Even though I’m not a professional I’ve had a couple of people ask about the methods I use to write comedy. I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about that.
Sometimes the material I use in my stand up routines just comes to me. While they might need a bit of polish or a tag or two, they are complete and ready for delivery.
In the first of the videos listed below, my joke about telling my doctor I eat two bags of vegetables is an example of a joke born whole. I was thinking about how my doctor doesn’t believe that bacon is a vegetable. That’s funny, but it didn’t work as a joke, however both vegetables and chips comes in bags, so viola!
These are the two sets I currently have posted on YouTube. I reference jokes from each below.
Other bits come to me as a concept. My Pussy vs. Vagina bit (second video) started off as a comment to a friend to the effect of “Why would I insult someone by calling him something I’m rather fond of?”. You’ll see that I’ve fleshed that out to about a full minute of material.
Other ideas start off with just the thought of “there’s a joke in there somewhere”. The set up of my Star Trek bit, where I talk about the differences in the capabilities of the crew between episodes is an example of this.
Let’s use the Star Trek bit to illustrate one of the ways I come up with material.
Most jokes start of with a premise. The ST bit’s premise is:
In one episode, the Enterprise rains death down from space, and in the next half the crew is wiped out by one guy!
Not very funny on it’s own, is it?
I used word association to help with this step. Basically I listed things that I associated with Star Trek. So my list contained things like
- Sci Fi
- Campy Dialogue
Eventually I settled on scanner/tri-corder and campy dialogue, and the line became
In one episode the Enterprise rains death down from space! It’s like [pretend to scan the planet] “Captain, we’ve located the Klingon and O-M-G, he hasn’t changed his underpants in 8 days!”
In the next episode half the crew is wiped out by one guy armed with a pointy stick and terrible dialogue! [Overdone campy] “I would stab you thusly but alas, your tunic is not the red of an Adaluvian sunset, but the blue of a Best Buy Smartass!” (the Best Buy Smartass is a call back to my opener for that set).
[aside]….at least now we know why they call them Klingons!
A good joke usually consists of a Premise, a setup, a punchline, and tags.
Using my Star Trek joke again, the Premise is “The thing I hate about Sci Fi shows is how inconsistent they are!”
This lets the audience know what I’m about to talk about, and leads me to the set up. In the bit above there are two set-ups, and two punchlines (the Andulvian sunset bit is the punchline).
A tag is a quip that you add to end of a bit or joke. A funny comment, maybe an observation, or an aside like I used above. You can add as many tags as you want. They’re a good way to close off a joke and move on.
You can also use tags if you’re running fast and need to fill out a few seconds.
You might be interested to know that a lot of times tags sound spontaneous. They could be, but mostly they’re actually part of the set. A true artist can make the audience think that they just thought of them.
That’s it in a nutshell. If you’re interested in knowing more or discussing, reach out!