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 Students Produce a Comedy Show in Pamona

Fox Comedy Showcase in PamonaAttention all comics and comedy lovers in the 909: Fox Sports Bar and Lounge in Pamona is now doing a comedy show. Stand Up Comedy Clinic Students Christian Zaragoza and Ernie Ordonez, put their money where their mouth is (what money? the show is FREE!) and they organized and are producing a comedy show in Pamona. The Inland Empire needs a good room where comedians can work and they followed through by getting this started. One of the things I encourage my students to do is to perform whenever and wherever possible. Walt Whitman said: “Actors must act. Writers must write. Painters must paint.” Well comedians have double duty in that they must write and perform as much as possible. Christian and Ernie saw this as an opportunity to start a show.

What a great idea! As a comedian, you begin to understand the importance of networking, meeting as many other comedians as possible, because it’s not only your continued work ethic that will help you succeed, but it is in your relationships where your career thrives. Starting a successful comedy room is a great way to meet other comedians and help to nurture those relationships.

For more information or to get in touch with Chris or Ernie about future comedy shows in Pamona, Click the show flyer and “friend” Chris on Facebook. If you develop that relationship, maybe you can make an appearance at the next comedy showcase in Pamona. Eventually, it may turn into a paid gig. And while you’re at it Tweet this article or post on your Facebook page and help these guys really develop this gig into something successful! 

Good Luck you guys! I hope you have me on the next  show, because I couldn’t do it this round.

Is Profanity Necessary in Humor?

The subject of using profanity often comes up in my classes. Should I use it? Should I avoid it? The answer is: Fuck if I know! Here’s the deal: Sometimes profanity is absolutely necessary for a joke to work: A little old lady is golfing on the back nine when a tee shot whizzes by her head. She looks back and screams at the guy, “Why didn’t you yell, fore?” The guys says, “Sorry, I didn’t have time.” “Oh no?” says the old lady. “But you had time to yell ‘Oh Fuck!’

If we laughed at this story it’s because we set it up that it was a little old lady. We don’t expect a little old lady to use that kind of profanity, so it shattered our expectation and the surprise is what got the laugh. But it’s not the element of surprise alone that gets the laugh. The surprise is also heightened with shock and delight that the old lady would use such a word. Would that joke be funny if the little old lady said “Yeah, but you had time to yell, ‘Oh darn!?’ Probaby not.

When George Carlin used to open his act with, “Did you ever notice that most women who are against abortion are women you wouldn’t want to fuck anyway?” That is one of the best opening lines I’ve ever heard from a comic. Could you use any other word to get the same impact? The use of the word “fuck” gives it flash and power. It’s a lightning strike. The line also defines the performer immediately. Is there any question the type of comedian George Carlin is after he says this line? No! He’s a social satirist. Since humor is defined as a veiled attack or disguised hostility, then vulgar language can be a device to communicate genuine feelings.

How To Write “quick” jokes.

Class 032

by Jerry Corley – Founder, The Stand Up Comedy Clinic

Had a couple of private coaching sessions with 2 of my students today. They were very successful. One of my students is just beginning to apply the fundamental techniques of writing a joke. He was working on a technique using incongruity. Which impose the values of one thing onto another, completely different thing. The surprise comparison is what gets the laugh.

He posed an interesting question: “How do I find subjects to cross-pollinate to write jokes? The timing couldn’t have been more perfect because I was just thinking about this yesterday. I was on my way to the hospital to visit a friend. I thought about writing a quick joke or analogy joke (hospitals are like ___________). Well now that I have a subject (Hospitals) I have to find something to compare it to.

There are two ways to go about this:

1. Come up with anything to compare it to and start making lists and determine what phrases in that list that somehow relate to hospitals and develop a joke. OR 2. when you have your subject (Hospitals), quickly think of the things that stand out the most when you go into a hospital using all your senses!

The first things that came to me were the smell, the equipment, the sounds and the fact that nobody seems to speak English as their first language. That seemed funny to me so I chose the smell and the language. I thought what is different than a hospital and smells funny with people not speaking English as their first language. I thought of Vallarta Markets, which is a supermarket chain in Southern California that caters, primarily, to the Hispanic consumer.

So the analogy joke I came up with was: Going to a Hospital is like shopping at Vallarta Markets, they smell funny and all the workers talk with an accent.”

It’s not a fall-on-the-floor joke, but it’s a simple joke that you could use as a cartoon caption or as part of a larger piece you’re doing on hospitals and it was easy to come up with. It took literally about 5 minutes.

Top Tips On Comedy Competitions

FUNNIEST_SU_C_^_SUNDAYTop Tips for Performing in Comedy Competitions
By Jerry Corley – Founder of the Stand Up Comedy Clinic

Comedy competitions are a great way to get your name out there, meet other comics and industry professionals and develop a thick, professional skin. By that I mean that you’ll develop a bullet-proof, confidence when it comes to auditions and higher-stakes performances. Here are some tips that may help you have a better grasp on how to handle these events:

· PREPARE A TIGHT 2 MINUTES: Most major competitions, including television’s “America’s Got Talent” and “Last Comic Standing, ” give you two minutes to perform in the preliminary rounds. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but if you can write and perform a set that returns approximately 10 laughs in that time, you’ll be in the running. That breaks down to a laugh every 15 seconds or so. Don’t let that fool you. It doesn’t mean that you have to do a joke every 15 seconds, it means that in the overall two minutes, it’ll average out to that. The trick is that you structure your set so that you have tags and act-outs that follow your punch lines. With this structure one joke can generate two, three or four laughs, if not more sometimes.

· M.A.P.: stands for MATERIAL-AUDIENCE-PERFORMER. Your material must suit the audience and the performer. Do material that defines YOU. Also groom your material to fit the competition. For example if you are competing for a broadcast television competition, you know that the material must be “television-clean.” Best way to determine this is to YouTube comedians who appear on the Tonight Show and other late night shows and make note of where they draw the line with their material. What’s acceptable innuendo, etc. It’s not only words that get cut by the censors, certain themes are also deemed inappropriate for broadcast T.V. For example if you think you’re clean and you end your set with “…so I went to my room and jerked off!” You’re not going to get on national T.V. and you probably will not make it through the preliminary rounds.

· BE PROFESSIONAL: seems like a pretty obvious tip. But you would be amazed at how many people behave unprofessionally at these events. From showing up drunk or high to arguing with event coordinators over trivial matters, these behaviors reflect on your professionalism and will definitely reflect on your ability to succeed in a competition. Sometimes competitions come with inconveniences (whether it’s waiting in long lines, cattle calls, dealing with disorganization, etc.) be as cordial as possible and be the guy/girl who can help with the situation rather than hinder it. The organizers discuss the event with each other and if your name comes up and you’re referred to as the “asshole who didn’t want to wait in line, ” then guess who’s not moving to the quarters or the semis? Perception is everything. When people don’t know you by reputation all they have is the first impression you give them. You are performing from the moment you fill out that entry form and submit your video so do it as professionally as possible.

· BE SUPPORTIVE: You are not only involved in a competition to win it, you are also in it to meet and network with other professionals. If you are supportive and friendly, odds are you’ll walk away from the competition with some connections to other future gigs. So do yourself a favor and stay positive and helpful.

· SUBMIT QUALITY VIDEO: Back to first impressions. If the competition has you submitting video, submit the best quality you have. Make sure the sound level is good and you can be understood and make sure the video seems reasonably professional. Don’t submit something you shot in front of your fireplace. (Don’t laugh, it’s been done!). Submit something that has been preferably shot in front of a live audience (as opposed to a dead one!) and best reflects the professional image you want to put forth.

· FOLLOW THE RULES: All comedy competition come with rules and terms. A polite piece of advice–READ THEM! It’s called the fine print. Know right off the bat what you’re getting into and what the terms are. You don’t want to get there and realize that you’re not prepared or that you didn’t meet the criteria. For example if they wanted a set to be 2 minutes only. Then you better keep to the time. I don’t care how funny you are, if you break the rules, the organizers will most likely disqualify you. Don’t lose on a technicality. Follow the rules.

· HAVE FUN!: This is very important. When you do a competition, have a good time. It’s a long-shot that you are going to win. The more competitions you do, the more you improve the higher your odds. So while you’re there have a good time. You’ll enjoy it more it will reflect in your professionalism and it leaves your mind in a better state to identify and create new material. Who knows, while your involved in the competition you might find yourself with a new comedy bit. Five new minutes on doing comedy competitions!