Jokes are meant to be said, not read.
Comedy Pros Have the Freedom
One of the major errors made by beginner joke writers is they have a tendency to write flowery literate dialogue. It may read great, but when it coming out of the mouth of a comic it’s stiff, pretentious, and inauthentic. People in real life just don’t talk that way, unless they’re a Literature professor from Cambridge sporting a tweed jacket and an uneven mustache.
To avoid this trap, here are two tips for creating realistic dialogue:
Comedy Prose Use Grammatically Incorrect Language
People don’t talk like they write, so you should write like they talk. Proper grammar and syntax have nothing to do with making a joke funny. In fact, correctly worded jokes seldom flow as well as jokes written with the f
Tag it or bag it.
One of the most important and powerful comedy secret in a comedian’s arsenal to get laughs is the Tag. A tag is punch after a punch without a new setup. For instance this Jerry Seinfeld joke:
Setup: “Bozo the Clown. Do we really need ‘the Clown’? Are we going to confuse him with…”
Punch: “Bozo the Tax Attorney?”
Tag1: “Bozo the Pope?”
Notice how Seinfeld created a clear Setup and Punch, and then added another Punch that didn’t require a new Setup. By not using a new Setup, he was able to get two laughs off the original Setup. This is how Tags work.
This comedy secret doesn’t have to stop there. When doing story telling comedy, the story is the through line of the routine, but it can be constructed with a Setup, Punch,
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
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
Are you missing what's right in front of you?
I’ve taught stand-up comedy for more than three decades. There are lessons I’ve learned about being funny that also apply to other aspects of life. But often we just don’t think to use them when we're not performing.
For example, here’s something I teach my students:
Do the show that’s in front of you … not the one in your head.
I know this lesson very well because I remind my students of it in almost every class. Yet, I don’t always apply it in other contexts. Like the time I designed for my wife and me a wonderful week-long jaunt up the California coast, from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I’d spent a great deal of time on research and booking B&Bs, remote cabins, and cliff side hotels. Alas, when we got to our first stop, San Luis Obispo, the car broke down. It was on a Saturday evening. The closest car repair shop couldn’t get the required part until Monday and our car wouldn’t be fixed until Tuesday.
I was upset and frustr
In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 9: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 2, I explained how understanding assumptions lead to uncovering more joke mechanisms. In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 9: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 3, I’ll discuss the mechanism between the target assumption and reinterpretation, and how this lead to creating my original joke writing system The Joke Prospector.
Greg Dean Comedy Tips 10:
Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 3
After a year of teaching joke structure wi
In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 8: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 1, I showed the process I went through to understand the assumption’s role in joke structure. In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tips 9: Assumptions and Joke Writing - Part 2, I’ll explain how assumptions lead to uncovering corresponding joke mechanism in the punch.
Greg Dean Comedy Tips 9:
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 c
In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 6: Understanding Joke Misdirection – Part 2, I explained the role of misdirection in Common Knowledge Jokes. In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 7: Understanding Joke Misdirection – Part 3, I’ll examine how misdirection works with Existing Information Jokes in the Immediate Environment.
Greg Dean Comedy Tip 7:
In my previous blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 5: Joke Misdirection - Part 1, I explained the role of misdirection in jokes. In this blog, Greg Dean Comedy Tip 6: Joke Misdirection – Part 2, I’ll examine how misdirection works with Existing Information jokes from Common Knowledge.
Greg Dean Comedy Tip 6:
Understanding Misdirection – Part 2