I’ve talked about asking questions
when trying to come up with a killer punch line for your jokes, and one of the best questions is “how.” How would someone do something, how would this happen, how ELSE could you do that, how, how, how. The more you ask the question, the more you’ll keep coming up with funny “hows.”
At a recent awards dinner,
one of the recipients was a young 20ish something woman who had just received a scholarship check to help pay for her to go back to college. Of course everyone in the room presumed that the check was for tuition – but I thought “how else would a college student use that money?” Answers included buying clothes, eating, and drinking. . .aha! That’s it! I came up with “they gave you a check for college – that is gonna buy an awful lot of shooters! I remember what I did with MY money in college.” It got a great laugh and gave the woman some extra recognition for her hard work.
Many of my jokes,
and in fact many jokes that you’ll hear from other comics, are really answering the question “how could you do that if you could do that anyway at all?” Maybe you’ll even find something that’s doable AND funny!
You mean you don’t do it all yourself??? Well, yes and no. I DO write my jokes, but sometimes even I need someone else’s perspective. For example, for a long time, in my Finding the Funny in Change program I mentioned that we’re getting too “green,” and all this environmentally friendly stuff is going to the extreme. For example, they’re now offering “green burials”. . .being buried without a casket. Now, that’s funny, but I never really had a punchline nor did I think much of it. . it was more of a passing funny observation than a joke.
But a comedian friend of mine
heard it, and he really honed in on it and told me that it’s funny and I should do something with it. . .we bantered around a few ideas, and nothing came up. But the next day, I thought of it from a different angle. . .if you’re buried without a casket, what do the pall bearers hold onto??? That got a laugh at my show last week, AND a woman came up after my show and gave me a callback to it when she heard another joke of mine about not having life insurance. So now, after letting this “green burial” line sit for over a year, I’ve got jokes and callbacks and it’s actually a funny theme I can weave through my act.
So listen to others. . .
Definitely write your own material, but you can get ideas from friends, colleagues, and audience members. Sometimes your listeners don’t come up after the show and blatantly tell you a line. Instead, you need to listen as you’re saying the line. On several jokes of mine, I’ve heard the audience laughing during the set-up. And because I’m listening to them, I realize that there’s another joke in there if I pause.
Getting help doesn’t mean
you have someone write your whole comedy routine or speech – you can if you want to, but what might be even better is to partner with someone so that you get different viewpoints on the set-up, and then listen to your audience when you deliver it. This will give you some great material and may even breathe life into current stuff you’ve already been saying.
I’m always hearing people say .. .
“wow, you’re a comedian? I just heard a really funny comedian. Let’s seeee, what was his name. . can’t remember, but he was so funny. He joked about his kid riding a bicycle for the first time, and. . . “ That’ right, people don’t remember us not-so-big-name comedians, but they do remember the jokes because, among other things, the jokes paint a picture, and we all know that pictures are worth a thousand words.
when you’re writing a joke, you want to use the most descriptive words you can to paint that picture – if people can see the funny incident in their heads, they’re more likely to laugh. I recently wrote a joke today about smashing up a guy’s Harley motorcycle in the parking lot. I could say I’m driving really fast through the parking lot, but instead I’m using the words “zooming through the parking lot.” Zooming is a more descriptive word than “driving really fast.”
So when writing a joke
for a speech or memo, go through the adjectives and verbs that you are using, and then make a list of adjectives and verbs that would paint the best visual for your audience. Don’t waste words. . . make sure every word is there for a reason, and it’s doing what it should.
And speaking of motorcycles. . .
I just passed the motorcycle DMV written test today. I passed the motorcycle class for the driving part last week, AND I bought a motorcycle. . .I’ll be zooming through parking lots (carefully) very soon. Yipee!
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