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!

Are You Spending Your Energy on the Wrong Things?

Are you spending your Energy on the Wrong Things

I was in between meetings in in Hollywood yesterday and I went to a coffee shop. I remember it clearly because it rained. I know right? Rain in L.A.

That’s like a successful Hollywood marriage. You’re surprised about it and you’re still not sure it’s really happening…

I ordered a latte and the barista was like, “Oh! There’s an open mic going on in the back.”

I seriously thought about going in there and checking it out, but I had some writing to do and I didn’t want to sit in an open mic with my laptop open, not paying attention while comedians are testing their material. I’d immediately be singled out as—well, probably one of the other comedians also not paying attention, (more on that later…).

But I didn’t go in I just sat in the front area, did my writing and drank my latte. After a while, some of the comedians came out and were talking to each other.

The subject: the comedian Carrot Top.

I overheard one of the guys say, “He’s nothing but a hack prop comic.” The others blindly agreed and they started going off on who else was a “hack” comic.

But the conversation eventually came back to Carrot Top and his “stupid” props. And this conversation went on for about 30 minutes.

I could’ve written 10 jokes in that period of time!

And it struck me. These comedians were probably half my age, but the conversations hadn’t changed. They’re still disparaging other comedians.

Which brings me to this question:

Why? Why would any comedian put down another comedian? Especially one who’s reached the level of success that Carrot Top has reached?

Carrot Top is one of the highest paid entertainers in World. He’s got his own theater in Vegas. His shows are always—I mean ALWAYS sold out.

Why would anyone spend that kind of time putting down that kind of accomplishment?

As an artist, isn’t there a more productive way to spend your time?

What if those comedians spent that time exploring Carrot Top’s career trajectory? Or how Carrot Top reached that level of success? Wouldn’t that be more productive, more conducive to one’s own success?

Carrot Top found a niche. He found something memorable, something he could make funny. Something that worked, something the audience loved, and he turned it into a huge multi-million dollar comedy enterprise.

I mean that’s the dream, right?

Find something you love, do it as a career and you’ll never work a day in your life.

It is such a strong show, that one of the main resorts—the Luxor–on the strip in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, felt compelled to give him his own theater.

What’s to criticize?

Normally I take the stance that I only have control over my own behavior and no one else’s but I’m also a stubborn Irish fool from New York…

So I said, “Excuse me. I overheard you talking about Carrot Top. Why would you spend that kind of energy putting down one of the most successful entertainers in the World?”

Wouldn’t you get more benefit studying how he became that successful? Asking yourself how he got there? What could I do better that might help me and my career?

The guy who seemed to be the leader was like, “—you a comic, brah?”

I said, “you might say that…”

He said, “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather keep my integrity than be a prop comic.”

I said, “Dude, it’s Friday night. At this very moment, Carrot Top’s playing two sold out shows in Vegas in his own theater, and you just did an open mic at a coffee shop.  You just spent more time ridiculing a successful comedian than you spent actually doing comedy.”

I left it at that.

The point is. There’s so much work we all need to do on ourselves to get our craft to be the best it can be. There’s so much more work we need to do to jump start our careers.

Why would you focus your energy on the wrong things?

Hannibal Buress Laughed in the Face of Loyola University

Hannibal Buress

Hannibal Buress laughed in the face of Loyola University in a recent performance at the Catholic College in Chicago.

Buress opened his act with a projection image of an email that was sent to him by the university’s show organizers. The email basically banned him from talking about rape, sexual abuse, race and sexual orientation during his set.

After he posted that email and read it to the audience, he launched right into a joke about priests and their long history of sexual abuse. The organizers then cut his mic. The audience booed that his mic was cut and then Buress kept on without the mic. He said, “Bitch ass old people. I can project,” (referring to working without a mic). Then he said, “Ya’ll fuck kids, right?”

That’s when the university increased the volume of the music to the point where Buress walked off stage.

Fifteen minutes later, Buress came back on stage to a standing ovation and went on with his set apparently after students took to Twitter and started requesting refunds.

As a result of this news, I received several questions as to what I thought about this. I want to address the two primary ways I look at this. First the “play-it-safe” way of doing things.

  1. The Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. When someone pays you to perform and gives you the rules you need to follow, you should follow those rules.
  2. M-A-P: When I started in comedy I learned the rule of the writer and followed the M-A-P, Material-Audience-Performer rule. The material has to be right for the audience and has to be right for the performer.

These are the play-it-safe rules to go by. You want to work, so you don’t make any waves. Probably the safest bet for the new comedian.

The other way of looking at it is that Buress is like comedian Paul Mooney. Mooney built his career challenging the rules and breaking the rules. Mooney’s gotten kicked off stage and had his material cut more than once. But that’s what makes Paul Mooney, Paul Mooney. His willingness to be daring and to laugh in the face of the rules.

To some, it’s what a comedian is about, right?, being the ultimate iconoclast and taking on the status quo. Bill Burr is like that to a certain extent. Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Red Foxx, (and we can’t forget Lenny Bruce who made it all possible), all took chances and broke rules.

Buress is known for his outing of Bill Cosby’s rape allegations and injecting new life into those accusations. Some say it was Buress’s video of doing that on stage that gave that investigation legs and led to the ultimate demise of Cosby.

Breaking rules is what Buress does as a comedian. His profanity-laced material is often off-color, challenges society’s supposed norms, and attacks the powers that be by telling his truth, which in the case of the Catholic Church, (sexual abuse by priests) just happened to be the truth.

Also consider the fact that nobody reaches any level of real success without taking big, bold risks. Buress is a risk taker and his career success reflects that. It has become his brand.

If we look beyond the layers of this incident, we have to ask several questions like why did Loyola book Hannibal Buress in the first place? Did they not know the kind of the material he does? A quick YouTube or Google search would’ve given the organizers an idea. Seems to me that the organizers are not accepting accountability.

The other thing about this story that struck me was that it was reported that Hannibal came back on stage after the students started asking for refunds.

What?!

The tuition for Loyola is $40,000 per year. At any school I’ve ever performed the school had a budget for entertainment. Why were the students paying for Buress?

And if the students were paying for the tickets, the “Golden Rule” doesn’t apply to the administrators, it applies to the students who paid to see Buress. The administration facilitated the event, but the students paid for a product and I’m sure they expected to receive the product they paid for.

That’s like hiring the band Rage Against the Machine and telling them they can’t sing “Take the Power Back” or “Killing in the Name” or booking Cardi B and telling her she can’t do “Bodak Yellow.”

In the end, when Buress gave the students what they what they were paying for, the administration gave the order to silence him, thus screwing the students.

Which leads us back to Buress’s earlier statement: “Ya’ll fuck kids, right?”

Why Wait? Plan your Own Success!

plan your success

A DREAM written down with a date becomes a GOAL.

A GOAL broken down into steps becomes a PLAN.
A PLAN backed by ACTION makes your DREAMS come TRUE.

But a DREAM minus GOALS and a PLAN becomes REGRET.

I know that sounds just like some cliche fluff that you’d find on one of those cheesy motivational posters in an office.

I know, office? Yuck!

But you would be amazed at how many people—especially artists—don’t even write down their goals.

You know how most people go through their lives? They WAIT for something to happen. Writers, Actors and comedians are most vulnerable here.

One of the reasons this happens is because they’re waiting for success, not planning for success.

When you want to be a lawyer, you know you can go to college, then law school. You talk to a counselor and they map out a plan of classes that will get you to a certain number of units of a certain selection of classes and you graduate.

Maybe you’re working as an intern for the last part of school. If you do well in school, sometimes that firm hires you.

Then you take the bar exam with a certain number of questions on that exam and you have to get a certain percentage of answers right so you can pass the bar.

In many cases you are hired right out of college and the firm you’re working for pays the expense for you to take and pass the bar. Congratulations! You have a job. You are a lawyer!

Unfortunately, it is not the same thing with show business. You don’t have a specific amount of classes you need to take, you don’t have to achieve a certain amount of units, you don’t have a test and you don’t get a degree that says you are qualified.

So what are you supposed to do?

As an actor, you go to class, you develop the skills, you do an agent showcase, you get an agent and they send you out for auditions.

But what about comedian or comedy writer? It’s really the same thing, but it’s up to YOU to develop the skills, then submit for the job.

Just as you would with a regular job. It’s really no different except that you don’t have a test and you don’t have a specific amount of units you have to pass and you don’t have to have a degree.

The good news is that you don’t have to attend a specific amount of years or earn a specific amount of credits at a university or trade school.

You just have to prove your competence.

There are two primary ways of developing that competence.

  1. Go out and just do it and do it and hope for the best.
  2. Take classes, get coaching to master the fundamentals from someone with real experience. Learn to avoid the mistakes and have a safe environment where you can workout, receive guidance, have accountability and develop a set faster and more efficiently.

I’ve tried both ways, and trust me, it’s much faster working with a professional.

 

Each method has their benefits and their pitfalls. Getting out and performing is great, but I’ve seen 10’s, maybe hundreds of comedians getting up at the mics regularly doing the same material that doesn’t work, the very next week they come up and do the exact same material and it doesn’t work.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m sure you’ve heard this: Albert Einstein is credited with saying that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

Famous UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Having a coach or a good teacher,  can help to guide you through the writing of solid material. Can help to give you the extra tip or pointer that can take a joke that’s not working and make it work.

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:

One of my students went up and did this joke:

I’m in menopause and I’ve been getting these terrible hot flashes lately. I mean they’re bad. Last night, we were home, the kids are asleep and I got this awful hot flash. I was burning up. So I just peeled off all my clothes. I swear I almost game my husband a heart attack. Thank God we weren’t at Starbucks.

It’s a funny idea. But it’s not quite a joke.

One element that should be present in all jokes is surprise. So I suggested changing the set up to a more assumptive set up by removing one of the elements from the maxim of the five W’s (Who? What? Where? Why? When? and How?). So we removed where, (“we were home”).

So that changes the set up. Keeping “the kids were asleep,” helps support and misdirect the audience to assume  she is home and give her a better opportunity for surprise. So the joke becomes:

“I’m in menopause and I’ve been getting these terrible hot flashes lately. I mean they’re bad. Last night, the kids are asleep and I got this awful hot flash. I was burning up. So I just peeled off all my clothes. I swear I almost gave my husband a heart attack… ‘Cuz we were at Starbucks… 

Now, with the sudden change in location (surprise) and using Starbucks as the punchline, it offers another opportunity for her to add a tag to the joke:

… (Shrugs shoulders) the coffee wasn’t the only thing that was hot…” 

After understanding this concept, it enabled the student to add her own tag after that. She said, “I just took my husband’s coffee cake and said, ‘would you like me to heat that up for you?'”

Fixing the funny idea and making it more of a joke, gave it a much bigger laugh in front of the audience. Also adding the two tags, allowed for her to get three laughs from the idea, instead of just one.

Having the guidance from someone who’s a professional who understands the mechanics of comedy writing and performance can help you learn a lot faster and reach your goal of developing an act in a much more efficient way.

So getting up on stage and just doing it over and over and over the same way is not the most effective way of getting better, it’s just the definition of insanity.

The New Year is right around the corner.

If you have a DREAM…
Set some GOALS…
Make a PLAN…
Take ACTION…

… and make your DREAMS come TRUE!

and may you have an amazing 2018!

25 Ways to Make Money with Your Comedy

25 Ways to make money with comedy

Every now and then you see an article on stand-up comedy and how much money comedians make–or rather don’t make.

Then there’s this article from the New York Times which portrays a not so dismal outlook for comedians.

What are we to believe?

I can only give information on what I’ve experienced as a comedian and a writer. Bottom line is that once you can write and perform comedy and you’re able to work clean, you can make a very decent living.

The problem is that most comedians (especially the new ones) see comedy through a very small lens and they don’t look at ALL the opportunities that are available to them.

Most don’t even know these avenues of revenue exist.

When I started out as a comedian I wanted to learn all I could about the business. And watching my father go through his ups and downs financially as an actor, I looked at comedy, not as frivolity, but as a business. Once I did that, I saw all the possibilities and I focused on the ones that would give me the best return.

So I put together a quick list called 25 Ways to Make Money with Your Comedy.

All of the concepts are viable and most of them I’ve actually utilized with varying levels of success.

But this is a quick list to give you an insight and help motivate you to get good at comedy so you can start to make money doing what you love.

Keep in mind the money varies. I just put down what I have earned in my experience from these events.

  1. Stand-up. Perform in Comedy Clubs or One-niters on the road.
  2. Do college comedy shows (Pay $800-$3500 per show)
  3. Work Cruise Ships ($1500-$4000 per week)
  4. Perform at Corporate Gigs ($400-$5000+ per gig)
  5. Do Comedy shows as Fundraisers for non-profits or schools ($600-$2500 per event)
  6. Work as a T.V. Audience Warm-up Comedian ($1500-$2000 per gig)
  7. Emcee Events in Vegas ($1000-$5000 per week)
  8. Host Trade Shows in Vegas and other cities
  9. Become a Radio D.J.
  10. Write for Late Night TV or Variety Talk Shows ($4187 per week min. ((network))
  11. Write Humorous Greeting Cards ($ varies)
  12. Write Humorous T-Shirts or other gifts
  13. Write fluff pieces for magazines or internet sites
  14. Be a commercial copywriter in advertising with a humorous twist. (Some of the most memorable commercial campaigns are humorous spots (Progressive Insurance, Geico, Discover Card, DIRECTV)
  15. Write Joke Books
  16. Do a comedy spot on T.V. (Comedy Central, Late Night TV, Netflix, Showtime Special)
  17. Write a humorous blog or podcast, build a following sell advertising or get a sponsor
  18. Have a humorous YouTube Channel. Develop a following. Sell Advertising or Merch
  19. Go on tour and open for a band on the road. ($3500-$10,000 per week)
  20. Write humorous speeches or jokes for politicians, CEOs, corporate presenters. ($500+- per page)
  21. Punch-up comedy scripts
  22. Punch-up or write sitcoms
  23. Punch-up or write copy for Animated explainers.
  24. Write comedy movies (I wrote “Stretch”) which reached Critically acclaimed on Netflix. Still receiving residuals
  25. Create a humorous Theme based assembly show for schools, (ie: Prevent bullying) ($1500-$2500 per assembly)

So there you go. 25 ways to make money with your comedy.

The purpose of this post is to give you an idea of all the ways you can create revenue streams if you get good at your comedy.

If you’re thinking about a career in comedy you can drop in and take one of my upcoming stand-up classes.

Or if you are already working professionally and want to learn how each of these revenue streams really operates you can stream my course called “How to be the Richest Comedian Nobody’s Ever Heard Of.” Which is a blueprint for how I was making a $250,000/yr. in comedy without being a household name and without an agent.

In the meantime, use the list to motivate yourself and open your eyes to the cool ways you can make a living in this awesome business.