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Comedy Writing Secrets: The Best-Selling Book on How to Think Funny, Write Funny, Act Funny, And Get Paid For It

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The Only Handbook for Humor Writers! What is comedy? Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke. -Steve Martin Become the funniest person in the room! With Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, you can master the fundamentals of humor writing and turn your comedic talent into a well-paying pursuit. For more than a decade, Comedy Writing Secrets has been g The Only Handbook for Humor Writers! What is comedy? Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke. -Steve Martin Become the funniest person in the room! With Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, you can master the fundamentals of humor writing and turn your comedic talent into a well-paying pursuit. For more than a decade, Comedy Writing Secrets has been giving aspiring comedians a leg up on the competition. In this expanded new edition, Mel Helitzer, named the "funniest professor in the country" by Rolling Stone magazine, and funnyman Mark Shatz pack in even more insight and instruction, including: - Humor writing exercises to punch up your jokes - Extra information on writing for sitcoms and stand-up - Comedic brainstorming techniques using associations and listings - Exclusive tips for writing humor for specific markets like editorials, columns, speeches, advertising, greeting cards, t-shirts, and more Tap into your comedic genius with Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, and you'll always leave ?em laughing!


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The Only Handbook for Humor Writers! What is comedy? Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke. -Steve Martin Become the funniest person in the room! With Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, you can master the fundamentals of humor writing and turn your comedic talent into a well-paying pursuit. For more than a decade, Comedy Writing Secrets has been g The Only Handbook for Humor Writers! What is comedy? Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke. -Steve Martin Become the funniest person in the room! With Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, you can master the fundamentals of humor writing and turn your comedic talent into a well-paying pursuit. For more than a decade, Comedy Writing Secrets has been giving aspiring comedians a leg up on the competition. In this expanded new edition, Mel Helitzer, named the "funniest professor in the country" by Rolling Stone magazine, and funnyman Mark Shatz pack in even more insight and instruction, including: - Humor writing exercises to punch up your jokes - Extra information on writing for sitcoms and stand-up - Comedic brainstorming techniques using associations and listings - Exclusive tips for writing humor for specific markets like editorials, columns, speeches, advertising, greeting cards, t-shirts, and more Tap into your comedic genius with Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, and you'll always leave ?em laughing!

30 review for Comedy Writing Secrets: The Best-Selling Book on How to Think Funny, Write Funny, Act Funny, And Get Paid For It

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    OK, but keep in mind that if you have to read a book, especially many books, you're probably not funny. I was asked by my students how I got into standup comedy(I performed for over five years in Boston and LA). They asked, "Did you take classes?" No. Never. I find that too much studying of technique for intuitive based skills is counter productive. You can certainly improve your comedy with some reading (especially seeing how those who came before you did it--I read a book about the early caree OK, but keep in mind that if you have to read a book, especially many books, you're probably not funny. I was asked by my students how I got into standup comedy(I performed for over five years in Boston and LA). They asked, "Did you take classes?" No. Never. I find that too much studying of technique for intuitive based skills is counter productive. You can certainly improve your comedy with some reading (especially seeing how those who came before you did it--I read a book about the early careers of people like Woody Allen and Steve Martin that gave me great comfort and encouragement to see that they sucked in the early goings just like me!), but if you have to read to learn how to "think funny," "write funny," and "act funny" (the "how tos" of Helitzer's book) then you're probably not funny. Sure, if you're going to keep your day job, then by all means read this book or books like this one. HOWEVER (and a big however here--as you can see) if you're going to make a career out of it . . . most likely if you're reading books . . . Answer’s obvious. If you don't believe me, call Dave Chappelle, Dane Cook (although he was funnier in Boston in the beginning when I was on the way up--ask him about Sunday nights at the 99 Restaurant in Saugus. Nightmaaaaaaare!) Ellen Degeneres, Jim Gaffigan (I looooooove this guy--now he's FUNNY!). But remember that humor isn't merely punctuated with the "F" word or exists merely below the belt. Rise above and look to human failings that people can connect to without excessive vulgarity. Watch Kevin James (King of Queens), he'll make you laugh without throwing up from disgust. Look at Dice Clay (if you can find him) how NOT to do it. Or even Sam Kinnison, even though he WAS pretty funny. But it went downhill for a reason. The comics who stay around are likeable and don't make a habit of attacking people. Comics who do are gone or headline a fashion show with their daughter on the E! channel.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Wallace

    Now I know all the secrets.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    Excellent book on comedy theory and practice. I'd tell you more, but it's a secret. Excellent book on comedy theory and practice. I'd tell you more, but it's a secret.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alex Memus

    This is not a good book. And not an easy and fluid read either. Cons: * The authors chose a questionable approach. In essence this book is just a compilation of jokes by other people and of boring lists by authors themselves. So it's assumed you're gonna learn from an unstructured flow of jokes (the jokes themselves are fine) and from 'captain obvious' takes on topics (like a speech has an opening, the body and the ending, meh). And it's not working. Cause I have access to comedic content and comm This is not a good book. And not an easy and fluid read either. Cons: * The authors chose a questionable approach. In essence this book is just a compilation of jokes by other people and of boring lists by authors themselves. So it's assumed you're gonna learn from an unstructured flow of jokes (the jokes themselves are fine) and from 'captain obvious' takes on topics (like a speech has an opening, the body and the ending, meh). And it's not working. Cause I have access to comedic content and common sense w/o this book. Consuming doesn't mean learning. * Also, the authors criminally overuse acronyms for their jokes frameworks. And they 3 of them. And all of them partially overlap. It sucks. * Missing structure and weird choice of topics (like explaining that tweets are 140 long in more than page of text) make this a difficult read. It's very uneven. With the first third being ok, the second third being repetitive and the final third being simply awful. Pros: * The book still highlights the basic structure of jokes with setup & punchline. And gives some insight on why people laugh. * It also has some helpful writing exercises to practice joke writing (70% of 'writing lab' here is garbage, but 30% are totally cool and very similar to any standup workshop). Recap Introduction to Humor Writing Rule: Don’t be inhibited. When writing, write freely. If your internal critic limits your creativity by saying “This sucks!” then you will be left with nothing. Your goal is to tap the full potential of your comedic inventiveness by remembering this mantra: Nothing sucks. Nothing does suck! Imagination drives comedy. Train your mind to constantly ask What if? and brainstorm all the possibilities of what else these objects could be. Don’t worry if your ideas seem absurd. As Steve Martin said, “Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke.” Factors of rubbing the audience wrong: * Timing: Not Now * Personal: I Don’t Think That’s Funny * Cultural: We Don’t Think That’s Funny * Gender: Men Are Funnier—Not! Practice: list your ten favorite comedians and humorists, and search for jokes, tweets, or quotes by each of these individuals. After you amass twenty jokes, identify the subject or target of the joke, and explain why you think the joke is funny. Practice: keep some type of personal humor journal. Why we Laugh Psychologist Patricia Keith-Spiegel identified two primary reasons why we laugh: 
 * We laugh out of surprise. * We laugh when we feel superior. Six additional motivations: * We laugh out of instinct. * We laugh at incongruity. * We laugh out of ambivalence. * We laugh for release. * We laugh when we solve a puzzle. * We laugh to regress. Setup -> Punchline: Surprise is one of the most universally accepted formulas for humor. A joke is a story, and a surprise ending is usually its finale. To achieve the unexpected twist, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice grammar and even logic.

Target: The joke is at someone else’s expense. Humor often ridicules the intelligence, social standing, and physical and mental infirmities of those we consider inferior to ourselves. The Recipe for Humor The two qualities shared by all successful humorists are consistency and targeted material. MAPP: material, audience, performer, and purpose. Whether the humor is a one-liner, a lengthy anecdote, or a three-act theatrical piece, these six elements are required (THREES): target, hostility, realism, exaggeration, emotion, and surprise. Target: Humor is criticism cloaked as entertainment and directed at a specific target. Humor is an attempt to challenge the status quo, but targeting must reaffirm the audience’s hostilities and prejudices. This means that humor is always unfair. Like editorial cartoons, jokes take a biased point of view. Practice: Make a list of the seven most embarrassing moments in your life. Review the events and look for patterns. Create a list of seven things you do not like about yourself. Then list all your personal faults, according to what others have told you. Practice: Stand in front of a mirror and look for your three most noticeable physical features. Ask friends and family to identify celebrities who act and look like you. Hostility This need for hostility bred what is called nihilistic humor—humor based on the theory that there is no person or thing so sacred as to be beyond ridicule. Group Differences: Us vs Them. As long as we’re in the majority, humor can criticize. Humor might be viewed as anger turned into profit. Practice: Make a list of people, things, and topics that you feel hostile about. Freely associate, don’t censor yourself, and write down why each target is frustrating. Realism “Most good jokes state a bitter truth,” said scriptwriter Larry Gelbart. Without some fundamental basis of truth, there’s little with which the audience can associate. But jokes also bend the truth, and the challenge is to learn how to tell the truth (be realistic) while lying (exaggerating). The basic two-step in humor is to (a) state some common problem, frequently with a cliché, and (b) create an unexpected ending or surprise. Humor Writing Techniques POW: Play on Words The Double Entendre. Double entendre is the French term for an ambiguous word or phrase that allows for a second—usually spicy—interpretation. The Simple Truth and the Takeoff The simple truth is a technique for creating humor by considering the implications of the literal meaning of such expressions—without their context of logical assumptions. I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman where the self-help section was. She said if she told me it would defeat the purpose. —Dennis Miller The idea behind the takeoff is to draw a humorous conclusion from the intended meaning of a standard cliché. Reverses The traditional one-liner structure—a setup followed by a punch line. The setup is usually a cliché, which allows for a literal interpretation or an unexpected twist. After twelve years of therapy, my psychiatrist said something that brought tears to my eyes. He said, “No hablo ingles.” —Ronnie Shakes Triples Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. —Mark Twain Three parts to most comedic bits. SAP: S = Setup (preparation) A = Anticipation (triple) P = Punch line (story payoff) Three criteria determine whether a premise properly sets up the punch line: truth, emotion, and explicitness. The emotion is usually anger or hostility driven by the stupidity, absurdity, or weirdness of the premise. The concept of a triple is simple. Whenever you have a sequence of actions, comments, or categories, the magical number is three. Realism, Exaggeration, and Shock I’ve had more women than most people have noses. —Steve Martin Exaggeration is one of the easiest and most effective comedic tools, and it appears in all types of humor: Cartoonists magnify physical features, impressionists exaggerate speech mannerism, and comedians embellish language. Exaggeration changes the perception of reality. Outrageous doesn’t mean creative. “For me, it's a purity thing about the joke itself. It's a test of a joke whether or not you do it completely clean and it works. If it does, then that's a legitimate item you have there. For me, it's nothing to do with finding those words offensive. It's just not what I'm in search of. Do it clean, and you are really earning that laugh.” —Jerry Seinfeld Brainstorming Even when a writer’s imagination is going full steam, the rule of ten in, nine out applies: For every ten jokes written, only one might be acceptable. A playful mentality is critical to writing humor. If you worry about the process or whether your writing is funny, then you will never fulfill your goal. The professional writes three times what’s needed, rewrites, discards, rewrites some more, then finally settles on the ones that work best for that specific audience. Practice: No humor writer will deny that generating associations can be laborious, time-consuming, and frustrating. However, when your creative juices are not flowing, listing is the best way to examine a topic from every possible angle. Editing Well-constructed joke does the following: * uses as few words as possible * does not reveal key words in the setup * saves the funniest word for the end When you write humor, your first draft can be as long as you wish. The second draft should cut every nonessential phrase. The final draft should cut every nonessential word. Mantra: Make every word work. Brent Forrester called this the “Humor and Duration Principle,” which, simply put, states that the less time you take to get to the joke, the funnier the joke will be. Speeches In the late nineteenth century, British politician John Morley wrote: “Three things matter in a speech. Who says it, how he says it, and what he says. And of the three, the last matters the least.” A humorous introduction can humanize the speaker and put the audience at ease. Don’t let some inept MC start your speech off on the wrong footnotes. To give an introduction true character and spark, write it yourself. A speech, including introductory material, should never take more than twenty minutes. The normal speaking rate is two and a half words per second, and that means a speech should be a maximum of 3,000 words long. “An immortal speech should not be eternal.” 1. It must be funny. 2. It must be comfortable for the speaker. 3. It must be comfortable for the audience. Personalize and localize the humor whenever possible, even though many in the audience will know it’s fabricated. Never apologize. Saying “Here’s something I just dashed off” or “This may not be very funny, but …” sets an expectation that the humor is weak. Also, don’t explain. “See, the guy was an atheist, and …” Use self-deprecating humor. The audience appreciates it when—despite a speaker’s title, age, or reputation—the speaker is human. Teach Since students anticipate boredom, they will appreciate any attempt at humor and view the teacher as striving to make the course more interesting. Students will quickly stereotype teachers. Opening with a joke or funny quote sends the message, “This will be fun, so pay attention.” Final advice 1. Work With Others. Write with a partner whenever possible. 2. Test, Test, Test. 3. Write, Write, Write.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Katharine

    Attention humor writers! You need to KNOW humor. One reviewer asked if you can teach funny? I don't know if you can or not -- but if you claim to be a funny writer, then you need to take humor seriously and read all you can on the matter. I LOVE this book because it breaks different types of jokes down into technical elements (sound dry? it's not, but I kinda geek out over joke structure and the law of threes). I just may create a list of good resources for people who want to be known as funny w Attention humor writers! You need to KNOW humor. One reviewer asked if you can teach funny? I don't know if you can or not -- but if you claim to be a funny writer, then you need to take humor seriously and read all you can on the matter. I LOVE this book because it breaks different types of jokes down into technical elements (sound dry? it's not, but I kinda geek out over joke structure and the law of threes). I just may create a list of good resources for people who want to be known as funny writers. I'd put this book on the list, with the works of Ring Lardner, SJ Perelman, comic biographies (like Woody Allen) and humor theory, and then I'd beat with a rubber chicken any writer who thinks they're funny but doesn't want to bother with the craft of humor. Seriously.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    If you've already mastered looking funny. If you've already mastered looking funny.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Terri Weeding

    A great reference book for this humor writer. Although I believe comedy is instinctual, studying different masters/methods helped me create a variety of funny characters with different voices.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lancelot Schaubert

    "When you do comedy to troops you stay on an army base, but in Bahrain you could actually leave the base and go to the downtown Bahrain. When you go out there they're like, 'Look, it's safe just don't draw attention to yourself. Don't wear American t-shirts and stuff.' And you're like, 'All right that's fine, no American t-shirts. So what are you going to do about the white on my skin?'" — Nate Bargatze This is THE definitive guide for comedians. I had a kid call me the other day asking what it wo "When you do comedy to troops you stay on an army base, but in Bahrain you could actually leave the base and go to the downtown Bahrain. When you go out there they're like, 'Look, it's safe just don't draw attention to yourself. Don't wear American t-shirts and stuff.' And you're like, 'All right that's fine, no American t-shirts. So what are you going to do about the white on my skin?'" — Nate Bargatze This is THE definitive guide for comedians. I had a kid call me the other day asking what it would take to make it in the NYC comedy scene and the first thing I did was to recommend this book to him. I've used it, even though I don't do comedy per se, and it's helped punchlines even at dinner with family and in the midst of long con stories that build towards funny moments. Every writer should peruse this volume. Except for you, Louis C.K., it's not working. Go back to weeping into Cheetos bags.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Forest Tong

    I thought this book was decent until I got to the "Why We Laugh" chapter, and then it all unwound. The theory Helitzer presents is that we laugh either out of surprise or out of superiority. I tried hard to give his theory a fair chance, but I simply disagreed with almost everything he said on the topic. Surprise, yes, is a big component of humor; but I don't think it's close to an adequate explanation, and I don't think superiority is related to humor at all. Perhaps it's just me personally, but I thought this book was decent until I got to the "Why We Laugh" chapter, and then it all unwound. The theory Helitzer presents is that we laugh either out of surprise or out of superiority. I tried hard to give his theory a fair chance, but I simply disagreed with almost everything he said on the topic. Surprise, yes, is a big component of humor; but I don't think it's close to an adequate explanation, and I don't think superiority is related to humor at all. Perhaps it's just me personally, but when he says “We smile, frequently even laugh aloud, when we experience that sudden insight of having solved a mystery, finished a crossword puzzle...We are delighted by the solution to the puzzle (sur-prise), and we want the world to know we're very smart (superiority)," I utterly fail to relate. Who laughs out loud after solving a crossword puzzle to let the world know they're smart? Instead, I believe absurdity is much more key to understanding humor, and Helitzer doesn't even mention it. However, I give the book two stars because it seems like if I agreed with the author the format would be effective--the writing is interspersed with quotes from comedians, and there are reasonable assignments at the end of each chapter.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Isman

    Six words: don't let the cover fool you. It's beyond corny, I know. Melvin wanted to emphazise that--if you ever consider being a humor writer--physical humor is underrated. An overabundance of physical humor is annoying. No doubt about it. But see any Rowan Atkinson's sketch and try to rewrite it without using physical humor. It's like sending an NBA player to score a triple-double after amputating his left leg. What we should do, as a writer, is learn what make us laugh. And then use it to our Six words: don't let the cover fool you. It's beyond corny, I know. Melvin wanted to emphazise that--if you ever consider being a humor writer--physical humor is underrated. An overabundance of physical humor is annoying. No doubt about it. But see any Rowan Atkinson's sketch and try to rewrite it without using physical humor. It's like sending an NBA player to score a triple-double after amputating his left leg. What we should do, as a writer, is learn what make us laugh. And then use it to our advantage in writing. That easy. The rest is practice. (And a helluva lot of rewrites.)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Semiophrenic

    Although intended for comedy writers, it rather gives off the impression of being a joke book with some thoughts as to how the jokes are constructed. Many popular stand-up comedians, such as George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Chris Rock, Lewis Black, Dave Chapelle are quoted and often. Special attention is payed to the rule of threes (and of course the Christian trinity and other biblical examples are brought out as proof of it's efficiacy). The introduction warns the reader that reading Although intended for comedy writers, it rather gives off the impression of being a joke book with some thoughts as to how the jokes are constructed. Many popular stand-up comedians, such as George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Chris Rock, Lewis Black, Dave Chapelle are quoted and often. Special attention is payed to the rule of threes (and of course the Christian trinity and other biblical examples are brought out as proof of it's efficiacy). The introduction warns the reader that reading this book may bring about a loss of "magic" in comedy, and indeed immediately afterward I did feel this effect.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dawid

    I gave this book a try and couldn't get through more than the first half of it. The advice within was not practical to me. I was hoping to get through its entirety for completion's sake but for the past two years everything seemed more interesting than that. I'm not giving it a rating because I don't believe it's a book for me. I don't want to discourage or recommend it or anyone. I'm grateful for this book helping me learn to let go ;) I gave this book a try and couldn't get through more than the first half of it. The advice within was not practical to me. I was hoping to get through its entirety for completion's sake but for the past two years everything seemed more interesting than that. I'm not giving it a rating because I don't believe it's a book for me. I don't want to discourage or recommend it or anyone. I'm grateful for this book helping me learn to let go ;)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Truthcansuck Goring

    This is a great primer on the construction of humour. A little quote heavy, and yes it does read like a textbook at times, but it pays off with actual information (which is rarer than you would think in most books on comedy)on the process of using words to elicit laughs.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    Eh. Some of the exercises were okay. It's mostly common sense. The most annoying thing about the book is about every 5 lines there's a quote. It really makes it hard to get into a flow reading this thing. Would not recommend. Eh. Some of the exercises were okay. It's mostly common sense. The most annoying thing about the book is about every 5 lines there's a quote. It really makes it hard to get into a flow reading this thing. Would not recommend.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ashlley Elias

    in depth analysis of being funny. it helped me understand what I'm doing when I get those laughs... in depth analysis of being funny. it helped me understand what I'm doing when I get those laughs...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jaime Buckley

    Thus far I'm enjoying the process--purchased to assist in developing some key characters in my writing, this has given me a new perspective and understanding of how comedy works. Thus far I'm enjoying the process--purchased to assist in developing some key characters in my writing, this has given me a new perspective and understanding of how comedy works.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vaas

    ========== Humorists have one cardinal rule: Don't be inhibited. It's better to take a nihilistic attitude toward sensitive subjects than to pussyfoot around taboos. When writing, write freely. Make uninhibited assumptions. Editing and self-censorship are second and third steps—never the first! ========== Imagination drives comedy, and just about everyone has an imagination— or no one would never get married. ========== Humor is more than entertainment or joke telling—it's a powerful social lubricant ========== Humorists have one cardinal rule: Don't be inhibited. It's better to take a nihilistic attitude toward sensitive subjects than to pussyfoot around taboos. When writing, write freely. Make uninhibited assumptions. Editing and self-censorship are second and third steps—never the first! ========== Imagination drives comedy, and just about everyone has an imagination— or no one would never get married. ========== Humor is more than entertainment or joke telling—it's a powerful social lubricant that eases and enriches communication, interpersonal relations, and education. ========== writers are only as good as their last joke, ========== The two qualities shared by all successful humorists are (a) consistency and (b) targeted material. ========== What if you tell a joke in the forest, and nobody laughs? Was it a joke? ========== MAP stands for material, audience, and performer. ========== Only after you know your audience and the characteristics about the performer's persona that need to be consistent, are you ready to start writing the material. ========== A humorist tells himself every morning, "I hope it's going to be a rough day." When things are going well, it's much harder to make jokes. ========== Humor writers therefore have to live with the fear that they won't be able to continue producing humor consistently. ========== why we laugh. • We laugh out of surprise. • We laugh when we feel superior. ========== Keith-Spiegel identified six additional motivations for laughter, each of which supports the two main reasons, surprise and superiority. • We laugh out of instinct. • We laugh at incongruity. • We laugh out of ambivalence. • We laugh for release. • We laugh when we solve a puzzle. • We laugh to regress. ========== Surprise is one of the most universally accepted formulas for humor. ========== The need for surprise is the one cardinal rule in comedy. ========== "Humor is a reaction to tragedy. The joke is at someone else's expense," ========== There appears to be a strong and constant need for us to feel superior. In many ways, humor satisfies this most basic of needs. ========== Nothing allows someone to feel superior more than mocking another person's mindless mistake, which is perhaps why typos are such a rich source for contemporary humor and witticisms. ========== There are two ways to feel superior. The first is to accomplish exemplary work that receives public acclaim. That's difficult. The second (and easiest) way to feel superior is to publicly criticize the accomplishments of others. ========== The professional humorist must always be aware that audience members are happiest when his subject matter and technique encourage them to feel superior. ========== it's always popular because the audience knows all the facts, and therefore feels superior. ========== In configuration humor, we laugh when a riddle encourages us to instantaneously discover some missing—and unexpected—piece of information. ========== We're young only once, but with humor, we can be immature forever. ========== And you can learn a great deal about your own psychological makeup by constantly asking yourself (and answering truthfully), Why did I laugh at this joke and not at others? ========== Our regression into an infantile state of mind through humor, as suggested by psychoanalysts, is most often experienced in large settings. ========== The value of humor in attack is incomparable, because humor is a socially acceptable form of criticism, a catharsis that combines memorability with respectability. ========== But the only way you'll survive as a humorist is if the audience equally disfavors your target. ========== You must maintain surprise and superiority. ========== (www.laughlab.co.uk) ========== these six elements are required. • Target • Hostility • Realism • Exaggeration • Emotion • Surprise ========== Although the prescribed order may be challenged, in this configuration the first letter of each element forms a memorable acronym: THREES. ========== The THREES formula focuses on the what and why of humor. The what is the target, and the why is the hostility, realism, exaggeration, emotion, and surprise contained in the humor. ========== "Inviting people to laugh with you while you are laughing at yourself is a good thing to do. You may be the fool, but you're the fool in charge." ========== hostility can be nothing more than intellectual masturbation. ========== Since everyone has personal money problems, focusing hostility on financial matters is one of the best (and least controversial) ways to show the audience you share their problems. ========== Angst has pointed a devil's finger at anxieties so personal that, in the past, we carefully avoid¬ ed discussing them even in private: A long list of such topics includes fear of death; coping with deformity; deprivations; and neurotic symptoms such as paranoia, insecurity, narcissism, and kinky sexual urges. ========== "Impropriety is the soul of wit." But the soul of wit may just be hostility. When we all think alike, there will be a lot less humor. ========== Think of the combination of realism and exaggeration as an exercise in lateral thinking, a technique commonly used by business gurus to solve The Recipe for Humor 51 problems and generate new ideas. ========== We permit humorists to utilize hyperbole, blatant distortion, and overstated figures that signal (since the absurd subject matter can't possibly be true): Hey, it's only a joke. Therefore, the audience laughs at The Recipe for Humor 53 exaggerated banana-peel acrobatics because the clown will certainly get up. That's comedy! If he doesn't get up, that's tragedy! ========== The fifth element in the THREES formula is emotion. ========== We've already begun discussing exaggeration, the fourth element in the THREES formula for humor. ========== "stand-up is a funny man doing material, not a man doing funny material. The personality, the character—not the joke—is primary." ========== HOW DO YOU BUILD EMOTION? 1. The first and most common technique for building emotion is also the simplest—pausing just before the payoff word. This pause is called a pregnant pause because it promises to deliver. ========== The second technique for generating emotion is asking the audience members a question, thereby encouraging them to become involved. ========== "How many here have ever...?" It's become its own cliché, ========== Let's see how the entire THREES formula ( target, hostility, realism, exaggeration, emotion, and a surprise ending) ========== Brent Forrester defined this as the Humor and Duration Principle, which, simply put, states that the less time you take to get to the joke, the funnier the joke will be. ========== The most common brainstorming methods are association and listing. ========== Association is putting two activities that haven't been previously associated into a plausible but audacious scenario. Association is a more formal word for teaming, humor's variation on metaphor. You combine two simple elements that are logical alone but impossible together. The humor comes from the unexpected, offbeat relationship. ========== Associations have several formats. One type of association begins with a cliché or expression that the audience is likely to interpret one way, but then the performer gives an illustrative example that reverses the anticipated meaning. ========== Another type of association is the teaming of two clichés. This technique is the backbone of improvisation. Wife to friend: I call Herb's salary a phallic symbol even though it only rises once a year. ========== A third type of association is the Tom Swifty, the teaming of a quota¬ tion with a verb or adverb of attribution that puns on the meaning of the quotation. "I want to renew my membership," Tom rejoined. ========== Your mantra should be: Make every word work. ========== Here are four more tools for busting through humor block. 1. WORK BACKWARDS. Create the last line—the punchline first. Then write the anecdote ========== 2. LOOK FOR OPPOSITES. One key method of creating surprise is associat- ing two dissimilar things. Choose a topic, then brainstorm for people, places, things, phrases, clichés, and words that are dissimilar to this topic. ========== 3. TALK INSTEAD OF WRITING. Put down the pen and start talking out loud. Use a voice recorder to capture ideas, which may come faster than you can write. ========== 4. IMAGINE INSTEAD OF WRITING. Albert Einstein recognized that the mind's visual powers greatly exceed its verbal abilities, and he used visu- alization to discover many of his famous theories. Whenever you need to kick-start your imagination, close your eyes and let your mind create a mental movie of you telling jokes to a receptive audience. ========== Aggressive editing is important. Remember that a good joke: 1. uses as few words as possible 2. preserves the funniest part of the joke until the end 3. does not reveal key words in the setup, and does not contain words after the funniest part of the punchline ========== The term reverse has many definitions in humor writing, but one of the best is "a device that adds a contradictory tag line to the opening line of a standard expression or cliché." I couldn't wait for success, so I went ahead without it. ========== The most common definition of a reverse is "an unexpected switch in the audience's point of view." Surprise comes from a basic change in direction—a reversal of habitual thinking or activity. To maintain the element of surprise, the writer must drop at least one prominent clue to mislead the audience, to push the audience in a false direction. ========== Let's imagine how you might go about creating such an aphorism. You can start with a built- in antonym pairing: optimist vs. pessimist. Your first effort might read something like this. A pessimist curses fate; an optimist looks for benefits from every decision. ========== For example, the term candy bar is less likely to conjure up a visual cue than a specific reference, such as a Snickers bar. The challenge for comedy writers is to avoid general, abstract phrases and use concrete descriptions that stimulate the senses. ========== SHOWTIME The following exercises will punch up the imagery in your writing. 1. Rewrite each of the following phrases using specificity. grab some food watch TV read a book drive a car 2. Replace general words or phrases in your previous jokes with specific, graphic descriptions. 3. When you record everyday events in your humor diary, use the most vivid, colorful, and graphic descriptions. ========== Humor only appears to be free-form. To the trained ear, it's predictable because it's structured. Nowhere is this structure more evident than in the interaction of realism and exaggeration, two of the six ingredients in the THREES formula (target, hostility, realism, exaggeration, emotion, surprise). ========== The key is remembering that a premise must be true and interesting to we, the audience, not you, the writer. ========== In a triple, as discussed in chapter nine, the first two lines are frequently straight lines; this is the realistic element. The third line is the surprise twist—logically related to the first two lines, but unexpected and exaggerated. Realism is the setup, while exaggeration is the joke. ========== Three criteria determine whether a premise properly sets up the punch- line: truth, emotion, and explicitness. The three factors form a memorable acronym, TEE. A solid premise will TEE-up a joke by containing the following elements. T = TRUTH: The most effective humor is reality-based, genuine, and true. If a setup is exaggerated, insincere, or untrue, then you lose the ability to bend reality to produce the surprise punchline. E = EMOTION: A solid setup includes a factual statement, opinion, or observation with a stated or implied emotion. The emotion is usually anger or hostility driven by the stupidity, absurdity, or weirdness of the premise. E = EXPLICITNESS: An effective premise is specific and readily understood by others. ========== Since comedy encourages the audience to suspend disbelief, humorists can take advantage of every opportunity to stretch the truth. In other circumstances, unmitigated exaggeration would be castigated as lying. In humor, clever exaggeration guarantees laughter. ========== Why is the k sound funny? Research indicates that babies associate the sound with comfort and joy. ========== Just a few are cutie, cookie, kitten, cuddle, car, come, count, kiddie, clean, and cupcake. ========== To be categorized as funny, a word has to have at least one of the following three characteristics: a funny sound, a double entendre, or an association with a famous person. ========== Once you get people laughing, they're listening and you can sell them almost anything. ========== Use self-deprecating humor. ========== Tell funny anecdotes in addition to one-liners. ========== While you're doing all that, the client should be shaking hands with as many members of the audience as possible, reading their name tags and calling them by their first names as soon as they're introduced. The speaker should circulate quickly and not stay in any one place for too long. The object is to make friends, since we laugh more easily with friends. ========== Try to jam-pack the hall. Better fifty standers than fifty empty seats. Also, the smaller the room, the better laughter sounds. ========== If your material is the what, then your delivery is the how, your timing is the when, and your character is the who. ========== A character needs a trademark, a predictable point of view that does not change. ========== The biggest purchaser of humor material today is not the entertainment industry but the business community. Humor is a powerful means of communication in advertising, speeches, newsletters, sales meetings, fund-raising efforts, business publications, Web sites, and even voice mail. And corporations are hungry to find people who have the ability to use humor as a persuasive tool. ========== The seven most effective subjects and formats for humor commercials are, logically, also the most popular. 1. cartoons 2. anthropomorphic animals 3. physical slapstick 4. the underdog 5. celebrity comedians as spokespersons 6. plays on words (POWs) 7. children ========== Because radio is a medium that is used as a background compan- ion, attention-getting words or sound effects must be used in the first five seconds. ========== He who laughs most, learns best. ==========

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ixby Wuff

    The Only Handbook for Humor Writers!"What is comedy? Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke."Steve MartinBecome the funniest person in the room! With Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, you can master the fundamentals of humor writing and turn your comedic talent into a well-paying pursuit.For more than a decade, Comedy Writing Secrets has been giving aspiring comedians a leg up on the competition. In this expanded new edition, Mel Helitzer, named the "funniest profes The Only Handbook for Humor Writers!"What is comedy? Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke."Steve MartinBecome the funniest person in the room! With Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, you can master the fundamentals of humor writing and turn your comedic talent into a well-paying pursuit.For more than a decade, Comedy Writing Secrets has been giving aspiring comedians a leg up on the competition. In this expanded new edition, Mel Helitzer, named the "funniest professor in the country" by Rolling Stone magazine, and funnyman Mark Shatz pack in even more insight and instruction, including:   • Humor writing exercises to punch up your jokes   • Extra information on writing for sitcoms and stand-up   • Comedic brainstorming techniques using associations and listings   • Exclusive tips for writing humor for specific markets like editorials, columns, speeches, advertising, greeting cards, t-shirts, and moreTap into your comedic genius with Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, and you'll always leave 'em laughing!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robert Day

    Okay, I don't want to be a professional comedy writer. I'm happy enough with the inadvertent (mostly) humour that sneaks itself in-between my words. What this book does is tells me the names for the kinds of humour I already use. There are chapters on every kind of humour and they're well-written chapters. The author really knows the ins and outs of the business and is (was) good enough to teach it to others.] There came a point in the book when I switched from trying to learn about comedy to just Okay, I don't want to be a professional comedy writer. I'm happy enough with the inadvertent (mostly) humour that sneaks itself in-between my words. What this book does is tells me the names for the kinds of humour I already use. There are chapters on every kind of humour and they're well-written chapters. The author really knows the ins and outs of the business and is (was) good enough to teach it to others.] There came a point in the book when I switched from trying to learn about comedy to just appreciating the example jokes in the text. That's just about me - no fault of the book. Recommended for anyone who wants to know how comedy works. It's just possible that it might not kill your appreciation of humour (if you're lucky).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chandrima Das

    This book is great for a beginner who wants to explore the basic structure of comedy writing. This explores mechanical humor pretty well. It contains some useful pointers that will get you to neatly cull a joke out of an insight. On the flip side, this book gets too formulaic at times. While it can help you manufacture humor consistently, it isn't going to help guide you to any layers deeper than that. If I were to follow all the advice in here, I would surely end up writing/ performing like a h This book is great for a beginner who wants to explore the basic structure of comedy writing. This explores mechanical humor pretty well. It contains some useful pointers that will get you to neatly cull a joke out of an insight. On the flip side, this book gets too formulaic at times. While it can help you manufacture humor consistently, it isn't going to help guide you to any layers deeper than that. If I were to follow all the advice in here, I would surely end up writing/ performing like a hack.

  21. 4 out of 5

    J Bambi Spangler

    Form behind funny I learned different ways to look at life and how to perform it with maximum impact. Great education in writing comedy every day.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Some of the concepts are OK, but incredibly dated. Lots of sexist jokes, including a section on why "some people" don't think women are funny. It's not absurdly offensive, but it could use an update. Some of the concepts are OK, but incredibly dated. Lots of sexist jokes, including a section on why "some people" don't think women are funny. It's not absurdly offensive, but it could use an update.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rafed

    Just gave me some tips on how to write a speech in a humorous way.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Akhil Jain

    Reco by RL Stine Masterclass

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Chung

    I don't know if it could possibly be written any better maybe Woody Allen is correct - you can't teach how to be funny. I am not churning jokes like a machine by the end of the book. I don't know if it could possibly be written any better maybe Woody Allen is correct - you can't teach how to be funny. I am not churning jokes like a machine by the end of the book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stacia Leigh

    I didn't enjoy the tone of the writing or agree with the primary reasons for why we laugh. Not for me. I didn't enjoy the tone of the writing or agree with the primary reasons for why we laugh. Not for me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anna Zhao

    Life is easy, comedy is hard. Whoever read this book has an unfair advantage over others : ) .

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sabina-Nicoleta Furtună (Sally)

    Some pertinent teachings on the topic of humour writing and a lot of jokes. I guess it's suitable for beginners and I kind of question the teaching approach. Entertaining nevertheless. Some pertinent teachings on the topic of humour writing and a lot of jokes. I guess it's suitable for beginners and I kind of question the teaching approach. Entertaining nevertheless.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert Morgan Fisher

    This book was on my nightstand in a constant state of being read for 2+ years. It's so densely wonderful and useful. I use it in the online course I designed and teach for Antioch University: Rub a Little Funny on it--Humor in Short Fiction. It covers all the bases and is marvelously thorough. It includes prompts and exercises. If you're already a professional comedy writer it will make you better; if you're a novice you'll be cracking people up on a regular basis after studying this wonderful b This book was on my nightstand in a constant state of being read for 2+ years. It's so densely wonderful and useful. I use it in the online course I designed and teach for Antioch University: Rub a Little Funny on it--Humor in Short Fiction. It covers all the bases and is marvelously thorough. It includes prompts and exercises. If you're already a professional comedy writer it will make you better; if you're a novice you'll be cracking people up on a regular basis after studying this wonderful book--which, I might add, was originally written by the mighty Mel Helitzer and revised and updated by the very talented Mark Shatz. I can now say that I have officially finished reading this book and it was a pleasure... though I'm already contemplating re-reading.

  30. 5 out of 5

    michaela marshall

    Comprehensive yet straightforward. Definitely can see myself picking it up again. Great writing exercises.

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