Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Emily McGregor,V.P. of Production at Comediva.com. She’s also the awesome person who wrote and directed the following viral video:
EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) is to Rachel Ray as Comedy is to writing. It makes things like lettuce taste like food. It also has been linked to good heart health if used in moderation.
Hi, I’m Emily. I direct the original videos at Comediva.com and also write for the site. I’ve been immersed in the comedy world for a couple of years now. And while it seems some people are born funnier than others you can definitely build your comedy muscle.
Here are some calorie-free tips I’ve found along the way. Dig in:
1. Never Write When You’re Hungry
Or else your intros will be filled with terrible food metaphors–and no one likes food metaphors. But, seriously: expose yourself to a wide variety of experiences, pop culture facts, historical facts, interesting people, and snacks. The information you ingest will inform your humor, and, as you may know, variety is the key to a well-balanced diet. So, if you eat only “bread,” your comedy will become “stale.” Ok, I’m done, I promise.
2. Don’t “Stop Short”
When you’re trying to write something funny, don’t go with your 1st idea. It’s probably what everyone else is thinking, and everyone else sucks. Use your 2nd idea, or better yet, your 3rd idea. It’s going to be your more weird, creative and incongruous idea and it’s going to be hella funny.
So think of an idea, then think of another idea, then take a shot of whiskey, think of a 3rd idea and use that.
But make sure to re-read your work in the morning.
3. SMASH THINGS!
Comedy is all about incongruity: putting two things together that really shouldn’t belong together.
My advice is to pretend you’re a British imperialist from the 1800s and you just took over a big chunk of Africa. You now get to smash a bunch of cultures together in a way they normally wouldn’t be put together.
Now, when the imperialists used this technique it brought about wars, starvation, and genocide. Fortunately, when you do it, you’ll bring happiness, laughter, and joy to the masses.
Aren’t you glad you’re a writer and not an imperialist? You bet your ass you are!
4. Give A Damn
Comedy is just drama about stupid s**t.
You really shouldn’t TRY and be funny. Instead be detailed, compelling, and convincing about things like peanut butter or window wiper fluid–instead of existential quandaries or child abuse like you would in drama.
I hate when people say: “Oh, it’s JUST comedy.” Comedy and drama are the SAME THING and comedy is just as bloody difficult to pull off as drama.
Don’t think of comedy as a lesser art form, or it’ll probably give you a whirly and stuff you in a locker.
5. Don’t “Sing Off-Key”
Tone is very important when it comes to comedy.
You would consider your audience when writing drama right? Same thing goes with comedy:
Will your audience of pre-teens get your obscure reference to Walter Cronkite? Possibly not.
Would a geriatric audience get your reference to My So-Called Life? Maybe, if they’re an awesome group of geriatrics.
Does that Turkish prison joke belong in your rom com? Depends on the rom com.
While you never want to talk down to your audience, or just “play it safe,” you DO want people to laugh, and if you’re tone is off, they won’t.
6. Embrace The Unexpected
Like adding a 6th tip to a 5-tip list!
Also: Llamas are cool. Adding llamas to a joke makes it immediately 10% funnier. Same with polar bears, waffles, the word “girth” and references to the Ottoman Empire.
You Are More Hilarious Than You Think You Are
All right, so I hope those tips are helpful, encouraging, and a touch entertaining.
Trust me, you’re more hilarious than you think you are. Even if you think really highly of yourself.
Emily McGregor is the V.P. of Production at Comediva.com. Emily was that token girl in a vast sea of pimply-faced techno-geeks in her high school AV club. Now, she develops content for the interwebs and directs the original video content for Comediva. She also made that thing you just read; that thing right above this thing you’re reading now. She hopes you liked it. If not, don’t leave a comment. If you did, send her flowers and whiskey.
What are some ways you expand your worldview in order to bring new perspectives into your comedy, or other creative work? How do you rationalize leisure activities as research for writing? How do you keep your bread from going stale? (Ok, ok. I’m going to go eat lunch now.)
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