Can everyone really learn to be funnier?
I’m constantly asked, “How do you teach comedy?” The answer to that would be a novella. So, I’ll just focus on one aspect of my process for teaching comedy technique as a series of skills. That’s right…skills. Skills allow students to practice and apply any comedy technique to their own sense of humor. This keeps the teacher’s sense of humor out of the process and gives tools to the students to develop their individual comic voice.
Over the last thirty-five years, I’ve developed a process for identifying and teaching the comedy techniques used by great comedy writers and professional funny people.
My process is based on these three steps.
Identify the Comedy Technique
Create a Practicable Exe
Where are the fundamentals of comedy?
When I first got into teaching stand-up comedy, I quickly realized there were no organized fundamentals of comedy for teaching joke writing and being funny. Every other field had established fundamentals and even different schools of thought about them. For instance, sports, acting, cooking, writing, dancing, art, and music could be learned through mastering the fundamental skills of its corresponding field.
Where were the fundamentals of comedy for joke writing and being funny in front of an audience?
At the time, there were several books which offered some help. They gave advice or examples of what the author did to be funny, but nothing was presenting a clear unified series of the fundamentals for comedy.
I wondered if they even existed. Yet, I’d watch comedians get funnier year afte
Go from a night of horror to just a nightmare.
Open mics are one the most important and distressing periods all fledgling comedians go through. It’s important because comedians need to learn to get over their fear of bombing, deal with the lights, handle being ignored, face abject failure, cope with their anger, all in the quest to learn to be funny.
If that didn’t discourage you, this will. Open mics are equally distressing. The comics running them often don’t care about anything, but their own stage time. They’re held in loud bars with drunken hecklers or in empty coffee houses. The audience is usually other comics working on their material while waiting to go up. There’s no front row because the comics sit as far from the stage as they can. And the regular customers are having loud personal conversations without any regard for the performers.
WTF = Write The Funny
There are several writing tip professional comedians know that can punch up a show. They have certain cues within a show or script and are easy to implement.
Wrting Tips 1: Use “K” Words
The hard consonant sounds, especially “K,” which include hard “C” and “Qu” and, to a lesser extent, “T”, “P”, hard “G”, “D” and “B,” tend to be funnier. Using words with hard consonants, instead of synonyms with softer sounds can really improve a joke.
Yes, I’m perfectly aware that this seems a little silly, but it happens to be true. Most comics who’ve been in the business long enough will tell you the same thing.
“Words with a “K” in them are funny.” - Neil Simon
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Can you get to where you’re going?
We’ve all familiar with the saying, “Climbing the ladder of success.” But what if you have a ladder of failure? Or as I call it a “ladder of fuccess.”
As a comedy teacher I’ve dealt with many dysfunctional ladders which didn’t fit the person’s ambitions of becoming a professional funny person. So here’s a chance for you to evaluate your ladder to determine if you’re climbing a ladder success or fuccess.
Here are several kinds of ladders:
This is a very tall ladder, but it only has two rungs. The top rung is perfection and the bottom rung is failure. Since you’ll never achieve perfection, you’ll always feel
Jokes without shared knowledge.
If the audience doesn't understand what you’re talking about, they won’t laugh. When a certain word or reference is crucial to the understanding of a joke, you must consider whether it’s familiar to your audience. Sometimes you’ll need to use a more familiar alternative.
For example, take this classic Woody Allen joke about his rabbi:
"He opened a discotheque with his colleagues. Topless rabbis. No skullcaps.”
Woody Allen, of course, knew the little round caps Jewish men wear are called yarmulkes. But since he was also aware some people in his audience wouldn’t know that word. So, he uses the word “skullcap,” which is self-explanatory.
If there’s a reference or information that’s crucial to your joke which is not in the common realm of knowledge and has no convenient alt
Or I’ll make this entire audience sorry.
You’re having a great show. There are screams of laughter and applause breaks. You’re crushing it. But there’s that one friggin person who refuses to laugh or even smile. What do you do?
I’ve seen way too many comedians make it their sole mission to make that one person laugh no matter the consequences. Their egos get caught up with breaking that one unresponsive audience member. They’ll stop doing their show and yell, blame, and even antagonize that person who won’t laugh. Soon the show stops being funny because the comedian has excluded the rest of the audience.
In my opinion, this is just plain stupid. So, what’s a better choice?
How to tag jokes and tag tags...
Tagging jokes is the comedians’ term for adding another punch to an already successful punch, without a new setup. Getting two or more laughs from an initial setup increases the laughs per minute LPMs. Most comedians and speakers rarely push past the initial laugh. This leaves way too many laughs on the table. Tagging your jokes and tagging your tags is the road to comedy success.
With one-liner jokes, 95 to 99% of the performing time is spent delivering the setups. This means 95 to 99% of the stage time is spent not being funny. But if you tag every one of the jokes and then tag those tags the audience spends 95% of their time laughing.
If you think of setups as an investment with the laugh as your payoff, then by tagging every punch is like getting paid again and again for the same investment. How d
Where else can you get first-hand knowledge about being a comedian?
Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart are also set to be profiled and interviewed on Inside Comedy. Already, host David Steinberg is setting to chat one-on-one with Stephen Colbert, Michael Keaton, and Dan Aykroyd about comedy in the 4th season of Showtime’s Inside Comedy.
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