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What makes me laugh?

February 1, 2012

I try to make the text on Theatremonkey.com, this blog and anything else I write at least a little entertaining to read. Somewhere in his office, Mr P has a huge pile of “outtakes” – a papery DVD “extras reel” – from all the varied drafts of the book. Around 90% of these are jokes deemed too long / irrelevant / legally questionable to be included in the final paperback. They all had to be written, though, in order to sift down the ones that would work in context.

Writing an original joke is easy. You just put words together. Writing an original joke that is also FUNNY is far harder – the reject pile proves that. I do think, though, that there are some formulas that can be used to raise the chances of them being successful. Like food flavours, each one appeals to different people – so I wondered which worked best for me (none of the following are written by me, I hasten to add; all are by comedians I idolise: Ken Dodd, Emo Phillips, Ben Elton, and many more)…

 

“Mis-Direction.” A good start. Man walks into a bar. His nose bleeds. Iron Bar.

 

“Intellectually obscure”: Sorry, we don’t serve time-travellers in here. Dr Who walks into a bar.

 

“Clever wordplay”: A man walks into a bar. Asks the barmaid for a double entendre. So she gives him one.

 

“Impeccable logic”: A duck walks into a bar, asks for a pint and a sandwich. Barman remarks they don’t get many ducks in. Duck replies he’s working locally on a job. Another man walks in, barman’s friend. Barmen tells man about duck and friend goes over to duck’s table to offer duck job with the circus. ‘Why does the circus need a plasterer?’ queries a baffled duck.  

 

“Cruel but funny”: A duck walks into an off-licence. “Got any bread?” asks the duck. “No” replies the assistant, “we sell booze, not bread. “Oh” says the duck and leaves. Two hours later the duck is back, “Got any bread?” asks the duck. “No” replies the assistant, “I told you before that we sell booze, not bread. “Oh” says the duck and leaves. An hour later the duck is back: “Got any bread?” asks the duck. “No” replies the assistant, “and I’ve told you twice now. If you come asking again, I’ll nail your beak to the shop counter.” “Oh” says the duck and leaves. Three hours later the duck is back. “Got any nails?” asks the duck. “No” replies the assistant.“ “Oh” says the duck, “got any bread?”

 

And of course, theatrical humour: the very finest, to my mind, of all time lines ever; courtesy of Mr Ken Dodd, who knows because he was there: “Freud said that laughter is the conservation of psychic energy. Then again, Freud never played second house, Friday Night, at the Glasgow Empire.”

 

It’s timing and presentation too of course. Take a look at “Live From the Apollo” and note that the acts who pace themselves and communicate best with the audience get the most laughs. The “rule of three” build up structure – letting the audience think they are clever by planting a meaningless line three times during an act before paying it off near the end is just one great example of keeping people with you.

So, what makes me laugh? Those who have the gift and are willing to share it. Laughter I think really is the best medicine in the world (unless you are diabetic of course, in which case Insulin is even better).

 

My name’s been Steve, you’ve been great, and I’m here all week. Thank you very much and goodnight!

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