In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 7: Understanding Joke Misdirection – Part 3, I examined how misdirection works with Existing Information Jokes in the Immediate Environment. In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 8: Assumptions and Joke Writing – Part 1, I’ll demonstrate the role of assumptions in all jokes.
Greg Dean Comedy Tips 8:
Assumptions and Joke Writing – Part 1
When I became a stand-up comedy teacher in 1982, I had a curriculum even then. It was a short book with ideas I’d accumulated from other books on comedy, acting classes, and my own experiences of performing comedy.
As I began teaching classes, I knew a few techniques, but I was also imposing on the students my opinion of what was funny and wasn’t funny. I found myself in debates about whose sense of humor was better, mine or my student’s? Being a man of some intelligence, I shoved away my defensiveness and insecurities to ask myself, “Just because I’ve performed a great deal of comedy, does that make my sense of humor better than my students?” The answer I came up with was, “No it is not. It’s all personal taste. What’s funny for one can be offensive to another.” No one is right when it comes to personal preferences for laughing, writing, and performing comedy.
This realization sent me into a crisis. If I didn’t give my opinion about what was funny, what was I going to teach? So began my 30 plus year trek to uncover and document the fundamentals of joke writing and performing stand-up comedy. As a comedian I knew how to write jokes, rewrite jokes, and arrange routines, so I asked myself, “What do I do in my mind to write jokes? How do I know how to rewrite a joke? What are the steps I take to arrange a routine? To answer these questions I had to dig into my own creative processes to identify the actual techniques. After uncovering several techniques, I wrote them down and created a definition for them. Then, and only then, did I teach these techniques to my students to find out if they could comprehend and apply them to get the intended results. My real journey to become an actual stand-up comedy teacher had begun.
I began with joke structure. I spent years reading and thinking about how information moved through the human mind to create jokes. The first model that made sense was from Aristotle and Socrates that humor was based on expectation and surprise. As I thought about expectation, I realized that expectation was the result of thinking. What was happening in my mind that caused me to expect something? Some months later, I figured out that I was making assumptions and then by accepting them as true, I was creating my own expectations. A false expectation to boot, as it was based on assumptions, not reality.
Jokes being based on assumptions was my first big breakthrough. The function of setups was to cause the audience to make assumptions so the setup made sense to them based on their past experience. Then the punch could contradict the expectation with a surprise.
Greg Dean Comedy Tips 8: Assumptions and Joke Writing – Part 1
In my next blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 9: Assumptions and Joke Writing – Part 2, I’ll explain in more detail the role of assumptions and joke writing in joke construction.
- Went kayaking with my wife, Gayla Johnson, at Big Bear Lake. What a great day!
- Go 9ers. I remain hopeful.
Greg Dean Comedy Tips – Assumptions and Joke Writing
Greg Dean’s Stand-Up Comedy Workshops