Don’t Lie for a Laugh

Don’t lie for a laugh because it will not get as big a laugh.  The whole basic concept in comedy has to come from some enthusiasm that what you are saying is something you actually believe.  Now, I’m not talking about the act-out, punchline, or the mix.  I’m talking about the basic premise for the joke.  Don’t sacrifice your credibility for a laugh.  For example, you could joke about having a child when you don’t but that’s just stupid because it won’t sound the same coming from a non-parent.  This is probably because you’re putting on a fake front.  It’s much harder to manufacture enthusiasm about a joke if you’re not feeling the way you tell it.  It’s easier to joke about something you’re genuinely enthusiastic about than just pull something about of the air.  I mean, the punchline can be crazy and hit has to be surprising to some extent, but don’t make it something you can’t really believe.  For example, Judy Carter wrote about one of her students saying she lived alone her whole life on stage and the material was really funny, but it didn’t get any laughs.  So after the show, Judy talked to her and found out that she’s happily married with three kids.  I finally understand the whole analogy that comedy is therapy.  You have to pull out from your personal experiences and observations. 

Comedy is, in a nutshell, just noticing things that other people don’t ususally notice.  Things like when someone tells you “You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” you question that fact.  If you have cake, why wouldn’t you eat it?  It’s there.  It’s not going anywhere.  It’s things like that and other trivialities that you notice and become aware of that make you a genuine comic.  Do you remember when you were a child and when all your friends were doing something that you wanted to do, but your parents said no.  And you begged and they said, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”  And I said, “Yes, I would.  I don’t want to be some loser with no friends.”  And it’s just another way of looking at things.

But you need to cultivate that genuine enthrusiasm.  You shouldn’t try to be someone you’re not.  I’ve seen comedians joke about how they do nothing whatsoever and it’s brilliantly funny.  Norm MacDonald jokes about how he isn’t that funny and it’s hilarious.  I remember his half-hour special on Comedy Central.  He dies and goes up to heaven and his uncle and grandmother say, “You have to go back. You have to do a comedy special.”  And he’s like, “But I’m not that funny.”  “We know.”  And it was great.  That’s why you have to remain true to yourself. 

Another thing is when you’re doing bad onstage, don’t deny that fact.  Be honest with the audience.  Let them know that you are aware of it.  Because if you don’t, they’re going to think you’re insane.  Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but don’t let your ego get in the way of admitting how your performance is going.  And if something isn’t working, do something else.  Anything else.  I remember one time I just started talking like one of the characters I made up and it got a bunch of laughs that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.  You can do some improv.  The best way I do improv is going in with a blank slate and just rolling with it.  I love the fact that when I do that, I don’t know what the next word will be.  I just say it and usually it’s funny.  I really don’t even think about it.

Be who you are up there on stage.  Convey attitudes that are you, not someone else.  You can create characters, but make sure they know it’s a character.  Don’t just act like it for the hell of it because it will confuse the audience.  Do what feels right to you.  Don’t sacrifice your ethics and credibility for a laugh.  You will have this immense passion for telling what you actually feel.  Just tell it the way you know it best and you will eventually get laughs.  If not, then you’re just not that funny.  But we all know.  Peace.

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One Response to Don’t Lie for a Laugh

  1. Gigohead says:

    Great article. However, the link to Norm’s site is http://www.norm-macdonald.com.

    Thanks!

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