1. corsair130
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    corsair130 New Member

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    Ideas of how to approach comedy writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by corsair130, Dec 28, 2011.

    Seems like an interesting thing to post on a creative writing forum. I am a stand up comedian. I also enjoy creative writing. But it's ridiculously hard for me to blend the two. I'm constantly trying to think of new bits, new one liners, puns, plays on words etc. Comedy writing, specifically for performing on stage is exceedingly difficult though. Writing a short story is simple in comparison to trying to write something that will be spoken aloud and that will illicit a laugh from a live audience.

    So my question to you all, is how you'd approach comedy writing? Maybe some response will spark a train of thought that will result in a new joke or three. Or maybe a whole bit. It seems that's how everything I've written so far has come to me. Start a snowball down the hill and eventually it'll crush a house.

    Any responses appreciated.
     
  2. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    First of all, I'm not a stand up comedian so I can't really tell you anything based off of personal achievement or experience. However, I'm really into the stand-up comedy world thanks to comedy podcasts on itunes and satellite radio. One of my favorite podcasts is Sklarbro Country and I remember the Sklars had Demitri Martin and Patton Oswalt on (at different times) talking about their books that just came out and both of them said the same thing basically. That usually they'll have a bit that won't work on stage because of the type of joke it is and it works better on paper. And so they saved up all of their jokes that they couldn't really make work on stage because it was a story that was too long or whatever and soon enough they had a book of jokes.

    The only other thing I have to say on the topic is that if you are writing a regular story compared to a joke book, I think you are allowed more leeway when it comes to telling jokes or creating funny situations. One of my favorite book series is Monk (based on the TV show about a super OCD detective). Almost all of the humor in the story is created from Monk acting OCD and how people respond to it. Sometimes the "joke" doesn't work and you just keep reading and there is no problem, other times it's funny and you laugh, and other times I see a portion of a story that I know they are trying to make a joke but just for whatever reason I don't find it funny... maybe someone else reading the book in another town does and he laughs. But I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you can take more risks because if a joke doesn't land in a story it's not a big deal because the point of the story isn't to make people laugh.
     
  3. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Humour and wit is something you eithe have or don't.
    It is not something you learn at school or from reading a book.
    It is a gift to those who have it in them.
     
  4. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I'm no comedian, nor do I try to be, but sometimes I'm able to throw some wit into my stories through describing observations. I find writing that tries too hard, that you can tell is trying to be really funny, comes off contrived and flat; it's when you're simply trying to describe things truthfully that the writing can be amusing, almost by accident. I can't find examples at the moment, but I remember Tobias Wolff doing this effectively.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i can write humorous prose, but even though i've come up with a slew of zingy one-liners in my long lifetime, i know i'd never be able to turn out a whole stand-up routine... so my hat's off to those like you who do...

    and i obviously can't answer your question, sorry to say...
     
  6. Whirlwind
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    Whirlwind Member

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    I've done a lot of standup. So you must have performed at lots of open mic nights and tried out lots of material and hit on some good gags and built up 10/20/30 minute sets.

    Comedy writing is the same. Only, within the framework of a story.

    Write your story and then consider each event and make it comedic in the same way. You throw lots of ideas at each sequence until it's funny. The whole thing has to flow in the end.

    Working an audience and writing on paper are slightly different in some ways but not so much in other ways. I would say that you can be a lot more subtle on film.

    A good way to learn is to make comedy shorts / skits and string them together.
     
  7. iabanon
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    iabanon Member

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    Weren't you trying to write some comedy yourself? Didn't you ask us if your work was funny? An odd response for someone with no natural talent who was trying to write humour and wit.
     
  8. Kashif
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    Kashif New Member

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    I studied comedy in college and also write a lot of comedy in my stories, but I'm still not the best reference for this. Still, I hope this helps a bit. These are a few ways I've learned to use comedy in novels, but there are many others:

    What makes something funny?

    Build up and a surprise ending. As a stand up comedian, you know more than anyone that it's the ending line causes people to have a hard laugh, but the details help with soft laughter. What you're doing on stage is what you should do on the page, create a scenario. As an example, I'll use something I've written about, a guy "coming out of the closet to his family." We all know how that will normally end especially if his family is religious.

    The way something becomes humorous is if you build an entire scene and change your reader's expectation. When you hear that someone's about to come out, you think of drama. Mothers will cry and younger cousins will snicker. But what if we build up the scene to a point that everyone in the room knows. There are people yelling, "What did he say?" Others respond, "I think he's about to come out." Even more, the main character brought two women friends with him for support. They're watching him, rubbing his back for support.

    After a strong build up, you release information. "I'm not gay." But that's not funny. Maybe the explanation is, "I pretended to be gay in order to make women lower their guard so I could get in their pants." Now, I'm using this example, and not something funnier for a reason, this is offensive to homosexuals and women. That's where a lot of people struggle in comedy, but you have to take that risk if you want to get a laugh.

    When writing something funny, you have to build the entire scene for laughter. What are family members in the background saying? What type of questions will they ask once they hear the confession. What about the friends rubbing his back? How do they respond? Maybe one loves him and that creates some drama-comedy. Maybe another had tried to discover the truth mystery-comedy.

    Whatever you do, change your reader's expectation. The only difference between writing and stand up is you have to add in more detail on a page. Don't look for punchlines but think of different ways people can respond.

    Lastly, there are ways to make something funny without building a scene, but through conversation. Sarcasm. Emo (mildly dark humor is really popular today). Goofiness. But that would make my post too long, as though it isn't already ;)
     

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