Writing jokes is the grunt work of being a funny person. Anything that helps make it easier is always useful. Here are two tips for writing jokes:
Calendar Day Jokes
Writing jokes and bits for all of the important calendar dates such as Christmas, Halloween, Secretary’s Day, Black History Month, etc. is a very helpful tip for building a repertoire of material.
For instance, Will Durst, who lives in the Bay Area, can always call on this joke:
“In San Francisco, Halloween is redundant.”
An Mexican born student, Maria G. Martinez, studied with me for several years, so every Christmas she’s pull out this ditty:
“Here in America, you have so many Santa Clauses. But in Mexico we have no Santa Claus – they are all here looking for work.”
You can use these jokes year after year as each specific day comes around they never go out of date.
Localize or Regionalize
On a similar note for writing jokes, insert the names of local landmarks, neighboring cities, regional hotels, stores, and restaurants into your jokes. It isn’t as difficult as you might think, and it can really improve the response you’ll receive.
If you have a joke that involves a restaurant, learn the name of a well-known local eatery. Then instead of saying, “I was at this restaurant the other day . . . ,” you can say, “I was just at Hooters.” If you’re in the South and have a joke about being in a supermarket, say, “I was in the Piggly Wiggly,” not, “I was at the market . . .”
Every town has an area or some nearby town that people look down on. Find out what it is and refer to it. Make it the place that an unlikable character in one of your jokes comes from. The audience will love you for it.
For example, I live in Los Angeles, and here we make fun of Bakersfield. In Bakersfield, they make fun of…Bakersfield.
If you have a joke about a rough bar, ask around for the name of a local dive that fits the bill.
“I walked into (insert name of tough local bar) – they’ve got some poor guy on the floor, and they’re pounding the snot out of him. I asked the bartender, ‘Why don’t you call a cop?’ He says, ‘Are you crazy? After the beating they just gave that one?’”
Something magical happens when an audience sees their home town immortalized in your show. This technique works so well, in fact, that some comics actually poo-poo it for being too easy to pull off. I say it’s just doing your homework.
Do you have any tips for writing jokes?
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