In my previous article, How to Write Jokes – Introduction, I discussed the importance of identifying and defining the major terms and techniques of how to write jokes. In this article, How to Write Jokes – Topic, I’ll define the topic and discuss its role in how to write jokes.
If you’re starting from nothing, the realization that you can write jokes about everything can be overwhelming. Therefore, narrowing your ideas from generalities to specific details is the primary function of all joke writing methods. The reason for this is that you cannot know how to write jokes about generalities. The jokes are in the details. The topic is the generality, and then it’s the function of list making and the joke premise, etc., to dissect your broad topic into details so you can then know how to write jokes.
Topic: Single Category with Something Wrong
There are two parts to this definition, “Single Category” and “Something Wrong.” Let’s go over them one at a time so you can understand their meaning and how they relate to each other.
On the surface of how to write jokes this would seem rather obvious, but there are some snags that can complicate selecting a category. The single concept is pretty simple. A topic shouldn’t be multiple. It’s not a topic if you choose cars and motorcycles, even though they’re related, they’re separate categories, therefore two topics. Multiple categories in the topic can lead to confusion about how to write jokes. Keep the topic singular.
The category is where things can get tricky. It seems that any idea would be good for a topic, but alas that is not true. Categories can be too big or too small. For instance, a category that’s too big would be the universe. Yes, it’s a single category and there are certainly things wrong, but what do you focus to know how to write jokes. Since this category is too large, you must chunk down to some smaller category, like meteorites.
Conversely, a category can be too small. For instance, the head of a pin is too small an idea to generate many details to write jokes about. So, it must be chunked up to a category like sewing, which has hundreds of related associations from which to begin to know how to write jokes or even a routine.
Potential comedy hides in the most unlikely places – in hurtful things. There’s an element of pain in every joke, because things we consider wrong cause us pain in some form, ranging from agony to mild discomfort. Sometimes the pain is as obvious as Richard Pryor’s re-enactment of his crack pipe, and sometimes as subtle as Steven Wright’s existential angst. But the pain is always there. Always!
Things that are only fun, pleasant, good, nice don’t need to be made funny…they’re already happy. It’s the painful things we need to turn into how to write jokes to get a different perspective and laugh to relieve our tension.
To have an effective topic, it must deal with something hurtful, and you need to identify, from your point of view, what’s wrong within your chosen category. This is your message as a comedian, and it will only be apparent to you with a clearly defined topic.
Using these criteria you’ll be able to easily select a topic that is singular, not too big or too small and be clear about what’s wrong. Having a proper topic prepares you to effectively learn the next tool for how to write jokes…the association list.
In my next article, I will define and discuss How to Write Jokes – Association List to learn how to use details in how to write jokes.
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