Don't get stuck. Sometimes writing a joke is as simple as adding a condition to a statement and turning the irrelevant condition relevant...
Ever wonder what keeps an audience's attention? In this video Marc Maron reveals his secret to keeping an audience captivated whether he's standing or sitting.
I think most people have a this vision that getting into comedy means that you have to go to open mics, where you may or may not get on stage, but before you do get on stage, you have to wade through a sea of jokes about dicks, or jokes about smoking too much weed, or jokes about dicks who smoke too much weed.
If you're over 40, the thought of having to slog out to do that several nights a week is not pleasant.
But there's another way...
I get this question a lot. How do I write a stand-up comedy act? What’s the best way to start? That’s a typical dilemma in comedy, isn’t it? Just getting started
I believe that if you think an idea is funny, but it's not getting laughs, then most likely it's funny, but it's just missing an element that is needed to trigger the laugh.
In my classes, part of what we study is WHY people laugh. What triggers that?
When you understand that at its most intrinsic level you can begin to make changes to a joke to take it from a semi-chuckle (because it's a funny idea) to a triggered laugh because it a funny joke.
Here's an example:
It's amazing to watch someone who's developing their skill at writing. They could crack a great joke right in front of you. And the moment you ask them to write it down, they fall back on their learning of writing in school, trying to use correct punctuation, grammar, etc., and they over write the joke.
That can kill the joke.
This is what you can do to fix it...
Comedians are a vulnerable bunch. If pleasing the audience isn't hard enough, many times we comedians also have to cope with criticism even after we get off the stage.
Sometimes we hear it from club owners or managers. Sometimes we hear it from other comedians and sometimes from an audience member who just watched you and decided that their experience in telemarketing gives them the credentials to bestow on you their expert tips on how you can kill it at your next gig.
"You were crushing it up until that last joke. Just didn't seem to fit." "You'd be funnier if you had fewer F-bombs." "You shouldn't do political material, it makes people uncomfortable." "Jokes about rape are inappropriate."
The list of critique can go on and on.
But before I go off on that
Here is something I want to be sure you have at your disposal. It is what I would call the most powerful tool for your joke writing. It is something
I have a student who talks about her husband having a hard time getting aroused in the bedroom. "Unless he’s watching porn, he can’t get it up." It really bothers her. She wanted a joke to respond to him.
Now as part of her act, after setting it up, she says...
"One time, me and my husband were at Disneyland at one of those ice cream kiosks... The guy said, “Would you like some soft serve.” I said, “No thanks. (points to her husband) I brought my own.”
She debated whether or not to keep the joke, because she was afraid that it would hurt his feelings. That’s an honest dilemma. It is a very personal thing and she's still in a relationship with this man.
So what do you do when your joke hurts personal relationships...