If you’ve ever dreamed of writing jokes and sketches for Late Night, here’s a fabulous opportunity to get yourself to be considered.
NBCUniversal is offering a workshop for writers to get involved. They posted the recent opportunity on their website.
The NBCUniversal Late Night Writers Workshop is a two-day program focused on exposing talented sketch and comedy writers to NBCUniversal’s late night line-up and readying them for a staff writer position. We are looking for writers who are “almost there” but need that final bit of preparation and exposure to key industry players. We particularly encourage female writers and those of diverse backgrounds to apply.
The two-day, NYC-based workshop will consist of improv classes as well as keynote speakers. The selected writers will create new sketch material and gain insight into the dynamics of a late night writers’ room as well as learn about NBCUniversal’s late night line-up. Participants are given the chance to interact with key writers and producers from across NBCUniversal’s late night shows as well as receive feedback on their material. Writing assignments on an NBCUniversal late night television show may be available after successful completion of the program but are not a guarantee.
Need to know how to write and format your material for submission?
Late Night Joke Writing & Submission Workshop
If you are so inclined, I may be putting together a last minute Late Night Joke Writing & Submission Workshop to prepare you for this opportunity. I will cover:
How to write jokes quickly for Late Night
How to write jokes in the style of Late Night.
What they look for in Late Night Joke Submissions
How to separate yourself from the pack
How to properly format a sketch package
What the earning potential is for a staff writer
How to write volumes of jokes on one topic
3 Easy steps to create compelling sketch concepts
…and much more
This will be a 4-hour workshop WEDNESDAY July 31st, 11am-3pm for ONLY $99.
If you are interested in this workshop, please contact me at email@example.com and indicate “Writing & Submission Workshop” in the subject line. If enough people are interested on such short notice, then I will put on the workshop at my studio.
I will also be recording this workshop and I will make it available for purchase for anyone out of town. You will have access to all the handouts and sample sheets used at the workshop.
One of my students sent me an email that asked if I could do an analysis on this video of Bill Maher getting “Boo’d” on Letterman.
I love walking through these things. It gives us a chance to understand the fickle behavior of an audience.
Bill Maher is no stranger to controversial material. Remember he got canned by ABC in 2002 when he was doing ‘Politically Incorrect.’
I’m a huge fan of Bill Maher. I love his take on most things and even when I might disagree with him on some things, I still give props for the not only the courage to say what he says, but also the way he organizes his thoughts and researches what he talks about.
Comedy Central has Bill Maher ranked 38 among the best stand up comics of all time.
So when I heard that Bill was boo’d on Letterman. I was quick to review the video.
Let’s look at it together and try to figure out why they “boo’d”
After reviewing the clip, I don’t think they “boo’d” him as much as they “ooo’ed” him.
We have to consider the nature of the audience dynamic in today’s political environment. The immediate perception from most audiences is that every joke is an attack.
“Not as bad as being a minority in Florida…”
This particular line is layered.
The audience has an immediate reaction to the surface of it: ‘not as bad as being a minority in Florida.’ I believe that they perceived the comment initially as a general negative attack on minorities. This happens in the first second after the comment, which results in the “Ooh.”
Remember the comment was a play on the previous sentence when he uses the term ‘minority owner.’
When Maher said ‘minority owner.’ His comic brain saw an opportunity to do a double-entendre play on the word ‘minority.’
Given a few seconds to ponder and process, the audience then sorts it out in their heads as to what Maher meant exactly by that comment:
‘Is he just making fun of minorities or is he doing a play on the word ‘minority?’
I believe his intention was that Trayvon being a young, black man, got a bad deal in Florida. Also, since Zimmerman is also a minority and living in Florida, he could be saying that both of them have been or will be treated poorly.
Problem was, his intention of the joke was misunderstood, because it had a vagueness to it. It lacked specificity. So the audience did what all overtly politically correct audiences do, they reacted that the joke was an attack on minorities, so they “ooo’ed.”
You’ll notice that once some people had a moment to process the underlying meaning of the joke or what the intended target was (Florida, the jury, unfairness of the process, etc.), there was a smattering of applause indicating that they ‘got’ it.
So what do we learn from this? Sometimes, being specific is crucial for the audience to understand the immediate meaning of the joke so that we get the audience to respond the way we intended them to.
Immediacy is not necessary for all styles of jokes, but jokes that have a perceived meaning that could be taken as racist, sexist, or an attack on anomalic sensitivity (person with a wheelchair in the room, dwarf or little person), while on T.V. with limited time to explain, specificity is crucial.
What if Bill clarified the joke by saying, “Better than being a minority in a Florida court these days.” Or “With the raw deal Trayvon got, it’s better than being a minority in Florida these days.”
With that simple clarification, he could’ve turned the “ooh” into an applause.
But with a live audience, you never know.
NOTE: How sensitive can an audience be?
I remember a friend of mine was appearing on The Tonight Show. Previous to his appearance, the band had a musical featured on the piano who was a ‘midget,’ (or little person–just to stay P.C.). While my friend was in the greenroom prepping for his set, the midget was playing the piano. The audience loved the midget. Then my friend comes on for his set, unaware that the pianist tearing it up on the piano was a midget. The comedian opened with two midget jokes…
He couldn’t recover from there and wasn’t invited back to Tonight.
Have you ever had any situations where you stepped in it? Let us know!
But he’s no different than any other comedian who gets laughs. Where the laughs are you will find him using a variation of the 12 Comedic Structures and the 8 Major Laughter Triggers, that I teach in my comedy classes and breakdown in my e-Book.
I’m going to approach the first few minutes of this bit of Bill Burr’s, almost line by line, and offer suggestions as to why the bits work so well. This way you can see how the things I teach, work. Even in a rant-style like Burr’s.
Play the video then and follow along the with assessment and PLEASE leave comments. Even if you disagree. We’re here to learn!
Here we go…
First of all pay attention to Bill’s technique. His point of view is clear. He’s a Cynic with a capital ‘C.’ But what makes it work is that he keeps this wicked, mischievous smile all the way through. CLASSIC! It’s his way of saying to his audience, “I don’t take myself too seriously… notice the funny here folks!”
It’s that smile that makes him likeable. Kind of the guy you want to have a beer with.
I’ve spent a lot of time arguing that structure is key to getting laughs. Bill uses structure just like any other comic. He just finesses it and disguises it, as you would disguise exposition in a script.
Below we’ll go line-by-line. Bill Burr’s lines will be in yellow. My running commentary (if you give a shit) will be in white.
“I’m afraid to get married, man… Perfect. Sets up dilemma. Even though I’m up here on stage, I have fears too. Plus it’s very conversational. When it’s a conversation, the punch usually comes with more surprise because we’re not expecting a joke.
What man wouldn’t be afraid to get married at this point? Look at Kobe. Look at the shit he’s going through right now.
Audience laughs. Why? Surprise and Recognition We recognize Kobe and his situation while at the same time we’re surprised that Burr would choose Kobe Bryant as a guy we should empathize with.
Guy’s gettin’ a divorce… his wife is gonna get seventy million bucks… never hit a layup in her life….
Audience laughs. Why? Recognition,incongruity and simple truth. By saying, “never hit a layup in her life,” he puts an instant image of Kobe’s wife in our minds doing a layup! For some of you, your image may have her in a Lakers’ uniform. That’s both recognition and incongruity, because our minds probably see her as the wife of an NBA star and not in a sweaty jersey and Burr puts her there in there on the boards at the base of the paint, doing a layup. He paints this incongruous picture for us and we laugh. Also, it’s simple truth. Burr has taken the complex issue of legally awarding Alimony and narrowed it down to: “she never hit a layup in her life.” True and Simple.
NOTE: You’ll notice that Bill Burr is an avid sports fan. Within his act you’ll find multiple sports analogies, euphemisms and metaphors.
Can anyone explain these divorce settlements? Can anyone make sense of them? Tiger Woods’ wife: Two Hundred and fifty million dollars! She’s a babysitter! Worth a quarter of a billion fucking dollars!”
Two fascinating things going on here. The incongruity that befalls on the fact that a babysitter is getting two hundred and fifty mil is funny because of the huge incongruity, but this audience pulls back a little. But Burr uses this tension build to challenge the audience and further make his point. Notice: He’s still smiling!
Somebody explai—justify it. Justify it! What? He cheated on her? I don’t give a fuck! I don’t give a fuck! He cheated on her. The relationships over right then. Kobe cheated right? Shouldn’t that relationship been over right then? Why did she hang out for three years like some jaded cop trying to get her fuckin’ pension? Right? Get that ten years in?
Audience Laughs. Why? Give you one guess; INCONGRUITY. Here he even uses the “is-like” formula to get the incongruity in place. “Why did she hang out for three years like some jaded cop trying to get her fucking pension?” Once he set up that incongruity play, then audience laughs. Then he tags it with “Get that ten years in…”
NOTE:You should take note that Burr laughs out loud at this point. Keeping the flavor of the entire show in a humorous light. Cynical, but humorous! Brilliant! It’s theater science that the audience is in whatever state the performer is in, so when Burr laughs he keeps the audience in a humorous mood.
I don’t know maybe that’s too harsh, but that shit bothers me man! Dude, there is an epidemic of gold-digging whores in this country…
Audience Laughs and Applauds. Why? The statement is surprising and a bit shocking. It’s simple truth (based on the information he’s given us up to this point). Burr also sets up his dilemma of still trying to figure this shit out with “I don’t know. Maybe that’s too harsh.” So he’s never saying, “This is the only truth and if you don’t like it, get the fuck out.” It’s more like, “I’m still trying to figure this out too!” Whenever I hear this line it reminds me the way George Carlin used shock and exaggeration by opening with the line: “You ever notice that women who are against abortion, are women you wouldn’t want to fuck anyway?”
….and every night I put on the news and I’m waitin’ for someone to address it. Every night. Never see it. Y’know? And every night, I bring up ‘gold-digging whores’ and the whole crowd pulls back like I’m talking about ‘Bigfoot,’ alright? Like I’m saying the moon is made out of cheese or somethin.’
Audience Laughs. Why? Recognition and Release. Release; He spent time talking about gold-digging whores and built up tension. Steve Martin said that comedy is about tension and release. Well he builds up tension and then points out that the audience is pulling back, “like I’m talking about Bigfoot.” Notice he uses “like” again. Doing a comparison to something unrelated and something we recognize. We also recognize the situation when someone starts talking conspiracy that people tend to pull back.
I’m talking about whores people! They’re everywhere!
Shock value (Surprise). And notice he delivers this harsh line while he sporting that wicked smile. It’s brilliant incongruity. You ever see a movie where the villain is spraying the bank with machine gun fire while the soundtrack is playing some playful circus music like “Entry of the Gladiators.” Same cool technique. Like a point-counterpoint in music. He saying a harsh phrase while wearing a smile. Awesome!
How many? How many more great men are gonna get chopped in half before we do somethin’? (Pause) Why is it so quiet in here?!
This is awesome RELEASE! Using the audience’s own political correctness tension and just putting it under a spotlight by acknowledging the tension with the smile! Gets the audience to release that tension. This is how powerful RELEASE can be. There’s a wave of energy from the audience!
One thing you notice with Burr, is that his emotions are always clear. You know exactly how he feels about what he’s talking about. This is very important in stand-up comedy. That’s how a performer connects to his audience; through emotion. Even if an audience doesn’t agree with your ideology, they can still relate to the way you feel about it and recognize that, because they’ve felt that same way about something in their lives too.
I’m not calling any woman in here a whore. So don’t pull back. That’s not fair. If you brought up ‘wife-beaters’ I wouldn’t pull back. I get it. There’s guys hittin’ women and they need to be stopped. But you gotta understand that gold-diggin’ whores are the wife-beaters for men.
Audience Laughs. Why? INCONGRUITY. When Burr says, “you gotta understand that gold-diggin’ whores are the wife-beaters for men,” Isn’t that like saying “are like the wife beaters for men?” So he’s juxtaposed the two elements. They laughed at that incongruity. Now he’ll tag it with something from the wife beater section that we all recognize and give us an act-out…
Yeah! They are! Except, we don’t have that lumped up Rihanna photo in the end. (ACT-OUT: a quick act-out of a mangled face).
But it’s not obvious. It’s in the eyes. It’s in the lines in your face. It’s in Mel Gibson’s high-pitched voice on the answering machine, (ACT OUT: Mel Gibson on the phone): “I had to give up my Laker Tickets!” That is the sound of a man who’s being taken for everything he’s got.
Audience Laughs. Why? RECOGNITION. Men experience abuse too in different ways. This compare and contrast and Recognition drives the point with laughter. AND they recognize the Mel Gibson phone message that got so much play on the news. Then he tags it. By reminding us what it is. Classic act-out structure; tell us what you’re going to tell us, act it out, then tell us what you just told us.
I’ve got to tell you. I’m envious of women. I’m not saying your problems get solved, but at least they’re taken seriously. You know? You got one-eight-hundred numbers, you got ribbons… there’s groups. People give a shit. Anything happens to a guy it’s just considered funny. Some woman cut her husband’s dick off, through it in the garbage disposal and turned it on. People thought it was hilarious. They were like, “Hey Stumpy!” Nobody cares!
Several laughs here. Why? Let’s look at simple truth and recognition; “You got 1-800 numbers, you got ribbons… there’s groups. Both factual (simple truth) and recognizable. But the bigger laugh comes with the compare and contrast “Anything happens to a guy it’s just considered hilarious!” Then Hey Stumpy! INCONGRUITY. What do you call a guy who had his dick cut off? “Stumpy.”
But the big laugh comes in the next few lines where Burr uses a three-way build-up (triple) and recognition combined. Huge laugh! The three-way build-up creates tension and the recognition pulls out the stops and BOOM! Laughter and applause.
You think if a guy removed a woman’s titty and threw it in the drier, anybody would be jokin’ about it the next day? The entire country would grind to a hault, there would be a moment of silence… (here’s the third of the 3-way build) The N.F.L. would have a special-colored headband everybody would have to wear…
When he says that line about the “special-colored headband…,” do you get a clear image of the pink ribbons, etc. that the N.F.L. players wear during ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month?” That’s definitely recognition at work!
We can go on and on—as I cover this full 11:30 video in my classes—and I’d love to because I love listening to Bill Burr. But this blog post would wind up being prohibitively long. And I think, by now, you get the idea! If you don’t hit me with a comment and I’ll deconstruct the rest of it.
Listen closely to Burr’s use of the phrase “is-like.” He uses it a lot. He often compares one thing to another then puts them both together in what is known as an incongruity/act-out.
Throughout the entire video he uses that powerful comedy structure. My favorite part is when he gets to the end of the act (right about the 11:15 mark) he compares a man’s dick to a third-base coach, waving in runners.
Take a look and see Burr’s brilliant use of this comedy structure and he pays it off and closes his set. Awesome!
Texture and Persona
Also listen to Burr’s use of the language. He spits out metaphor and euphemism keeping the sentences interesting and edgy. Listen when he talks about Schwarzenegger. “Why do you think she hooked up with him? Because of that nineteen eighties flat-top he’s still rockin’?” Burr accomplishes two things in this sentence; He mocks Schwarzenegger and also keeps it interesting with the choice of words.
Burr uses a variation of several comedy structures in his act, combined with his wicked smile and his commitment to his emotional point of view. He also takes on this challenging subject matter with a challenging ideology. This drives anxiety in the audience, creating tension. If you have tension sometimes all you have to do is acknowledge the reality that the tension exists and the audience will release it by laughing.
I still use that technique. When I talk about issues or deal with a crabby heckler and I feel like the audience is tense and quiet. I simply say something like, “Does anyone else feel the tension in this room?” or I laugh through the end of this line: “Is it me or did it just get really hot in here?!”
These are simple comedic devices you can use to release tension that builds up in the audience. Bill Burr uses it masterfully!
If you take anything away from this video, take away Burr’s use of analogy to create humorous opportunities, (the “is-like” or variations thereof).
Burr uses it like his clutch-hitter in the line-up; when he needs the bases cleared and a big laugh to take him to the next segment, he brings in the big bat (incongruity/act-out) and he swings for the fences.
Jerry Corley’s Stand Up Comedy Clinicis a powerful 8-week comedy class focusing on writing and performing comedy, followed by a performance at the world famous Comedy Store.
Can you learn to be funny? Once you learn the structure of comedy and the secrets to what makes people laugh, you can learn to build those into your conversations and write them into your comedy routines. So the answer is a resounding YES! You can learn to be funny! We have student after student who can prove it too!
You know the difference between a chuckle and a triggered laugh. You’ve experienced it either by receiving it from your friends, family or an audience. You’ve had your own laugh reflex push out the laugh when something funny triggered your laughter.
Now, how do you write material that can trigger laughter in others? Are you born with that gift or can it be taught?
JERRY CORLEY CAN TEACH YOU HOW TO BE FUNNY!
From 4-7:30 PM, each Saturday evening, for 8 weeks. You will learn what triggers human laughter, how to write and deliver jokes that trigger that laughter. You will also learn some of the most powerful comedy skills in the trade, and how to make money in the comedy business.
Whether you want to be a comedian, a humor columnist, sitcom or screenplay writer, this class is for you!
As some of you may have heard, my little T.V. show idea, “Stretch,” has been turned into a Big Movie Idea! This process started many years ago, when I was touring 43 weeks a year as a comedian.
My wife wanted me to be home more, so to save my marriage, I cut my road work in half.
During that time, while I was in town, I worked at a limousine company in L.A., both driving and in operations.
While I was working the late night shift, I would sneak in some time at the computer to write some scripts. One of the scripts I wrote was a television show about the limo business. It was going to be kind of a ‘Taxi’ but for limousines.
I brought my friend, (and now writing partner), Rob Rose, in on it, for his brutally fast and sharp wit.
Needless to say, years and one marriage later it has been turned into a comedy-thriller that will be directed by Joe Carnahan (“The Grey,” “The A-Team”).
It’s legit. It has star power from Chris Pine,(Star Trek) Ed Helms, (The Office, Hangover I, II, III) Patrick Wilson, (The A-Team) and Jessica Biel!
To top it off, it has already been picked up to be distributed by Universal Pictures.
It’s shooting in Los Angeles in July and they are holding an “Open Call” for upscale, trendy club-goers.
It’s simple to get involved, just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name, phone number, email and a picture of yourself in high-end Hollywood nightclub attire. Which means, ladies look smoking hot, and guys look like the typical Hollywood, club-going, douche.
Don’t email me. I have zero input on what happens with this!
One of the things you have to get used to once you sell the rights to your movie is that your creative input goes “poof!”
I hope some of my readers (all 3 of you), can take advantage of this cool opportunity to get involved, not only to be seen in a film with a tight script, but also mingle and have the opportunity to meet other people.
Please read the fine print. There is NO GUARANTEE that when you participate in this event that you will be seen in the motion picture!
But, Hollywood’s a weird place and anything can happen!
There’s has been and there is going to continue to be a lot of really cool lessons to learn from this experience of getting a movie made. I hope to share them with you so maybe you can get some inspiration to expand your writing.