How a comedian can use visual imagery in his comedy material to trigger stronger laughs.
By Jerry Corley | The Stand Up Comedy Clinic
A young comedian came up to me at the Comedy Store the other night and said, “Did you see my set? I think I’m doing good, but how could I be more funny?”
I did see his comedy set. He had some pretty good jokes. Some structure was off, like not saving the punch word for the end of the joke, etc.
I didn’t have a lot of time to talkâ€”and if you know me, you know I could stay up all night in front of the Comedy Store talking about comedy structureâ€”then, when the sun starts cracking the horizon, say, “Wanna grab a bite to eat?”
But since my time was limited, I gave him one bit of comedy advice that I thought would help. I figured it was probably better to give him just one comedy tip, because I have a tendency to overload people with information, which in all honesty, just creates confusion:and since this comedian was confused anyway (and I mean that in a nice way! ), I just gave him this suggestion. I hope it can help you in your comedy writing too!
Go back and analyze your comedy material and find the jokes where you can put in more visual imagery.
Using strong visual imagery receives a more crystallized response from a comedy audience than a joke where the imagery isn’t clear.
IE: “I’m losing my hair. There are some times when it really bothers me. Especially, in the mornings, when my wife is running her fingers through my hair:but I already left for work.”
There is a clear visual perception of hair on the pillow in the mind’s eye. That concise visual elicits greater immediate response from a comedy audience than a more vague joke might, like:
“They say that the state of your apartment represents the state of your mind. Right now my apartment is experiencing a frontal lobe issue.”
Despite both jokes being funny, (both jokes have been time-tested in front of comedy audiences all over the country and have gotten consistent laughs), the first one has a clearer visual. One of the reasons might be that most people have never seen a frontal lobe and can’t visualize it clearly. They get the idea of the joke, but it takes a second.
But let’s look at another version of the second joke:
“I need to get it together. They say that your apartment represents the state of your mind. Right now the inside of my apartment looks like the inside of my purse!”
Did you get a clear visual there? Did the joke seem more crisp? Was the visual more crystallized in your mind and as a result, the punch more effective?
We’ve seen the inside of a purse. Even if you’re a male comedian you could structure that joke to say, “Right now the inside of my apartment looks like the inside of my girlfriend’s purse.”
:and as a guy, this joke now has a double possibility for some added comedy:
“Right now the inside of my apartment looks like the inside of my girlfriend’s purse: The worst part is, my girlfriend’s purse was just found by my wife!”
Now there’s two comedic visuals. The inside of a purse and the memories we have of the faces of pissed off spouses.
So add visual imagery to your stand up comedy material and your writing and remember If you can see the picture clearly, odds are the audience will be able to see it too.