The 3 Ps, Professionals, Pronouns and Practice


I will not be performing for the month of June at any open mics.  It’s been difficult lately to get excited about going on stage and trying my newer material.

I go back to what my neighbour said when he read my newer material before my last show at the professional comedy club.  He said that if he didn’t know it was comedic material he would say it’s kind of sad to read because it keeps talking about the struggles.  MY struggles.  Then I went back and read it, all ten pages.  The more I read, the more I saw a pattern develop that kind of made me angry and sucked the enthusiasm I had for wanting to perform it.

The problem lies in the pronouns, or in my case the lack thereof.

The majority of my jokes had the pronoun a lot.  They usually started with and that singular pronoun was repeated a few times in some jokes.  So when that happens, who do you think the brunt of the laughs will be about?  That’s right……me.

I bought the Tom Papa comedy special “Live In New York” from iTunes.  I have watched it a couple dozen times, but this time I watched because I wanted a specific question answered.  I wanted to know who was the “butt” of his jokes while paying attention to the words he used to set up those jokes.

For example, in the first 15 minutes he does about 30 jokes.  They are polished, and professionally presented. He also doesn’t use the pronoun with every joke.  Sometimes he will use words like you, we or they.  In those first 15 minutes he also didn’t continually make himself to be the butt of the jokes.

He made himself to be the butt of the jokes 5 times, his wife 5 times, his family twice, kids once, mother once and parents once.  The rest of the jokes in that time frame were observations that he made about people in general, from talking about forgetting your online passwords, to Facebook, using alcohol to fit in and why you shouldn’t drink.

I realize now why Tom Papa is my favourite comedian.  He talks about struggles but at the same time he doesn’t continually highlight every struggle within himself with every single joke.  He makes others (family, kids, wife) be the target of the joke while delivering material that isn’t offensive, crude or hateful.  It’s just funny, damn funny.

A lot of comedy gets laughs because there is a believability factor that goes along with it.  You can do material about yourself, but the key is to be able to craft material in such a way that it comes across as believable, otherwise you don’t get the laugh.  That can be tough to do and take a very long time to master for some.

I think what made Tom Papa’s New York show successful was that he didn’t focus on himself 100% of the time with every single joke.  He took what he sees in the world today and puts his own spin on it, shining the spotlight back onto the audience and showing them how silly and absurd some things are.  That gets the laughs.

Shit, I think I just had a eureka moment here!

If you do material about yourself, you have to make it believable, you have to sell it.  Otherwise you don’t get shit for laughs.  However, if you are able to take everyday situations or use observational humour while applying that humour to the general population, chances are very good that you will get better laughs, more consistent laughs because of the laugh trigger called recognition.

The best way I can describe recognition is to put it this way.  Say you are watching a comic and they are talking about a personal experience (ie: guy can’t get a hard-on in bed).  As he talks about it, there might be an audience member who is a bit uncomfortable listening to it because they have gone through the same situation.  Either that or they know of somebody who has.  Once the joke is delivered and the punchline is executed, the laughs come from two places.

The recognition comes from that audience member laughing at the comic thinking “I’m glad it’s him that suffers and not me!” or that audience member will turn to his buddy or think of someone he knows who has gone through that and laugh because the act of recognizing the humour releases the laughs.

Does that make sense?

In order for me to have a solid half hour built up, it’s best to mix up the pronouns and become a bit more versatile in my material by using more pronouns than just I.  I have some ideas for new material that take the focus partially off of me for the joke and putting it on others.  Plus there are a couple of stories that I want to tell that everyday people can relate to.

Comedy is a process and you’re always growing and throwing out what doesn’t work.  Believe me, there is a lot that doesn’t work.  I’m sure most successful comedians today will tell you that there pile of what they throw away is larger than what they keep.  I want to do material about other subjects to take the brunt of the laughs off of me, while not being offensive, crude or ignorant.  Just funny.

Before I talked about my family or girlfriend and it was always about my struggles.  This time I want to turn the spotlight onto my doctor, dentist, chiropractor, girlfriend, mother, etc.  I need to be more well rounded in my writing, and the month of June will help me to do that.

Feel free to leave your comments below.  Just don’t be a dick about it.

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