Behind The Scenes

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Most times you secure the services of a coach you know what you’re getting.  A life coach, hockey coach, business coach, you know what you are getting.  They will identify your strengths and enhance those, and develop your weaknesses too.  But what does a person get from a comedy coach?

People say I’m wasting my money on a comedy coach, but if you stop and think about it, every successful athlete has a coach.  Look at Tiger Woods when he was the dominant force in golf; look at Roger Federer when he was #1 in the world for over 300 weeks and won 5 consecutive U.S. Open titles.  They had coaches yet they were the most dominant athletes in the world at one time.  So why use a comedy coach?

I believe that some comics maybe don’t use a coach because comedy, after all, is a thinking persons game. The majority of comedians already know what’s funny and furthermore, most comedians believe they know how to translate what’s funny to them onto paper when writing out their sets.

The first thing I did when I met with Jerry consisted of taking the first couple sessions to get to know one another and having him listen to my previous sets.  From there we went through my jokes that I had written and without fail, for each one he would stop and ask me what I am trying to convey to the audience. So 75 – 100% of the joke would get scrapped and rewritten with the idea being intact.

Slowly but surely with each session I got better at being able to write and to find my voice.  Now when I write material I can do so with confidence knowing that I don’t need to run everything by Jerry before it hits the stage.  I just need to write it, then edit it daily, then practice, practice and practice.  Then when it hits the stage because I’ve worked on it so much I can tell you where they are going to laugh at certain points in the joke, provided the material is delivered properly.

Our sessions usually go anywhere from 60 – 90 minutes.  Here are the lessons I learn from a comedy coach:

  1.  A comedy coach teaches you the how and the why of material being funny.

When I first started comedy the material was “clever” and “witty” at times, but it lacked being funny, especially on a consistent basis.  Have a string of enough of those types of shows and you’ll get hammered for it each time you’re on stage.  A lot of times knowing what’s funny won’t translate to being funny on stage unless you can justify the how and the why.  The only way you figure out the how and the why is from structure and being able to write jokes that hit certain laugh triggers from the different comedy formulas.  Then when you study the comedy formulas and laugh triggers long enough, you won’t suffer from writers block, because anything you see as being funny, you can now input into this comedy formula to make it work.

  2.   You learn about audience psychology.

Every line of every joke is scrutinized and really broken down to make sure the how and the why are present, then that joke is flipped around to see it from the point of view of the comedy audience.  Is it believable?  Does the setup paint a clear picture in our minds of what’s happening?  Are the series of events making sense?  Is the joke tight, meaning is the setup clear and concise?  I was always asked “what do you want the audience to know”?  Usually I would beat around the bush in the setup with unnecessary sentences and words, when the idea I want to get across can be communicated in one or two clear and concise sentences.  Again, when you spent a couple of years (albeit unknowingly) leaving key details out of your setup, still thinking the joke will still be funny, you’re screwed.

3.  You listen, listen, listen.

Jerry has been doing this for 30 years, successfully.  In addition to running the comedy school (where students win competitions and get t.v. gigs upon graduation), he hosts writing seminars in Vegas, participates in putting together the World Series of Comedy, wrote the movie “Stretch”, was a writer on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, was on A&E’s Evening At The Improv and is the only comedian I know of who did an hour making Title Insurance funny at a title insurance convention

4.  Laugh points

This is the one thing that took the longest for me to grasp before I could start writing competently. Laugh points is just another way of saying that the setup of the joke is shortened and split up to create points of laughter that lead to the punchline.  This is advantageous because comedy bookers for clubs and t.v. will look for laugh points every 15 – 18 seconds.  The more laugh points in the setup, the more you condition the audience to laugh when the punchline is delivered.

At the end of the day, I can tell you from personal experience that he would make any comedian better, and take them to the next level of writing material they never though possible.  Why not sign up for a Skype session with him today?  What’s the worst that can happen?  You’ll come away understanding comedy better?  That’s a bad thing?  Really?

Since when has learning something new about the passion you follow been a bad thing?  Give it a try. You will be glad that you did.



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