Say What? About Joke Writing

Last weekend I took a break from comedy writing

to do laundry, and so I ran over to the store to get some bleach. I asked the cashier what aisle the bleach was in, and she sent me TO THE COSMETIC AISLE. It took me a minute to think of what kind of bleach you get in the cosmetic aisle. . .and then I said, “it’s not for my mustache, it’s for my whites.” That cracked me up! And FYI, I DON’T HAVE A MUSTACHE. . . but for some reason that woman associated bleach with facial hair, not laundry – maybe it was her issue??

 

So not only did I get a great new joke for my act,

 

but it gives me something to focus on in this blog. . .the WHAT of comedy writing. I’ve talked about Who When Where Why and How of joke writing, so it’s nice to wrap it up with the What. When you’re trying to find the funny, you have to ask “What” about the subject of your sentence and you’ll come up with more humor.

 

Asking the what question will give you some great punch lines.  So run the subject of your joke through a series of what questions. . .

  • What else can you do with. . .
  • What time. . .
  • What do people associate with. . .
  • What IS it. . .
  • What could it be. . .
  • What’s it really mean. . .

 

I use the what question

all the time to come up with the silly and absurd. For example, when I was doing a show for the insurance company Geico I made my list of what do we associate with that company, and of course the lizard pops out. And what do we associate with lizards. . .slimy, reptiles. . . and what do we do with lizards. . catch them, play with them, squash them. . .

 

This helped me to

come up with the joke “I did a show for Geico recently. It didn’t go so well. I was standing back stage waiting to go on and I squashed this lizard.” The joke gets a great laugh and it’s easily recognizable.

 

What is the leading question for much of our daily lives. . what are you doing this weekend? What’s she doing with HIM? What’d you get on the test? What kind of car did you buy. . .

 

So WHAT are you waiting for? Asking what can bring out the funny fast. Now go have a great weekend.

 

Jan

 

www.TheWorkLady.com

www.ComedyEmcee.com

www.Joke-Writer.com

 

 

Editing Your Comedy

Okay, it’s been 6 weeks

since my last comedy writing blog – that’s what happens when you have a BUSY April and May for keynotes. It’s a good year for comedy! I just finished my quarterly newsletter titled “Jans article – Comedy Wisdom”, so I’m focusing this blog on editing your humor because I had to do a lot of it to get my humor article down to a manageable size.

 

me in lake tahoe

me in lake tahoe

 

One of the biggest mistakes

that new comics and speakers make is that they don’t edit the joke enough and/or they don’t edit it in the correct way. Go to any open mic night at a comedy club and even the worst comic will have a good IDEA for a joke. ..they just don’t edit it correctly. And I assure you that even Bill Cosby, though he sounds like he has these long rambling stories, spends time editing his stories.

 A couple of key points

on editing your jokes – make sure you:

End with the funniest word or close to it. . .sometimes people put a prepositional phrase after the real joke. Cut that out to make it pithy.

  •  Don’t put too many descriptive words together. It makes people think too hard and you lose them in the joke.
  •  Do say it out loud. Many times after I’ve written a joke, it comes out different, and funnier, when I then say it out loud.
  •  Don’t use big words or unfamiliar that take people time to digest. Comedy is not the time to show your vocabulary unless it’s pertinent to the joke.
  •  Don’t use the same word in the set-up and punch. Example, if you use the word “child” in the set up, and you need to say it again, use the word “kid.”
  •  Do get an editor. Okay, I don’t use an editor in most of my stuff, but I do have one for long articles, like my quarterly comedy newsletter – Keynote Chronicles. And I highly recommend him – Andy Kirk. Contact him (acolinkirk@gmail.com) and tell him I sent you if you need a GREAT editor.

 

That’s it for editing at the moment. . this blog is already wayyyy toooo long.

Jan

 

PS  Send me a note if you’d like a copy of my quarterly newsletter, and I’ll put you on the email list!

 

www.JanFanS.com

www.ComedyEmcee.com

 

 

The WHERE of jokes

Sure it’s important to

know WHO you’re talking to, so you can inject appropriate jokes and humor, but don’t forget to look at your surroundings and bring the WHERE into the equation. I just had an event for a health care group this week and it was held in a hotel connected to a casino. This gave me a great opening line – “it’s nice you’re holding this at a casino. .  . like working in health care isn’t enough of a gamble.”

I’ve used the casino-gambling connection

in the past too, so that I can kick off some funny jokes about the group. Several years ago I performed my comedy for mushroom growers, and they had told me that the biggest mushroom grower had just bought 3 mushroom farms and then immediately went out of business. This was great for the remaining mushroom growers because that opened up the competition.  So, since this event was at a casino, and I came up with a great comedy line to kick off the event. .  “I was speaking to one of the dealers last night. And he said that the only way you can lose money faster than gambling is if you buy 3 mushroom farms.” The group loved it!

So next time you’re developing humor,

don’t forget the room/environment you’re in. I’ve performed in:

  • a restaurant which was filled with statues – “it’s nice to be here, I’ve never performed at a yard sale before,”
  • a cruise ship “the captain says you can renew your wedding vows at sea. . .or if things aren’t going so well, for an extra fee, you can become a widow at sea,”
  • in a computer history museum “every time I drink wine around computers, I end up emailing one of my exes,”

and in a nursing home, in a bakery, a winery, a field outside next to a canal with HUGE barges going down it, a floating dock while the audience was on the grass embankment, a restaurant while people were eating (I was told the wait staff loved me as well as the audience!), a mulit-million dollar gymnasium with a $20 sound system, and other weird, odd or unusual venues. . .and I’ve had jokes for all of them.

Make a funny connection between your group and the environment, and you’ll create instant rapport.

 

Jan

www.TheWorkLady.com

www.ComedyEmcee.com

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