joke premise comic voice

How to Write Jokes – Joke Premise Part 3

Greg Dean Greg's Blog, How to Be a Comedian, How to Write Jokes, Open Mic

joke premise comic voice

In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Premise Part 2, I explored the difference between a joke premise and the jokes it generates, and how to change from one premise to another. In this article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Premise Part 3, I’ll discuss the joke premise and the comic voice.

The Comic Voice

Let’s begin with my definition of the comic voice: the internal voice that says what you’re really thinking.

That Internal Voice Is the Real You

Since there is no one to offend, internally we all speak our honest thoughts and opinions without reservation. But, if we spoke those internal judgments outwardly all the time…no one would want to be around us. You’d be like some homeless people who talk out loud and scream angry things and argue with people who aren’t there.

We all have that homeless person hiding and yelling in the back of our heads. We suppress this mental homunculus because its opinions are too raw, too offensive, too politically incorrect, and too honest…unless you’re a comedian.

That Internal Voice Is Your Comic Voice

Your comic voice runs in the back of your mind all day long, spewing out your honest perspective about events in the world. To do honest stand-up comedy you need to bring that voice forward and let it speak.

Most people are too scared to express their internal opinions. Either because they believe people will hate them, or because they don’t want others to know who they really are deep inside.

Instead we create a social façade to edit and soften our honest thoughts into socially accepted pablum. If you are willing to accept and listen to this comic voice, you’ll develop a unique comedy style, because no one interprets the world the same way you do.

“But those thoughts aren’t funny.”

How do you know–if you’re the only one who’s heard them? The challenge of becoming a comedian is to tell it like you see it, give your take, make your observations, administer your justice, expose the frauds, and tell your truth.

For instance, Bobby Slayton and I started performing comedy in San Francisco in the mid 70’s. Bobby began doing one-liner jokes, but then I saw him at the Comedy Store in Hollywood, and he was doing a combination of half one-liners and half speaking his mind, honestly and genuinely.

comic voice bobby slayton

A few years later, I saw him and the one-liners were gone altogether, and he was only doing material based on his opinions. This was when he was finally recognized as being a top comedian with a specific comic voice. If you know Bobby Slayton, the Pit Bull of Comedy, then you know that his show reflects the real person, with no apologies.

The Joke Premise and the Comic Voice

“What’s this got to do with the joke premise?”

Let me remind you of my definition of the joke premise: a negative opinion about a subject. If you investigate your internal voice, you’ll discover that it’s ranting and raving about something that bothers you–which is a premise. All of your internal rants are based on joke premises.

Now, I have a question for you:

“Are you willing to write jokes that express the real you?”

If you are, then you’re ready for the kind of success that Bobby Slayton and other successful comedians have found by letting that inner voice out. First learn to own it privately, then later own it publicly on stage.

The joke premise is the tool to help organize your negative thoughts so you can turn those judgments into jokes and routines. 

In my next article, How to Write Jokes – Joke Structure Part 1, I’ll explain the functions of setups and punches, which will lead to a deeper understanding of how jokes work.

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