so surprising and disconnected that the audience laughs. Thereâ€™s also recognition present. Iâ€™ve scratched my girlfriend with a hangnail, but never pretended I was Wolverine–since comedy is heightened-reality the pretending is plausible.
Hereâ€™s whatâ€™s super interesting to me. Since Tosh added the Wolverine element, he continues with the story simply by imposing the values of the plot pointsÂ of Wolverine on himself:
TOSH: She’s like, “Knock it off.” I’m like (character voice): ‘You made me like this…’ Then you run into the woods, you’re naked. You’ve gotta figure things out; ‘where’d I come from?’ ‘why am I wearing dog tags?’ ‘DID I SERVE?!’
This is awesome example of pure structure getting the laugh. The idea barely makes any sense but since Tosh uses the Wolverine element to drive an act-out scenario and includes recognizable story points from the movie â€œWolverine,â€ the audience laughs.
TOSH: A lot of times people complain that their significant other takes too long to get ready to go out at night. Iâ€™ve never had that complaint. And I think itâ€™s because I never want to go anywhere. (LAUGH). Strange huh? Why did the audience laugh at that?
Itâ€™s not that funny on the page. But if you listen rhythm of the joke itâ€™s a paired phrase (â€˜never had that complaintâ€™ / â€˜never want to go anywhereâ€™). Another example of the structure getting triggering the audienceâ€™s laughter mechanism.
TOSH: So I could care less how long it takes her to get ready. Thatâ€™s just less time I have to spend with her horrible friends pretending I donâ€™t want to kill myself. (LAUGH) Hereâ€™s another example of heightened reality. The laughter trigger at play here is ambivalence. Heightened and exaggerated.
There is surprise that also results from the seemingly cold-hearted ambivalence. But with Tosh, weâ€™ve already established that when he goes this deep heâ€™s all tongue-in-cheek. Plus EVERYONE has been in a relationship where they have to endure their significant otherâ€™s friends. So recognition is also very present. This is what stimulates that applause.
TOSH: Sheâ€™ll take an hour and a half to get ready, sheâ€™ll come down and be like, â€œOh my God, you were so patient.â€ Iâ€™ll be like, â€œFor what? You look disgusting! Right? Yeah! Now sheâ€™s crying… whatever! I just bought myself another two hours to watch the game!
Again outrageous. Almost not believable.
But itâ€™s Tosh, so we go with it. Ambivalence and recognition, pure and simple, is what is stimulating the laughs. But who else besides Tosh could get away with that? But in Tosh style, he know it crosses the line, but this time instead of self-deprecating, he pushes moreâ€¦
TOSH: Yeah, itâ€™s not like sheâ€™s gonna break up with meâ€¦ sheâ€™s ten years younger. Sheâ€™s one opinion away from being replaced. (This elicits groans and applause; evil and good fighting it out in the audience). Then Tosh uses more ambivalenceâ€¦
TOSH: I can say that. I have a television show. (LAUGHS) Yeah, the power at our household has shifted dramatically. (LAUGHS) Pure ambivalence again. Tosh even sort of turns away from the audience in an sort-of â€œI-donâ€™t-even-care-what-you-thinkâ€ pose. Ambivalence creates surprise, because, really?
Who says that sort of stuff in public? (Except comedians). Also keep in mind heâ€™s sort of giggling throughout. Thatâ€™s important when doing run-on ambivalence. If the audience knows youâ€™re joking then they want to joke with you. Also remember that people love to be given permission to misbehave.
This taps into the release laughter trigger as well, leaving the audience with sort of the feelingÂ of: Iâ€™ve always wanted to vent like thatâ€¦
When Tosh says, â€œThe power at our house has shifted dramatically.â€ He taps into the structure of associative humor (he just tagged the joke using a phrase that related to the original subject matter).
Since the audience is already rolling with the laughs, comments (or tags and toppers) that associate to what you just said will carry the laughs further. Plus it has the added benefit of keeping it conversational.
Then, once again, Tosh comes back with self-deprecation, but with an interesting twist:
TOSH: Now, if youâ€™re following me on Twitter, you know that I had diarrhea today. (LAUGHS) Non-sequitur surprise, self deprecation. (Remember: anytime Tosh self-deprecates, heâ€™s using the superiority laughter trigger; making the audience feel superior, while reminding them that he has flaws and doesnâ€™t really take himself too seriously).
TOSH: Am I using that website properly? (LAUGH). Mischievous, playful, incongruity and recognition.
TOSH: Sometimes I like to sit on the toilet in reverse. (LAUGH; you could even say â€œcheapâ€ laugh), but nonetheless, this non-sequitur performs well giving us a silly transition to a silly visual. (Really? Who didnâ€™t get a visual of a guy straddling the toilet backwards in that scenario?!).
Then Tosh pauses giving the audience a real chance to contemplate what he just said. He then uses an act-out of the audience macro conscienceâ€¦
TOSH: Weâ€™re listening. (LAUGHS)… Iâ€™ll give you one guess as to why they laughed here; If recognition triggers the audienceâ€™s collective conscience to say Iâ€™ve seen that, Iâ€™ve heard that, Iâ€™ve done that. Isnâ€™t it just as powerful–if not more so–for the audience to say, Iâ€™m doing that?!
That also taps into coincidence, doesnâ€™t it? And after all, when something is coincidental isnâ€™t it also surprising?
Then to heighten the play, Tosh, does an act out of sitting on the toilet backwards and the possible conversation one might have with oneself. This conjures another solid laugh with applause. Often the act-out tag does this because it taps into the listener recognizing the situation that the comedian just set up.
Study that structure; itâ€™s awesome. Some comedians utilize that one structure for nearly their entire acts. Itâ€™s powerful.
TOSH: Yeah, the people that are clapping right now are the ones who are saying, â€œOkay all kidding aside, that guy is a genius.â€ Again he uses the tactic of assuming what the audience is sayingâ€¦ Heâ€™s tapping into recognition and coincidence.
The audience recognizes that even though theyâ€™re probably not thinking that exactly, they may be thinking, hmmm, never thought about thatâ€¦ or something similar.
Even if theyâ€™re not thinking that, what Tosh did was plant that visual of him sitting on the toilet backwards, (in effect saying â€˜anyone can do thisâ€™), in their collective minds, so that when he refers to it (even with the tactic of assuming what the audience is saying) itâ€™s still an associative tag to the original setup of â€œsitting on the toilet backwards.â€
TOSH: No, no, no, noâ€¦ itâ€™s the simplicity. Iâ€™ve been sitting on that thing my whole life. Youâ€™re telling me that I can turn around, have a bowl of cereal, (LAUGH)â€¦ yeahâ€¦ set the alarm ten minutes later, (LAUGH)â€¦ multi-task, (LAUGH)… alright, nobody should eat while on the toiletâ€¦ (ACT-OUT: Dumb Guy): â€œBut Iâ€™m lactose intolerant and Iâ€™ve always wanted to enjoy a bowl of Puffins with whole milkâ€¦â€
Keep in mind this whole joke is a shit joke. I mostlyÂ veer away from shit jokes, but you have to admit, itâ€™s a pretty clever approach to doing shit joke. Also if you study the run Tosh does with thisâ€¦ that last bit continues with short–sometimes, one word–tags; each getting a solid laugh.
This is why Tosh is looked at as one of the top comics today. His ability to keep the audience rolling in laughter.
Immediately following this, once again Tosh goes into self-deprecation; this time itâ€™s someone calling him out via email he received about this joke. Those who think Tosh is just an attack comic are missing out on the finer techniques heâ€™s using as a comedic artist, painting in a stumble everywhere itâ€™s needed to remind the audience that he has flaws too.
TOSH: Somebody emailed me and theyâ€™re like, â€œHey Dipshitâ€¦â€ Which for the record is a wonderful subject line if you ever want me to read your emailâ€¦ Oh, letâ€™s see what this nice fan has to sayâ€¦! You had me at helloâ€¦ (LAUGHS).
Tosh is wonderful at both blending quick act-outs and the milking the act-out tags. Realize that everytime he speaks either as another person or character, or his own consciousness, heâ€™s doing a bit of an act-out.
Then he not only says the line â€œOh, letâ€™s see what this nice fan has to sayâ€¦â€ He pushes it again with a frivolous â€œYou-had-me-at-helloâ€ comment that is also recognizable. And gets a strong laugh. (Recognition is such a powerful laughter trigger!) Cleverly crafted for increased laugh points.
Then he gets back to the act-out of the fan who emailed…
TOSH: (ACT-OUT): â€œYou know you have to take your pants completely off to sit on the toilet backwards. (PAUSES, REFLECTS ACKNOWLEDGES HEâ€™S BUSTED). Touche. Alright. So I donâ€™t research. Itâ€™s a pre-shower shit agreed? Can we move on? Sticklers to every joke detail! (PAUSE) You ever have a post-shower shit? Oh! Might as well go back to bed and start your whole day over. (LAUGHS).
Thereâ€™s a bit of very clever self-deprecation. Tosh is allowing some non-existent fan to put him in his place. This is a great way to use Candor. Candor is nearly a never-miss tactic to use with any audience. Itâ€™s admitting to the audience that you are flawed.
Who wonâ€™t accept you when you admit to being flawed. Candor taps into the superiority laughter trigger (making the audience feel superior) while also buying yourself some more comedic credibility.
Notice Tosh is usingÂ the same sparring technique he used with the tete a tete he had with his girlfriend. She wins, then he wins, then she wins, then he ultimately wins. Using this tactic taps into the benign retaliation strategy.
This strategy usually always works at some level because the audience is not included. Itâ€™s a similar tactic to having a back and forth with someone in the audience only thereâ€™s less tension. The key is that the entire time, the audience feels superior either to Tosh (when he loses) or to the third party (when they lose).
There’s genius working here on many levels. First, Tosh uses an email, that criticizes his joke, as material for his own act! This is why I don’t mind hecklers, they always provide me with fodder for another show. In a way they’re writing for me and they don’t know it.
Second, when Tosh ‘reads’ the email, and says, “Hey dipshit…” at that very moment, don’t you crave for Tosh to get back at this emailing critic? If your emotions, even a small degree, were urging Tosh to have a comeback for this emailing critic, then Tosh did his job at getting you, the listener, actively involved in his story. Awesome!
Tosh then continues to tag (he uses act-out tags brilliantly) to create a run similar to the Wolverine run he did earlier.
TOSH: Things are wrong! Thatâ€™s not the order of events. Thereâ€™s a glitch in the matrix. This worldâ€™s not real. Mom! (LAUGHS) Wipe me! (APPLAUSE BREAK).
This run builds tension and when it finally releases the audience is tapped on laughter so they acknowledge the cleverness of the run with applause.
TOSH: Am I the only person that hopes David Beckham has sex with Brad Pitt? (SMALL CHUCKLE) I donâ€™t know whoâ€™s in charge of casting in Hollywood, but make it happen before one of them is out of their prime. (SMALL LAUGH) Could you imagine those two men together making love? (BIGGER LAUGH).
Here we have massive incongruity, surprise and recognition laughter triggers at play.
TOSH: If thereâ€™s a man in here whoâ€™s junk doesnâ€™t wiggle just a little bit at the thought of those two men together… (LAUGH) Embarrassment, surprise and recognition are at play here.
TOSH: This has nothing to do with your homophobic sexual preference. At that level itâ€™s art you monkey! Okay? (Wry grin) (LAUGHS) Ambivalence, recognition and incongruity. Plus the added surprise that he would call someone â€œmonkey.â€ (Interesting and surprising choice of words).
You should be honored that you share the same restroom with those Greek Gods. (SMALL LAUGH) A topper to continue the roll of the joke.
TOSH: Can you imagine if they had a child (TOSH uses classic comedy structure of â€œwhat if?â€ Instead uses â€œcan you imagine?â€ This allows the listener to participate in something that canâ€™t really happen). But we still get a vague image of an imaginary good-looking baby.
TOSH:(ACT-OUT: Celestial sound effect): Was that Simba? What the f**k? Was that Simba? (Small laughs). Was that the Beckham-Pitt kid? Was that â€œPitt-Kham?â€ (BIG LAUGH) If you guessed recognition with this one, youâ€™re catching on.
This was recorded during the time when the media was joint branding couples and babies, (IE: â€œBrad-Jolieâ€).
TOSH: The most beautiful child the world has ever seenâ€¦ picture baby-Jesus with better abs. (LAUGHS). Thatâ€™s a good-looking baby.
Simple incongruity and recognition here; apply the values of a baby on to Jesus and vice-versa. Did you get clear and real imagery in your mindâ€™s eye? Then Tosh did his job.
The more clear the recognizable imagery, the more an opportunity for a solid laugh. But he pushes further and farther than anyone expectsâ€¦
TOSH: If they had a baby Abercrombie store? Theyâ€™d hire him to work the front doorâ€¦ (LAUGHS)
Interesting right? Thereâ€™s not even a punch line here or anything. But thatâ€™s the power of tags and toppers along with real recognition.
When he says Abercrombie, do you see the store? Specificity is important when youâ€™re performing because you want the audience to see the images you are creating.
The more specific you get, the more it increases the possibility for a laugh and using recognizable brands is a great and simple way of doing this.
Now Tosh does classic Tosh;Â he starts to do an act out. Posing like the baby.
TOSH: Right. Just standing there, shirtless… propped up. He canâ€™t stand yetâ€¦ just leaning against the wallâ€¦ (Laugh)
Again the imagery is funny. Creating visual imagery. And when Tosh does this there is massive incongruity because weâ€™ve seen the carved manikins and models they use at Abercrombie with their six-packs. Tosh is putting a baby in this scenario and the incongruity and recognition is what is triggering the laughs.
Now he does something really interesting. In the middle of his special, he shifts gears and changes the story from a real baby to a â€œposterâ€ of a baby, (weâ€™ll get into the reasons he may have made this choice later).
TOSH: Big posterâ€¦ Big poster of himselfâ€¦ just standinâ€™– little tight Pampersâ€¦ and youâ€™d walk in and youâ€™d be like, (ACT-OUT): I donâ€™t want to say thisâ€¦ but I want to fuck that baby. (BIG LAUGH with BIG GROANS) The audience laughs due to the big surprise and the incongruity and ambivalence of actually imposing a baby into a sexual situation.
But this is where TOSH does this thing; instead of backing off when the audience begins to release their groan, he pushes harderâ€¦
TOSH: Oh man do I want to fuck that baby!
Then he adds and act-out within an act-outâ€¦
TOSH: If I had three wishes, two of them would be to fuck that baby and one would be for more wishes. (LAUGHS). (ACT-OUT: as the Genie or person who grants wishes) â€œWell you canâ€™t do thatâ€¦â€ Well then I wanna fuck the baby a third timeâ€¦ (More LAUGHS with some possible GROANS) Tosh continues to plow throughâ€¦
TOSH: I want to use all three wishes banginâ€™ that baby! (LAUGHS with some applause)… Tosh again heads them off at the passâ€¦
TOSH: Go ahead dumb peopleâ€¦ be offended by a joke that doesnâ€™t have a plausible premise. (LAUGHS). Oh, Iâ€™d love to read your emailâ€¦ (ACT-OUT: Reading an email as the person who sent it): â€œI felt you went over the line a bitâ€¦ when you theoretically wanted to fornicate with a mythical childâ€¦ (LAUGHS & APPLAUSE)… END OF SEGMENT.
Summarizing Tosh’s Act
The baby part is one of my favorite parts of this segment of Toshâ€™s act (which in its entirety is over an hour), because he pushes the audiences groan button by intentionally stepping over the line, but in a non existent scenario. Then he continuously pushes harder.
The magic of what he did here is that the scenario is so over the top (but in imagination; remember he said, â€œImagine if those two had a childâ€¦) When something is put into imagination weâ€™ll imagine the plausibilityÂ because itâ€™s like a dream. But even though they started with groans, Tosh got them to a place of nervous, self-conscious laughter.
I call this â€˜funeralâ€™ or â€˜churchâ€™ laughter. Itâ€™s that nervous laughter that happens when you know you shouldnâ€™t be laughing at the material, but it is funny so you laugh both at the material and at the fact that you shouldnâ€™t be laughing.
This kind of laughter is contagious.
Then at the very end he calls out the â€œdumb people.â€ This is a great technique to utilize embarrassment, superiority, recognition and simple truth.
By calling out the dumb people the vast majority of the audience knows heâ€™s not talking about them, so they feel both superiority and embarrassment for the â€œdumb peopleâ€ and then when he talks about someoneâ€™s possible email, we get the to the simple truth of what actually just transpired. A non-existent story about something that never happened and never would happen.
By doing this, in a roundabout way, Tosh calls the audience out on their own over sensitivity toward what is just a comedy routine. This releases the audience from their tension and it resolves in a nice applause break, which very effectively, concludes the bit.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Before IÂ wrap what has to be my longest blog post, remember when Tosh shifted gears and said it was a ‘poster’ of a baby? Let’s briefly examine why Tosh shifted gears. I believe it’s because he finally did realize that he might be crossing his own line of decency, (that or the show’s producer).
Think about it,Â he went from what seemed like the polished version of his joke to suddenly calling it a ‘poster’ of a baby… because even though it’s in our imaginations, fornicating with a poster of a mythical baby is easier to digest than imagining it being a real, living baby.
This totally validates Tosh as not just some frivolous attack comedian, but as a mischievous, wickedly sardonic craftsman of comedy.
Laughs Per Minute
In this short 8-minute segment, Tosh got a ton of laughter and applause;Â in fact in this video, 72 laugh points in 8 minutes. That averages 9 laugh points per minute throughout this entire 8-minute segment that weâ€™ve examined.
Thatâ€™s pretty awesome, considering that the average is 4 per minute.
Once you examine this deconstruction of Tosh, who I now have a renewed respect for as a comedic craftsman, I think you will find that his use of the laughter triggers and comedy structures is exactly how he created the stimuli for the audience to release their laughter.
After all,Â you who are reading this (all three of you) already know that itâ€™s not magic and itâ€™s not a guessing game, itâ€™s a well-crafted understanding and implementation of the art and science known as comedy.
Don’t Watch Comedy Passively
When you study comedians live or on video, you shouldnâ€™t just watch passively, but with the intention of learning. Ask yourself, whatâ€™s the take-away? With Tosh these are my take-aways:
Play through my act-outs. Donâ€™t bail too soon.
When I hit something that the audience takes as too edgy, I will commit to saying it over and over a few times until they laugh at the fact that they shouldnâ€™t be laughing at what Iâ€™m saying. Turn their groans into funeral or â€œchurchâ€ laughter.
Remember to use self-deprecation to remind the audience (and myself) not to take myself too seriously, (Remember comedy is about obstacles).
I hope you enjoyed this. Please share the love and leave me a comment below. Iâ€™d love to hear your thoughts on this evaluation.
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