Comedy and Business

Sometimes a Sight Gag is Better

I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

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Sometimes seeing it is funnier than hearing it. This goes along with the adage, “Show don't tell.” Showing or acting out something is almost always stronger than telling them about it. For example, a student of mine, Alan Bockal, does this joke: “So look for me at your local freeway off-ramp. I’ll be the one holding the sign that says: Married a Jewish Girl - Will Work for Sex.” Alan could have just said that joke, but it works much better when he stands there holding the sign like a homeless person on a freeway off-ramp. Comedian and food fan Kevin James has an entire routine about how tiny a Geo Metro feels when he sits in it. He could, of course, just tell the audience that the car fits like a jacket, but instead he pretends to be in the car, holding a steering wheel that ap



How to Create Characters that Live

Live that Character

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  One of the major differences between fledgling comedians and seasoned pros is the quality of the characters. When I say “characters” I mean the ones that appear in their act outs or scene work. Acting out fully developed characters is one of the most neglected areas for beginner stand-up comedians. Too many comedians just act out the characters and say the lines with their own voice. Even less effective, the comedian doesn’t act out the character, but rather tells the audience what the character said. These are missed opportunities. To really improve the entertainment value of jokes and bits, take the time to identify the characters and then act them out in the show. The trick is to make the characters real people, not caricatures. When teach



Handling Hecklers – Part 5

Sometimes Less is More

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  In my previous blogs Handling Hecklers Parts 1- 4, I’ve given some fairly well known tips for crushing hecklers like the cockroaches they are. In this blog, Handling Hecklers Part 5, I’ll offer a couple of more gentle approaches for helping overzealous audience members to shut up.    Sincerely Ask Them to Stop Commenting I know this seems too simple to be true, but it really works. Since most hecklers think they’re helping your show, sometimes just nicely asking them to, “Please stop commenting,” can be enough. I’ve even gone so far as to admit that I’m not as good as they are and to please give me a chance. It’s so disarming to have the performer pleasantly request to stop commenting that most people will agree. After all,



The 10 Problems of Memorizing Words – Part 2

First, read Part 1.

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In my last article, The 10 Problems of Memorizing Words - Part 1, I discussed five of the problems. Here in The 10 Problems of Memorizing Words - Part 2, I’ll explain five more problems associated with memorizing the words of speeches, presentations, or routines. Memorizing Words - Problem 6 Even if speakers remember the words correctly, they still aren’t a very effective means of communicating. The following is the work of University of California at Los Angeles professor Dr. Albert Mehrabian, in the book (Silent Messages published by Wadsworth 1971), and it demonstrates the relative effectiveness of the three ways



The 10 Problems of Memorizing Words – Part 1

Are you using the right mental software?

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Memorizing words of a speech, presentation, or routine is the most common type of rehearsal, and exactly what creates recurring performing problems. I’ve identified 10 problems which are caused by memorizing the words and their consequences. When rehearsal is done by repeating the words over and over, they get encoded in the internal self talk voice. Then in order to recall the words, the speakers must go inside their heads and listen to their self talk say the words before repeating them to the audience. Memorizing Words - Problem 1 Most people do not understand that normal memory is done by recalling pictures, sounds and feelings. For instance, when someone tells a story, they remember what they’ve seen, heard, and felt which gets expressed through body lang



2 Specialty Tips for Writing Jokes

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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



Rehearse Right…Perform Right

How you rehearse is how you will perform.

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To express your real sense of humor on a stand-up comedy stage, you have to be funny in the same way that you’ve been funny all your life. In my experience I’ve found improper rehearsal to be the number one factor that causes people to lose touch with their natural sense of humor. For instance, if you rehearse by pacing back and forth, looking at the ground and trying to remember what you’re supposed to say next, then you’ll perform pacing back and forth, staring at the ground, and still trying to remember what you’re supposed to say next. Conversely, if you rehearse a joke as if it were something that really happened to you, pretending that you’re relating to an audience and having fun with your material, then you’ll perform as if the material really happened to you, you’ll relate to the audience,



Fear of Going Blank on Stage

My point is…ummmmmm.

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Going blank in the middle of a show or presentation is one of the most common fears of being in front of people. The number one reason people go blank on stage is the fear of going blank. From a teacher’s perspective, I believe the sooner you go blank on stage the better. You’ll handle it and survive. Once you realize that going blank on stage is no big deal, you can not only cope with going blank, but you’ll turn it into something funny. Here are some tips to help with the fear of going blank on stage: Be Honest The audience won’t mind if you forget for a moment, but they’ll want to know what’s going on. Don’t try to hide it. Admit it outright. Just say, “I’ve just forgotten everything I’ve ever known.” The audience will probably empathize with y



Use Jokes to Make a Point

Funny is as funny does.

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I’ve heard many times the greatest jokes reveal some truth. I agree, yet there’s more to it if you want to convey a message. For decades, I’ve been using jokes and funny stories to make a point in life, classrooms, and business. Here’s how you can do the same. Collect Jokes and Joke Books I’ve got a huge collection of joke books. Many of them are out of print and must be found in used book stores in the humor section. Classic ones like Milton Berle’s Joke File to Judy Brown’s series of books quoting famous comedian. I set a joke book in my restroom and when I take a moment, I read a few jokes in passing. Just using this method, I’ve read dozens of joke books. The idea is to have joke books around to read at any spare time. You’ll need to read hundreds of jokes to find the ones whic



Secrets of Setup and Punch

Do your jokes snap like a rubber band?

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To get an audience to think or to respond are two very different functions for creating a setup and punch material. Most funny people never make this distinction when constructing setup and punch because they don't understand the mental dynamics between thinking and responding. I propose that for a joke to be most effective, a setup should cause the audience to think, and the punch should elicit an instant respond. To get the audience to think and then respond is much like someone aiming a rubber band at someone’s arm. This causes the person being aimed at to think about the impending assault, which creates tension. When the rubber band is released, the impact causes an instant response. Just like a good setup and punch. With one-liners, the function of the setup is to get the au



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