(Originally published September ’09) “Funny”-the Basics
What does it take to be a good “comedy writer”? A question posed to me, last night, as I sat in front of my computer, desperately trying to come up with something to write about for my next blog entry. Let me amend that somewhat. I was actually asked if I wouldn’t mind sharing a few comedy writing “tips”. My initial reaction was pride. “Damn right I’m funny!”, I thought, “It’s about time someone took notice.” You’ll find that when I write, I speak a lot of the”inner dialogue” that takes place inside of my twisted mind. That “voice” is probably the key to what it is I’ve relied on in becoming such a”powerhouse”in the comedy writing community. Well there’s that and the fact that I am more than a little delusional. You see, I think one of the most important keys to being a successful comedy writer is to be. . . mentally ill. You’ll notice I’ve already referred to voices in my head, an inferiority complex and my altered sense of reality. Being neurotic and indecisive is also a pretty good measuring stick as to whether or not you have the “Right Stuff”
to pull this off.
So many of you may be asking yourselves, “Who the Hell are You? ” My response? Does it really matter? As far as you’re concerned, I’m the most successful comedian of all time and you just can’t put the “Name with the Face”. I bet you feel really dumb about that too. It’s okay, in order that we be able to proceed with my instructions, you’ll have to get past that. . . You good?. . . Okay. In actuality, I am a struggling, married father of four nearing Middle Age (40) Let’s be honest, there are an awful lot of 50 year olds running around saying they are middle-aged today. Who do they think they’re kidding? You’d have to end up “Yoda or Moses-Old” to be able to call that true. But enough about the geriatric set out there trying to live a lie, let’s talk COMEDY. Here are a few tips, that I think could help just about anyone to be the next Dave Barry, Michael Ian Black , Bill Cosby or Dan Freeburg (that would be ME). See if you’re old enough (which I’m not) you might remember a humorist/satirist by the name of Stan Freberg. I am obviously no relation, as our last names are spelled differently. But I’m counting on at least 2 people in Hollywood, or at aPublisher, that will be so old and senile that they forget their reading glasses. Thus, in all the confusion, they will think I’m “Stan” sign me to either a 4 picture deal, or front me such a HUGE advance that I will be able to flee the country before I am required to actually “write” anything. By the way my buddy Stan is 83 years old, and I think he may have retired from “funny”, so there is an opening in that department.
Where was I? . . . Oh yes, Comedy Writing Tips. Well, since she asked so nicely, here are a few. I hope you have a pen. Oh, this is on a computer. You can just pull it up anytime you want. I am getting old. Not that any of this is going to help you. . . Shall We?
1) Always Know Your Target Audience: In my case, I like to think of my demographic as “All of Humanity”. It can seem a little daunting, writing for a select group of individuals, so I like to think that EVERYONE is reading what I write. If you brush with a broader stroke, you cover more of the barn. (That’s another key. Try to talk like Dr. Phil. Semi-witty hillbilly nonsense goes a LONG way)
2) Make Fun of EVERYTHING: Never be afraid to make fun of anyoneoranything. If you show any sense of fear, the audience can “feel” it. It’s like riding a horse. If it knows you think it’s going to buck you off, it will. But if you mount the horse with the attitude, “I could have you made into glue or dog food. . . just like that!”, they take it a little easier on you. But the biggest key? Be able to make fun of YOURSELF. Self-deprecating humor, is universal. People want to think better of themselves and their lot in life. So if you can tell them how much your life sucks and how horrible of a person you are, they kind of”warm up” to you.
3) Try to Avoid Time Sensitive Material: By this I mean don’t write about things that only affect people RIGHT NOW. Sure, you can write about things that are happening in the news. People are interested in current events, but don’t make that your bread and butter. Your comedy should be timeless. IfKanye Westdecides to be a douchebag, you can refer to it, then move right along. Though, Kanye West being a douchebag is Eternal. All Seriousness aside, you need to write about things you know will be interesting in a week, month or year from now.
4) Be Playful:
It may sound like a No-Brainer, but believe me, I see a lot of writers out there, Professional and Otherwise, that you can almost “see” every keystroke in their writing. They are so intent on making a joke work, that they try to “force” the issue. If a joke doesn’t seem to work and you KNOW it, there’s no need to delete it and start over. Let that be a part of your “charm”. The audience will see it as you being a colossal failure in life, just like them. They will bond with you for showing your vulnerability. I’m sure if they were in the town you live in, they might even take you out for a McCafe coffee atMcDonalds to talk about it.
5) Punctuation Doesn’t Matter:
It Doesn’t. Capital Letters in the wrong spot. Run-on sentences. I am the self-proclaimed “Master of Verbal Sock-Puppetry”. I won’t get into great detail about how I got that name. You are free to look it up on my blog ( http://gofiggr.blogspot.com ) But, a lot of times, I actually depend on my use of incorrect punctuation, for dramatic effect. I use it for necessary comedic pauses, breaks in thought or just to be a pain in the ass. (But NOTE: The second you misspell something, you’ll get a letter, Tweet or e-mail from a retired English teacher in Biloxi, Mississippi telling you that you’re an idiot)
6) Write What You Know:
Okay, Everybody says this. . . everybody isRight!Would you really want to read how to do Open-Heart Surgery in a”pinch”, from a manual written by your gardener? (I don’t have a gardener-I don’t even have a yard,but you get the point) I don’t write about topics I have no idea about. I may write about things I know very little about, but I can typicallyBS enough of it, to make it seem legitimate. But BE SURE you can pull it off or the reader will see right through you. If you don’t believe me, try it. I hate idiots. Most people do. There are way too many of them out there. You don’t need to put that in writing.
So there you have it. Some of my Comedy Writing Tips. Pretty impressive, huh?. . . No? Well, I tried . . . and I did make you think I knew what I was talking about. So if you bought that pile of crap, You Too can be a COMEDY WRITER. . .
‘Til Then. . .Go Figg’r!