Learning To Be Somebody That You Are Not

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Now that I have studied the comedy e-book on how to write comedy, I do believe that I have the tools to not only write about anything, but now I can also write easier than ever before.  Once I understood the structure of a joke it became so much easier to write about anything.  I no longer feel handcuffed having to write about one specific subject because that’s all I know.

Having said that, there is one type of comedy I would like to do more of and be better at.  It’s the type of comedy that started to appreciate in my late 20s and early 30s (ya, I’m that old).  You could call it obscure comedy while others call it the one-liners.

But not just any one-liners.  I am talking about the one-liners that have misdirection.  You do remember that misdirection is one of the most used comedy formulas, right?

When you think of one-liner comics that used misdirection, one might think of the late Mitch Hedberg.  In my opinion, I don’t think his style of comedy relied on misdirection as much as it relied on being configurational.  By that I mean that his jokes were a puzzle that you had to put together.

Sometimes with one-liner jokes, a comedian will use timing to get the laughs from the joke.  Timing is basically knowing how, and when to speak.  If you go back to the Food Bank fundraiser I did in February, that was the first time I had been on stage in nine months.  Some people said I didn’t do very well because there were too long of pauses between jokes.  To an uneducated comedy audience sure, it would seem that way.  However, when a comic has those long pauses between jokes, or between the setup and the punchline, the laughs are still there.  This timing technique can be used on regular material that isn’t one-liner specific.

When people thought I was having too much space between my jokes, what I was actually doing was an exercise in timing.  At times I would purposely pause to let the audience process what I just said to piece together the joke.  Once they did that, then the “a-ha!” moment appears when the light bulb comes on and they get the joke, followed by the laughs.

Not to stray off topic, but the two one-liner comics I am thinking of are guys who are both Canadian.  These comedy veterans use timing and misdirection to its best.  Go to YouTube and check out Winston Spear (Halifax Comedy Festival) and Stuart Francis (from the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson).  Do a search for the shows listed in parenthesis.  Watch them and listen to the delivery and the timing.

These guys have been doing this for years and have worked tirelessly on their act, which I applaud.  These guys though get the kind of laughs every comic wants, the big laughs that go on well after the punchline.

The majority of my material thus far isn’t one-liner related, it’s more of mini-stories within the larger context of highlighting struggles, a guy that doesn’t quite get it right most times.  The majority of laughs will come from the laugh triggers of surprise or incongruity.  I would love to be able to do the one liners though that really have that misdirection.  I think the one liners sometimes get the biggest laughs because the jokes are very short, direct and to the point.  The comic gets to the punchline quickly.  Maybe because the setup of the joke is shorter, it gives the audience less time to really stop and think about what the comedian is saying.  This is why it’s so important for the setup of the joke to be a statement of fact.  If the setup is factual, then it’s believable, which then makes the joke easier to follow and the comedian delivering the material more credible to the audience.

I hope one day I would be able to have an arsenal of one liner jokes that can really play on the misdirection and get some big laughs.  Right now though I can’t put myself in these guys shoes where they can come up with these jokes from common subjects.  For me, writing a joke is easy when I turn it onto myself.  I think it would be rather difficult for me to write material about M&Ms or KFC like Winston Spear does.  Like any good skill, this one would take some time and practice to master.  I just hope I can get there one day.







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