How to Write a Joke like Chris Rock

how to write a joke like Chris Rock

That’s right. In this post, I’m going to show you how to write a joke like Chris Rock…

Well, I’m going to show you one specific way that Chris Rock writes his stand-up comedy material.

I’ll tell you what brought me to this. As you might know, I have a YouTube channel where I post a lot of videos based on questions the comedy-curious send me on Twitter. I get great questions from comedians at all levels, beginners to professionals, because, let’s face it, we’re always learning!

This particular video addresses a comment I received on my YouTube Channel regarding a comedy writing tutorial I put online. I demonstrated how to write jokes using incongruity by utilizing the listing technique.

This guy wrote a comment that said, “Nobody uses this technique to write comedy.”

I replied, “What is your experience in this field? It must run deep since you imply that you know everyone in comedy.”

He wrote back, “Oh. Sorry Jerry. I didn’t even know you read these things.”

So what’s that say about his character? When you’re not looking I’ll talk shit about you…”

Now, don’t get me wrong I appreciate the skeptics. I used to say I respect them, but it’s hard to respect someone that simply defaults to negativity and commits themselves to a fact when all the evidence to the contrary is right before their very eyes.

And if they just took a little time to research the field they are in, they could find the truth.

But sometimes people need a little more than just somebody like me telling them they’re wrong. They need examples from someone with a LOT more credentials and fame than I have.

So that’s why I put together this video where I deconstruct a bit that Chris Rock does.

Then, as a bonus I demonstrate that if you actually go deep with the lists you can write like 20 more jokes on just one premise.

To really put a nail in the coffin of the skeptic, I include a downloadable PDF worksheet so that YOU can print it out and do some writing yourself on the same premise.

It’s great practice. And you’ll have a ton of fun doing it.

So watch the video. And while you’re there don’t forget to leave a comment, subscribe, like and share!

Don’t Listen to the Schmucks!

don't listen to the schmucks

There’s a condition out there that some people have called the “I-know-everything” condition and it’s terminal.

If there’s one thing in your journey to success that will stop you cold in your tracks, it’s being the guy who thinks they know everything.

That’s what today’s video is about.

I call it “Don’t Listen to the Schmucks!” 🙂

I hope you enjoy it… and as always, leave a comment, and if you like the content, consider subscribing to the channel.

How to Crush a Heckler Without Ruining the Show

When I first started doing comedy, I used to do these shows during breaks in between sets of my friend’s band when they performed in nightclubs around Los Angeles.

One night I was doing a set and it wasn’t going well. There were these three guys that noticed me failing miserably. I could hear one of them say, “Look, he’s bombing! Let’s get him.”

They approached the stage and stood like four feet from the stage and started heckling me. When one of them ran out of breath, one of the other ones took over. It was like being verbally gang banged by hecklers.

After that miserable set I went to the bar and thought about getting drunk, but then I realized that I had audio recorded that entire experience.

I record every set. Mini-tape recorders, digital recorders or the voice memo app on my iPhone is the technological equivalent of an airplane’s black box. It records every event that leads up to a crash.

I said to myself, “That shit is NEVER gonna happen to me again.”

I took that recorder home, listened to to each line those assholes said to me and I wrote comebacks for every single one of them.

That was totally empowering. It was a true-to-life example of taking a negative experience and turning into a positive one.

During the nearly 30 years of doing stand-up I’ve learned a lot about hecklers and most of the stuff I learned is counter-intuitive to most of the stuff we hear from other comedians.

One thing I have learned is that preparation is essential. Having an arsenal of response lines called “comebacks,” will help you overcome your fear of hecklers.

Some comedians insist that you don’t need to prepare for hecklers. But then you have to ask yourself why the number one joke type stolen from comedians is heckler comebacks?!

How do you Prepare for a Heckler?

Dealing with hecklers is not something that comedians get enough practice with.

Heckling doesn’t usually happen often enough for us to have enough time to get any reps in. Think about it. You can spend hours honing and rehearsing five minutes of material, then you get up on stage in front of an audience and you rehearse and hone that five minutes.

There’s usually no heckles. Once in a while a heckler shows up. A heckle is a blip in the overall stand-up experience. So literally what time do we have to work on hecklers?

Very little, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t get the practice in.

Your overall practice for a heckler comes with the practice you put in writing your jokes. If you have a good grasp on how to craft a joke from scratch on any given topic, you’re already ahead of the game when it comes time to deal with a heckler.

Think about it this way: a heckle response is a comeback to something someone says in the audience. Usually that something comes from somebody who’s trying to somehow disrupt your show.

As a comedian, your writing is usually a cynical comment on a fact, statement or announcement, incident or situation. So if you’ve been practicing your writing, you’re going to be more prepared to respond to a heckler.

The first skill you must acquire when dealing with a heckler is what I like to call active listening. That means really listening to every word the heckler says. When hecklers speak they usually give you enough fodder to develop a quick incongruity response to a joke, a paired phrase response to a joke or a wordplay response to a joke. But it’s not only limited to those comedic comebacks.

Hecklers comments are like any line you might write a joke on. There’s endless possibilities, but when you just give yourself a few structures to work with it makes faster with your comebacks.

The good news is that the tension is so high in the room when there’s a heckle, that the audience will usually give you accolades for coming up with anything that makes sense in response.

Two Basic Types of Heckle Comebacks

There are two basic types of Heckle Comebacks.

  1. Evergreen Comebacks
  2. Ad-lib Comebacks

The Evergreen Comeback

The Evergreen Comeback is a response to a heckler that the comedian uses that may or may not (usually not) have anything to do with the subject matter the heckler is talking about. It’s just a line to shut him/her up. Here are a few I’ve heard over the years. They’ve been recycled by a variety of comedians…

“I remember when I had my first beer.”

“Why don’t you wear a full-body condom? If you’re gonna act like a dick, you might as well dress like one.”

“Has your father stopped crying?”

“Your bus leaves in 10 minutes. Be under it.”

“Your mother could’ve done us all a favor and just swallowed.”

Those are standard lines they are there in case the moment doesn’t provide me with enough fodder to respond to the comedian effectively in an ad-lib situation.

You’ve probably heard comedians use one or more of those lines, but I was never a fan of using someone else’s heckle jokes so I wrote a bunch of my own…

Here’s one I usually use to keep it playful…

“What’s going on at that table? Are these all your friends or are you the only one in the trailer park with a car?”

I might follow it up with, “Because I’ve seen your house and I love what you’ve done with the Michelins.”

The fun part is keeping it playful. Usually after I would say this line and do the tag, the heckler behaves.

Ad-Lib Comebacks

The Ad-Lib Comebacks are lines that a comedian uses that are direct responses to what a heckler has said. It could be prompted or unprompted by the comedian.

I remember being at a show and Howie Mandel had a heckler. Howie just said, “So what do you do for a living?”
The guy said, “I’m a carpenter.”
Howie said, “That’s cool, because I was just thinking, “If I had a hammer…”

It’s not even a put down. It’s just a comeback. But it diffused the moment and as silly and innocuous as that was for a comeback, the audience not only laughed, they applauded.

The audience laughed at the simple coincidence that Howie came up with something that related to the subject of “carpenter.” In addition, the added coincidence that Howie’s response was a song that was relatable and familiar and it fit with the subject matter. Audience’s will not only laugh at the coincidence that those two ideas fit with each other, they laugh because the tension is high and they are craving a release point.

This technique by Howie Mandel is used quite often when the heckler is not providing any fodder. When the heckler says what they do for a living, the comedian now has something to work with. At that point the comedian can choose to go on the attack or be playful.

A Professional Should Keep the Show Playful

I prefer the comeback that keeps the show playful. In my experience being playful is much more effective at quieting the comedian for the rest of the show than going on the attack.

There’s a misunderstood psychology behind the heckler that most comedians don’t bother to understand. It’s a subject that’s beyond the scope of this post, but I will address it in another one soon.

I also cover it in a half-day Heckle & Comeback Workshop that I do.

I think club owners and audiences expect more from a comedian these days.

There are times you can carry something too far. If you corner someone and don’t give them anywhere to go and it’s not comedic, you’re doing yourself, your act, the audience and the club a disservice. If it turns into a fight, you’ve killed the night and probably your chance of getting asked back to that club.

I’ve done all that.

I’ve shredded someone to the point that I had a beer bottle thrown at my head. I’ve humiliated someone to the point where they went out to their truck and got a gun. I’ve burned a heckler to the point where a group of KKK put a brick through the rear window of my car and I’ve throttled a group to where I got cracked in the jaw by a couple of dudes after the show.

I’ve since learned ways to be prepared and keep it fun, while still being edgy. There’s a way to diffuse, deflect & pivot so that you can still “WIN,” while still keeping the show moving and not have a fight or get a bottle thrown at your head.

Preparation is key but understanding the intrinsic nature of the heckler and the audience empowers you to be in charge of whether the night is a night of funny or a night at a bar fight.

There’s more to come on this subject of hecklers, so keep an eye out for my next post on the heckler. In the meantime, check out my Heckle & Comeback Workshop and learn some secrets to crushing the heckler every time.

how to deal with a heckler workshop by Jerry Corley

Email Whitelisting

Email Address Whitelisting 

“Email Whitelisting” is used to describe the act of allowing an email to reach your inbox. This is helpful if you want to make sure a certain business’ email doesn’t go to your spam folder. Whitelisting is typically accomplished by adding the sender to your contact list in your email client. In this article, I’ll give you step-by-step instructions that show how to whitelist a sender.

Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions to whitelist a sender in common email clients and providers.

Apple iPhone / iPad

  1. Open the email.
  2. Tap the sender’s name in the From line.
  3. On the next screen, tap Create New Contact.
  4. Tap Done.

Microsoft Outlook 2013

  1. Right-click on the email that you would like to add to your safe sender list
  2. Hover over Junk and then click the option Never Block Sender.

Android

  1. Tap to open the email.
  2. Tap the icon next to the email address.
  3. Tap OK.

Apple Mail

  1. Right-click on the sender’s email address.
  2. Select Add to Contacts or Add to VIPs.

Gmail

  1. Click and drag the email into the Primary tab.
  2. Click Yes to confirm

Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail)

  1. Open the email.
  2. Click the Add to contacts link

Yahoo! Mail

  1. Right-click the email.
  2. Select Add Sender to Contacts.
  3. Click Save.

3 Cool Ways to get Started Writing Your Comedy Act

how to write a stand-up comedy act

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 writing.

The big problem actually arises when people try to write something funny. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. People have a skewed concept of writing funny.

A lot of times when people try to write funny, they wind up with something zany, whacky or implausible. What they should be shooting for is plausible but unexpected.

Now, I don’t know if there is a “best” way to start, but in nearly 30 years on the road and 8 years writing for the Tonight Show and others, I’ve learned a few things about getting started writing comedy for television and writing for my own stand-up act. So I will share some of my techniques for getting started.

Please note that this is by no means the ONLY way to get started, but it one way I’ve used successfully through the years.

This is also part of a concept I learned from one of the best, George Carlin. Carlin said, “I know with 98 percent accuracy that a joke is going to be funny before I step on stage.”  I said, “How do you know that?” He said, “Because it contains all the elements a joke needs to be funny.”

So when I write, I use those elements.
There are two primary ways you can write comedy. Internally and externally.

Internal is personal. It’s about you. External is not about you but everything outside of you.

For this article, I’m going to talk about the internal.

First I write down 50 facts about me.

I don’t prejudge the facts, I just write them down. They include who I am, where I’m from, my heritage (lineage), my parents, family, religion, politics, relationship status, my idiosyncrasies, flaws, failures, etc.

The facts also include what I’ve been doing the last few weeks, days, hours.

The general idea is that a comedian should be able to take any logical grouping of words and turn it funny using structure.

Applying Comedy Structure

Once I have the facts down on the page, I take each one and apply comedy structure by asking 3 questions:

  1. Is there a double-entendre play? (Is there a word that has an implied meaning that I can turn into a comedic meaning using cynicism, sexuality, or sarcasm)
  2. Reverse: Is there something assumed in the statement that I can shatter. Can I take the expected outcome and flip it at the last second.
  3. Incongruity: Are there two or more dissimilar ideas that I can turn into a joke using association or juxtaposition. (most common technique used in comedy; incongruity).

This is the simplified approach using 3 major comedy structures of Double-Entendre, Reverse and Incongruity.

Since there are 13 Major Comedy Structures, I will often see other possibilities in the sentence and use one of them.

For example. If I was to open my act by saying, “I have 5 kids.”
I could turn that into something like, “I have 5 kids…that’s right 5 kids… because I’m only half-Mormon. I have 5 kids from 3 different moms. (audience responds with audible surprise)… Oh, there’s the judgement. One part of you was going “Oh, 5 kids. That’s quite an accomplishment. The other part’s like, “5 kids from 3 different moms? That’s trailer trash…”

Then I might add an act-out… “If I was in an episode of Cops, it would be like, (AO: Cop pointing a gun) “Sir step down from that milk crate!”
ME: (Trailer trash me): “Milk crate? Shiiiiit, that’s my porch!”

There are a lot of different ways to go with that one fact but it all started from the fact “I have 5 kids.”

Keep in mind, that comedy material like this is not meant to be read, but spoken and acted out. It might not sound funny on the page, it has never failed on the stage.

Another way I like to start is by writing what’s happening in my life.

“Yesterday was my wife’s birthday so I bought her a gift certificate for a His and Hers Massage. She was like, (AO: My Wife’s voice): “Jerry, this is a ‘we’ gift, not a ‘me’ gift.” So I returned it and got her a gift certificate for dinner for ONE.”

This particular structure is called Benign Retaliation. I call it the perfect joke structure because it automatically contains an antagonist and a protagonist. And when you have an antagonist and protagonist, the audience is compelled not to just listen to the joke, but to root for the protagonist to win.

Therefore, the audience is emotionally more committed than just laughing at a simple surprise-style joke.

Here’s another example of a benign retaliation joke:

My Ex–who cheated on me–called me on Halloween. She was like, “Jerry, I don’t know what to pretend to be for Halloween.” I said, “Why don’t you dress normally and pretend you’re in a committed relationship.”

Double Entendre Structure

If we look at a simple double-entendre style joke, I might take it and finesse it into a story so it’s more compelling:

“I used to coach soccer and I remember our team got into the playoffs one time—yeah “one time,” that’s how bad we were. But this one time we got pummeled. Afterwards, the local paper interviewed me. The lady was like, Coach Corley, how do you feel about the execution of the offense?” I was like, “I’m all for it… and while you’re at it, do me. We all need to be put out of our misery.” Yeah, that’s what I said. They quoted me on that.

Reverse Structure

Another way to get started is with a quick Reverse. That’s where the fact you wrote has a strong expectation. The human brain is programmed to anticipate and create an expected ending of a story. That’s why you have couples that often finish each others sentences.

So I might say something simple like, “So, I’m in love… don’t tell my wife.”
Or I might say, “Six months sober… thank you very much. (Then take a beer or flask out of my pocket, take a drink) I’m so kidding! But you guys wouldn’t have applauded if I said, “I’ve been drinking since I was 18 and I don’t punch my wife.”

Another reverse might be to talk about my kids.

I’m trying to teach my daughter how to tie her shoes… which is weird, cuz’ she’s twenty-two. I’m just kidding. She’s five. Five years old and I’m trying to teach her how to tie her shoes. She’s like “Dad, I can’t Dad. I can’t!” And I’m like, “How many times have I told you not to use that word. I am NOT your Dad.”

Incongruity Structure

The last technique (but most popular in comedy) is Incongruity or juxtaposing contrasting elements in a sentence by using free association.

Like if I opened with “I’m Irish and American Indian… that’s my lineage, Irish and American Indian.

Now I have two clearly identifiable incongruous ideas. Irish and American Indian. If  I was to list everything I could think about dealing with Irish and do the same with American Indian, I might come up with this simple joke.

I’m Irish and American Indian. That’s my lineage. Irish and American Indian. You know what that means; I pretty much have VIP seats waiting for me at any AA meeting. (Then I might add an act out) I walk into that meeting it would be like (AO: meeting proctor, greeting me walking in) Hey! Running Bear O’Reilly! We have a seat for you in the front row…”

Or something like that.

This is just a simple approach to getting started writing a stand-up act. It’s based in the science of what triggers human laughter, then uses the structures that pull those triggers.

Again there are endless ways to go about writing your comedy. Most people are what I call coincidental comedians. We just wait for something funny to happen then if we record it or write it down, we can remember to tell it to an audience. The problem is, you have to wait for that “coincidence” to occur in order to write an act.

I prefer to understand comedy at it’s intrinsic operational level so that I can write comedy at will.

IMPORTANT: One thing to keep in mind is that learning how to write the way we talk is a skill that has to be practiced. We’re taught to write prosaically, but we speak in broken sentences, use contractions and slang. Therefore, we have to learn how to write the way we talk.

When you write your jokes you have to now get up on stage and perform them by telling them to the audience, like you you’re just talking to your friends.

I hope this helps you get started!