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!

How To Write A Joke

Formula: Creating Surprise Using Implied Expectations
by Jerry Corley – Founder of the Stand Up Comedy Clinic

Comedy can work in many different ways:

1. You can wait for something funny to happen then write it down and use it later.
2. You can formulate comedy by looking in the newspaper internet or T.V. news and write a joke about it.
3. You can write a simple story about your day, your relationship, your job or your life and use comedy formula to shape it to create laugh points and give the audience laughter.

I use all three techniques to write the comedy I write, but writing the story from scratch is one of my favorite ways to write comedy because it all comes from me and no one else will be doing it.

Let me illustrate a simple way to apply formula to this technique:

A student of mine wrote a little something about having her first hot flash:

“…my kids were asleep and I’m standing in the kitchen with my husband. Suddenly it felt like my skin was on fire. I tore off my clothes. Thankfully I wasn’t at Ralphs (local supermarket).” It’s a funny situation, and it might get a chuckle but how do we structure it to create surprise and really get a solid laugh?

It’s a excerpt from a story about her life. So I thought to myself. What if we take out her literal reference to where she was?

“…my kids were asleep and I’m standing with my husband. Suddenly it felt like my skin was on fire. I tore off my clothes. Thankfully I wasn’t at Ralphs (local supermarket).”

Now what we have is an assumption that the she is in her house.

One of the key foundations of comedy is to set up an implied expectation for the audience, then shatter that expectation. So if we have set up an expectation that she is at home, how can we spin that to surprise the audience?

“I had my first hot flash the other night. My kids were asleep and I’m standing with my husband. Suddenly it felt like my skin was on fire. I tore off all my clothes. I thought my husband was going to have a heart attack—because we were at Ralph’s.

Now we have a joke! We have a setup: I had my first hot flash the other night. My kids were asleep and I’m standing with my husband. Suddenly it felt like my skin was on fire so I tore off all my clothes.

We have an implied expectation that she and her husband are at home, because the kids are asleep.

We have misdirection and tension build-up: I thought my husband was going to have a heart attack. This statement takes the audience’s concern away from the idea that there is a punch line coming because …I thought my husband was going to have a heart attack…”

And then we have the punch: …because we were at Ralph’s.

So you could see how “because we were at Ralph’s” surprises the audience, because it is unexpected surprise created from implying that she was at home.

Most of your best jokes utilize formula to surprise the audience and since surprise is the number one element necessary to trigger human laughter, this basic comedy formula can help you create consistency in your humor.

Humor has structure and therefore it can be taught.
Check out a class at www.standupcomedyclinic.com

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How To Choose A Comedy Teacher

joe3-Steps To Finding A Good Comedy Instructor

“My Name Is Jerry Corley. I Teach Stand Up Comedy…and I’d Like To Report A Crime…”

I’ve been a professional comedian for over twenty years. I’ve spent many years working 38 to 40 weeks on the road. I’ve written for television shows, including spending 8 years as a contributing writer on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I’ve written entire shows for comedians, including one for an impressionist who, as a result, booked 43 weeks at a Las Vegas Resort. The resort closed shortly after that, but they honored the remainder of his contract: 35 remaining weeks x $10, 000…not a bad pay day!

I’ve structured my shows to give performances that receive standing ovations. Now I teach what I know. I still do corporates and other gigs, but without the long weeks away from home and family.

I love teaching.

When potential students contact me on the phone or email, one of the first things they ask me is, “How can you tell whether a comedy instructor is good and I’m not wasting my money?” Well, first if you have a good rapport on the phone and you think you’ll get along with the instructor, follow these simple steps to be sure that you’ll be satisfied in your choice:

Step 1: See if your instructor has any video of himself or herself performing stand up online. If they do, watch it. If they don’t, contact that instructor either by phone or email and ask them if they have any video of their stand up that you can watch. If they don’t have any, go to…

Step 2: Hang up the phone and throw away the email, because really, what are they going to teach you? The only thing they have demonstrated is how not to do comedy.

Step 3: If they do have video, watch it. Does it make you laugh? Can you hear the structure? Are they confident? Is their delivery, writing and choice of material interesting and Intelligent? Again, does it make you laugh? If the answer to any of those questions is “no, ” then repeat step 2.

Why am I being so hard on comedy teachers? I’ll tell you why. I love this industry. I love the art form of comedy and I am passionate about the science of laughter and structure of comedy. I study it. I write it. I perform it. I can sit down and write funny about anything. (At least that’s what I tell myself each time I sit down to write funny about anything!) I believe a humorist should be able to, with practice and work, make any logical grouping of words, funny.

I see a lot of instructors out there ready to take your money. Comedy classes aren’t expensive, really, but for struggling artists they are. So before you plunk down your hard-earned 3 to 5 hundred dollars, your instructor should be able to demonstrate how to write a joke from scratch and make it funny. They should be able to step on that stage, with the pressure of an audience and perform it themselves.

I believe a good part of teaching is demonstrating. If they can’t demonstrate it, how in the world are they to effectively teach it? They might be able to regurgitate what they read in say, Judy Carter’s books and even Xerox that material and issue it to you in class as a hand out and claim they are teaching. They may also offer a student a critique only by telling the student when they think something is “HACK!”

Is this teaching? Maybe to some it is. But I believe it boils down to this: Would you learn how to paint an abstract or still life from somebody who can’t paint? Would you take driving lessons from someone who doesn’t have a driver’s license? Would you—you get the point.

You might learn a little something from those kinds of instructors, but a comedy instructor without an actual act is like a flight instructor without a pilot’s license. Odds are you are destined to crash! Simply, they lack the first-hand ability to apply the fundamentals of humor and create a laugh-out-loud article, essay, speech or stand up performance. And here’s the problem: you just paid five hundred bucks for that. That, my friends, is criminal.

Jerry Corley is the founder of The Stand Up Comedy Clinic. You can find more information at http://www.standupcomedyclinic.com