The Rules Aren’t Made To Be Broken?

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Webster’s Dictionary defines the word structure in this way:

the way that something is built, arranged, or organized

That means structure has rules.  There is a format to follow for structure to work, whether it be in sports, work, comedy or life. Without structure you get organized chaos, disorganization and stress, to name a few.  Without structure you can lose friendships, lose jobs, or even die.

I am writing about structure today because there were three instances this weekend that reminded me how important structure is, and to respect the process that is built within it.  The areas of my life were comedy (obviously), work and in my personal life.

The structure within my personal life regards dating and friendships/relationships.  Even with the explosion of online dating and social media, there is still a structure that should be adhered to when it comes to dating or trying to develop something.  Disregard the structure, or try to do things out of order and that particular relationship, regardless of the stage it’s in, will vanish into thin air. Only problem is, everyone has a general idea of the structure with their own modifications to suit their particular story.  No matter how you feel you are doing the right steps in the right order, and in the right time, I don’t know whether it’s my own ineptitude or just God’s way of humbling me (yet again) but the rug seems to be yanked out from under my feet on a regular basis.  It makes it hurt inside or tough to navigate especially when you feel as if you have very few, or no positive reference points at all to draw from in order to make sense of the structure.  Then when you try to make sense of the structure that seems to exist to everyone else but you, it doesn’t leave one with a lot of confidence or hope that if you wait things out, that they could change for the better.

There, my mini rant is done.  Now, let’s focus on the comedy side of this.  No, I will not talk about the structure issues I face at work because I like my job, and this isn’t the place for that.   🙂

A very good friend of mine wrote in an email a couple days ago that she was watching the NBC show The Last Comic Standing with her family recently.  She mentioned to me that she has started to recognize the structure of comedy based on following this blog.  That means that instead of hearing the comedy and laughing, she is now listening and recognizing structure.  I find that when you listen to comedy and know what to listen for, the laughs may not come out as they normally would because you are taking the time to sit back and recognize patterns in the setup and presentation of jokes.

As mentioned before, the biggest reason that I sought out a comedy coach (when I became aware that there was such a thing) was to understand the why of not being funny.  I already knew that I wasn’t funny.  I was clever, maybe.  But not funny.  There is a difference between being funny and being clever.  I have learned that being clever (from my experience) means leaning on yourself and what you think you know about writing, in order to get a reaction from the audience.  That reaction though doesn’t get the full laughs you expect as a comic.  Instead, you get snickers or groans.  I know, because I’ve had more than my share when I first started in comedy and got raked over the coals time and again for it.

The first thing I learned from my comedy coach was that structure isn’t a bad thing, in fact it’s a necessary thing in comedy.  Without structure you don’t have a basic formula with which to write with.  When that formula (structure) exists, then you can take material on any topic or any situation and plug it into the structure.  After a while it gets easier to write as you become aware of how the structure fits in to your material, then you’ll be able to write without any effort at all because you have the experience in properly structuring a joke.  The best part of all is, once the structure is in place, if a joke doesn’t work then you at least have a tried and true framework to go back and reference to see where it went wrong.

When I performed for the first time in nine months a while back, I did so with material that I wrote myself.  The material had structure, thus it was easy to break down and piece together to create the joke.  The ins and outs of structuring a joke are too complex to begin writing about, for two reasons.  First, they aren’t my concepts (they belong to the comedy school) and secondly it’s kind of like trying to describe how to handicap a horse race to somebody.  You can’t just tell them a chunk of the process, because structure must follow a process from beginning to end in order to be successful.

I must admit that when I first started to work with my comedy coach to prepare for my comeback, there were times when I wanted to stop and ask him things like “How do you know this will really work?  What kind of laughs will I get?  How can you be so sure?”

But I didn’t.  I was paying a lot of money, and possibly was entitled to receive those answers.  But in the end I chose not to ask because I had to trust the process.  I trusted the structure that was already in place.  I needed to have faith.

I think this coming week I will maybe have to pray and leave things to God to sort out for me, to respect the process of structure within my life, having to have the faith that it all will work out for my greater good in the end.  It’s easier said than done, to be sure.

But you gotta start somewhere.  Dr. King once said that faith is like taking that first step on a darkened staircase.  You can’t see the next step, but you have to take it anyhow having the faith that it will be there for you.  This week will either be really hard to deal with, or easy to navigate through.  It all will depend on whether or not I can get out of the way and let the structure do its thing.

Oh, and for my friend who wrote me that email……you know who you are.  Send a comment about what structure or patterns you have been able to identify when you watch comedy now  🙂


Be blessed!


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