What in the world of funny?!
I can’t believe this hack just did a joke on the name Weiner being so much like the hot dog wiener. Oh my God what a hack!
I can just hear it now all the super clever comedians out there skewering me for having the nerve to post such a ridiculously sophomoric statement.
But I have a point to this whole thing… I think.
There’s a trend out there in stand-up comedy land, kids. And the trend is for comics to be Bill Burr or Louis C.K.
The trend is to be clever just like them. You know, tell stories, make a profound statement. After all, wasn’t it George Carlin who said, “Don’t just make them laugh, make them think!”
I get it and I’m with you. I love to do think humor. I love to speak out with profundity and make a daring, yet good socio-political statement. I love to have the balls to “walk” a room.
T.V. Comedy is About Simplicity
But this post is about simplicity and its place in comedy; especially in television.
That’s right Simplicity. There’s a place for it and there’s big money in it.
What? Money you say?
We all want to be the clever Bill Burr or Louis C.K. but realize they started a long time ago and they didn’t start doing the stories you hear them do when they step on stage now .
They started with jokes. Writing jokes and telling jokes. (At least Burr did).
But you’re missing an element in your total game if you just stick to the clever story-teller comedy. There’s an angle you all should be working and that’s the angle of being able to write your one and two liner jokes.
Every comedian out there should be spending some time each day cranking out some solid one and two-liners. Honing that craft and getting good at it. Because one of the ways to be sure that you can survive in this business is to build multiple revenue streams.
One of those revenue streams could be writing for Late Night T.V.
The key to writing for Late Night T.V. is not the deep-meaning, clever, iconoclastic comedy. It is the simple association, simple surprise, short-form comedy concept that can play not only in New York and L.A. but in Middle America too.
One of those simple comedy structures is Double Entendre or wordplay comedy.
I took the pulse of my readers recently (all three of you) regarding wordplay humor and I got back some interesting feedback regarding the state of wordplay in comedy.
Most of it was like, “Dude Wordplay ain’t dead but it’s certainly on life support.”
I respect people’s opinions, even when the opinions are retarded. (See I can say “retarded” because I’m referring to an opinion–a thing, not a person… besides I know a lot of retarded things).
I jest, of course and I wouldn’t blame you for unsubscribing for that “retarded” comment, (but if you did you’d be retarded), because I’m about to show you why wordplay is alive and well–even a crucial skill you should refine, if not as a comedian, then as a writer.
Wordplay is Alive in the T.V. Comedy Writing Scene
Wordplay and double entendre is used in comedy writing on television like it’s nobody’s business. Late Night is chewing it up. It’s in commercials. It’s in Sitcoms.
Most of the successful shows on T.V. are using the Double-Entendre or wordplay comedy technique to get audiences to laugh and with great success.
You might not think that it works, but there’s an old saying in comedy and it’s “know your audience,” and I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Late Night isn’t playing to you.
If you’re reading this blog then you probably have at least a passing interesting in stand-up comedy or comedy writing and YOU are Late Night’s last target audience.
The audience that Late Night T.V. targets is the middle America audience. Mostly the male demo between eighteen and thirty-four.
They are targeting people who are tired after a long day of work and feeding the kids and dealing with the day’s errands, tasks and chores.
Late Night, for the most part is about simple humor. Don’t believe me? Check out this little bit from “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”
Steve Higgins and Jimmy do Scat. (As in scatological humor).
In the middle of the Pros and Cons desk piece, they go on a “fart and shart” riff that lasts an entire two minutes. Now two minutes is nothing in real time but in T.V. time is a good chunk.
Listen to the wordplay and tell me that it’s not funny. But remember. It’s not up to you and me. It’s up to the audience. And the audience is loving this stuff!
You’ll also find a ton of wordplay in “Arrested Development” and “How I Met Your Mother” two rather successful television shows.
And not only that, also in commercials. If you look at some of the funny commercials you’ll find that wordplay is used and used often.
Like in this ad for Discover Card.
Frog Protection – Discover Card
Consider the silliness of both. Consider how “hacky” either could appear if you did an amalgamation of either on stage in your stand-up at the Comedy Store.
But remember television writing is not necessarily about being clever, it is about being silly and getting the laugh.
Also consider that a Late Night Writer makes a minimum of $4000 per week and a copywriter for a huge marketing firm could be making upwards of $700k per year.
So while I dig doing clever, solid story-telling, stand-up, it might be wise for me financially to also hone my simple comedy skills like Double-Entendre and Wordplay. Because that kind of money doesn’t sound like it’s on life support.