How I Write Jokes

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.

Set 1

Set 2

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
  • Space
  • Campy Dialogue
  • Scanners
  • Tri-corders

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RTOD: Salad Dressing

With everything going on in the world today, I want to take a moment and talk about something that I’m sure is on everyone’s mind….

Salad Dressing.
Specifically, who thought “Ranch” was a good name for salad dressing??

I’ve never knowingly tried Ranch dressing.

Think about it….you have French Dressing, which brings to mind the rich, flavourful palette found in French cuisine.

When you hear “raspberry vinaigrette” you think of something sweet and tart.

What comes to mind when you hear “Ranch Salad Dressing”??

Hay and Horseshit!

Anthems and Allegories

There have been points in my life where a song jumped out at me. Where the lyrics struck hard, sometimes reducing me to tears.

The first, as a teenager was the Blue Oyster Cult’s Great Sun Jester.   I’ll admit I don’t remember the exact lyrics without googling, but I was struggling with my identity and trying to find my path and place in the world.

Others include Bob Marley’s Redemption Song,  and Imagine Dragon’s Demons.

Some are associated with people,  The Cars’  You Might Think for my first wife, and Garth Brooks The Dance for my Irish doctor.

Its been a long while since a song spoke to me, but last week it happened twice.  Two different songs where the message are diametrically opposed.

“Simple Man”…Shinedown’s acoustic cover of Skynard’s classic hit.  I was listening to the randomized mix of songs I’d thumb’d up on Google Music.

As I was pondering the message of that song…to be a simple kind of man, the next song hit me with equal strength…The Struts, Could Have Been Me

Don’t want to go out in a blaze of glory,
Don’t want to live as an untold story!

There have been times when my anthems have confused other people, this is the first time I’ve been confused…

I’ll figure it out…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kharma is Weird and Wonderful

There is a Buddhist meditation that helps you pass on your good Kharma to someone else. I forget the name of it, but a few years ago when I first started meditating I did that for a dear friend who was going through a very rough time.

The other night I tried meditating for the first time in a long time. I remembered my passing on my good kharma, and, as things haven’t been so great for me, I tried to pull some of it back.

My friend and I have not spoken in years, but I know from mutual friends commenting on her posts that her life is much better.

The next day, through a series of events I won’t get into, I was two hours late getting home…or getting close to home.

As I was approaching the back road I usually take home (Vivian Line 37 for those familiar), I passed a car buried to its axles in snow. I looked back thinking I should stop to help.

I ended up missing my turn, and quickly pulled onto the shoulder to do a u-turn. A very icy shoulder it turns out and I too ended up mired in snow.

It took two hours before a tow truck came by and hauled me out and sent me on my way.

It was a clear cold night.
I had to pee, and decided to walk some distance from the car. I wasn’t sure where the tow truck operator would have to go, and didn’t want to pollute his workspace.
I sat in the car in silence. My musings interrupted several times by people offering to help.
I thanked all of them, and explained I had a tow coming.

So yes, and interrupted night where I was 4 hours late getting home.

A couple of days ago it occurred to me that the disastrous night occurred immediately after I asked for some of my good kharma back.

I was going to chuckle at the irony, but then things occurred to me.

It was a cold, clear, but beautiful night. I stared at the stars until I started shivering.

I didn’t play with my phone, or the radio. I sat in silence, taking the opportunity that was forced upon me to do some quiet reflection.

7 or 8 people stopped to see if they could help/I was all right. While yes, they interrupted my reflection they restored my faith in humanity. There are decent people out there.

Speaking of decent people both my friends Gord and Denise stood to without hesitation when I called for help. I know that any number of friends would’ve done the same. So I was reminded that even when I’m surrounded by vast cold, dark countryside…I’m not alone.

So it turns out that the inconvenient, time consuming incident wasn’t kharma chastising me, it was a gift.

Quasi-Inspirational Ravings #2

One day while on a stroll through the park I met an elderly gentleman sitting alone on an out of the way bench,  far from the children, dogs and humans who were enjoying a bright spring afternoon.

I asked his permission to share the bench.

He nodded and I might be wrong but I think he was happy for a bit of company.

We both sat in silence for a spell.  Each of us lost in our own thoughts.

Then, without warning he hit me on my head with his cane.

While I was still dazed he took my wallet, phone and watch before dashing off through the trees.

The moral of this story is that even old people sitting alone in a park can be assholes,  so always keep your guard up!

 

Working in Healthcare vs IT

I turned 51 a couple of weeks back.

I’ve had a few different jobs over those 5 decades.   The majority of the first two were pretty much being a major pain in the rear to my parents and any associated adults.

I think the two careers I’ve had where I’ve been most useful to society was my time as a military medic,  and  the last 16 years or so working in healthcare IT.

 

There are advantages to being a front line clinical worker.  You get to drape a stethoscope around your neck and yell “STAT” at various people.   If you’re dressed in scrubs leaning against a wall looking pale and haggard,  people just assume that you’ve pulled a 36 hour shift and not that you’ve only been at work for 5 minutes,  but are very hung-over.

If you work in IT,  and you look haggard,  people presume  you’ve been at work for 5 minutes, but pulled an all-nighter raiding in World of Warcraft……even if you’ve just pulled a 36 hour stint trying to solve a critical issue.

Don’t even ask what happens if an IT guy dons a stethoscope and starts yelling “STAT!”

But there are some distinct advantages to working in IT instead of healthcare.

In healthcare, if you have a patient that you’re having problems diagnosing,  there’s no way in the world you’d get away with telling your patient this…

Look,  you’re baffling the crap out of me,  so I need you to sit here and wait while I go get a coffee and think about what’s wrong with you.
I might end up googling you,  and/or talking about you with my friends.
It might even come to discussing you and your condition online in forums and chat-rooms…..maybe someone there can help me figure out WTF is wrong with you.

Yeah…trying saying that to a patient….

We’ve all heard stories about surgical mistakes where somebody literally hacked off the wrong leg,  or a case I remember reading about years ago where a teenager went in for brain surgery and ended up with a vasectomy….

In the IT world (if you’re smart),  mistakes of this magnitude are embarrassing,  but not fatal (career or otherwise).   That’s because we can always revert to the last good configuration!

I will admit that I miss my days as a medic.  There’s great satisfaction in seeing someone walk out of your facility who otherwise might not have.

I might have a similar blog in the future as I’m contemplating another career change….I just need to figure out how one goes around becoming part of the Idle Rich.