Open Mic

How to Avoid Getting Groans with Puns

From punny to funny.

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Puns have been used since ancient times, in the Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and of course, Shakespeare. Clever use of language has always been a major source of entertainment and humor. Puns may be useful for annoying your friends, but in professional comedy will invariably produce groans. That’s probably because a good joke, like a good magic trick, is only effective if the audience doesn’t see how it’s done. No form of joke displays its inner workings more overtly than a pun. To make matters worse, someone doing a pun always seems to be saying, “Hey, look how clever I am with words.” This blog will focus on the use of puns in jokes, particularly one-liners, and how to avoid getting groans, instead of laughs. Here are a few pointers: • Put the Pun Word or Phrase in the



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



Localize Your Material

Joke references that make the audience think you care.

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It’s important to have material that travels. The technique to localize can help you take jokes or bits and tailor them to different geographical areas and use known people to make them more relatable. It’s very simple and effective. First go through your material and make note of all the references to cities, landmarks, hotels, stores, bars, restaurants or politicians, crime bosses, and so forth. When you get to the club, get the local paper or ask someone at the club for ideas so you can fill these in with regional references. This can really improve the response you’ll receive. Here are several examples, 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 went to Ho



Handling Hecklers – Part 4

The art of comedy Aikido.

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In my previous blog, Handling Hecklers – Part 3, I discussed using heckler lines to get heckler to back down and shut up. In this blog, Handling Hecklers – Part 4, I offer several more tips for dealing with obnoxious morons. Never Invite the Heckler on Stage Guess why I know about this. When I was first beginning back in the mid-70's in San Francisco, I was working at a hole-in-the-wall club known as the Holy City Zoo. I was being heckled mercilessly when I lost my temper and said, “If you think you can do any better, then come up and try.” This one did. He pushed me out of the way and proceeded to tell one really funny joke. The guy running the open mike night came over, I thought to help me, but instead he told the heckler to get off stage, then turned on me and yelled, “There are t



Handling Heckler – Part 3

Let’s play Audience Whack-a-Mole.

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In my previous blog, Handling Hecklers – Part 2, I discussed keeping the proper state of mind when dealing with rude audience members. In this blog, Handling Hecklers – Part 3, I offer several hecklers lines to help purge the scourge. Use Hecklers Lines Heckler lines aren’t as easy to use as you might think. Just because you have a series of great insults memorized doesn’t mean that that’s all there is to handling hecklers. It’s a whole psychological game that you’ll need to learn. Be prepared with a variety of comebacks to fit the different kinds of heckles. You can write them yourself or get them from insult joke books. For example: “Shut up.” “Out of millions of sperm, you were the quickest?”



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



3 Comedy Tips to Avoid Open Mic Hell

Go from a night of horror to just a nightmare.

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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. Yet, tho



Open Mics Cancelled

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