In my earlier post, we looked at ways to set yourself up to be fun(ny). One of the key elements was about knowing what makes YOU laugh. You have to realise that if something makes you laugh, it’ll make others laugh too, so focus on that.
You’ll “sell” a joke much better when you believe in it and find it funny yourself. The reason that there are so many successful comedy performers is that they are all coming from different angles, and have different ways of expression. Some are dry, some do weird voices, some are physical comedians and some are laid back. They are all funny, and they are all fabulous. They know what works for them and they have the confidence to go with that. So trust in your own sense of humour.
Explore what you find funny; try to find out WHY you find it funny. What is it a bout this style of performance/this topic that makes you laugh? Find this out and your part way there.
Now, let’s get to creating some jokes. The majority of jokes can most be broken down into the setup and punchline part. The setup sets up the joke and is usually not very funny by itself. The punchline makes it funny, usually by using a twist or surprise element.
The twist – you think a joke is going one way, but it goes another – leading to laughter. It’s the surprise that causes the laughter.
Here’s a good example:
Setup: “When I get home, I’m going to tear the wife’s knickers off!
Punchline: they’re killing me!”
You think the joke is going one way, but it heads in another, causing surprise and copious amounts of hilarity (though not at the vicars tea party I performed for last night amazingly!). Here’s another one:
Setup: “My wife left me when she had an affair with my best friend.
Punchline: I’m going to miss him.”
You can see what makes these jokes funny; it’s almost formulaic – it begins with a perfectly unfunny setup, then the set up is twisted into another meaning via the punchline.
The good things about setups is that you can create them from almost anything:
“I’m going to take back this toilet brush..”
“That Under 4’s football team isn’t doing very well…”
“I asked my Uncle Frank to toss me up a salad”
It’s something you can sit down and do; write setup ups and come up with gags from that set up. It’s a great way to practice not only joke writing, but also getting into a funny mindset; you’ll get used to looking for twists and turns and you’ll be open to opportunities to be funny.
Here are some other exercises:
“A pen is like sex” – comparisons can be a great source of humour. Why is a pen like sex? Why is it like a holiday? Why is a lawnmower like Katie Price? You can come up with great ideas just looking at ordinary (and a few extraordinary) items and finding convoluted ways in which they are similar to different things.
Why is prison like work? In prison, there are wardens who are often sadistic. At work, they are called supervisors.
I started dating a cardiac surgeon. At least this way I KNOW I’ll get my heart ripped out!
Buying a PC is like being a serial womaniser. In 3 months, I’m on the lookout for a new model.
“The prop round” – a great game to get you thinking funny is to take any object and brainstorm as many uses for it as possible. This exercise used to be used with weird and wonderful props on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but it can be done with anything. Pick something up, take a minute and just spurt random ideas. It’ll get you thinking funny.
For example, a pen could be a rectal thermometer, an aerial for a phone, a stabbing implement, a secret listening device, a magic wand, a nasal hair trimmer, a very thin cigar holder or a blowdart.
Pick something up and rack your brain as to what it could possible be.
Improvisation – improvisation makes jokes even more funny, as they appear to be created out of nothing. In part one, I spoke about expectation; if you’re at a comedy club, you’re expecting comedy, and you’re expecting it to be a good and well written. In the street, pub or in a meeting, you’re not, so anything that is even remotely funny has the potential to be killer.
The fact is, that the more you THINK funny, using the exercises above, the more opportunity you will have to be funny. It’s like a muscle that you’re training. The more you train it with different exercises, the better it serve you, either because you will remember a joke that you have created, or your wit will be quicker.
Of course, all of the exercises above count as improvisation, and you’ll probably notice yourself improving the more you do the exercises and come up with ideas. Some of the ideas will be great, some will be rubbish (that’s fine). Often you’ll come up with something that is half baked. Something that you think, with a bit of work – could be really funny. That’s when you can sit down and work on individual jokes and bits, crafting the sentences, words and inflection that would be used to deliver the joke. And that’s a whole different story all together….
So, admit that you’ve got a sense of humour, relax and get into the spirit of “play” and have fun with the exercises. You won’t always create comedy gold, but you’ll have fun and you will get laughs!