Judy Carter started her career as a stand-up comic, headlining in clubs across t h e U.S. and being f e a t u r e d on over TV shows. She founded Comedy. Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Judy Carter is an author, speaking/comedy coach, and speaker. Her message of using comedy techniques to decrease. Judy Carter's. Stand-up Comedy Workbook. The Speaker's Bible: Make a. Career Out of the Message of You. Coming published by St. Martin's Press.
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All the world loves a clown and whether you want to clown around at parties or make a living as a standup comic, comedian Judy Carter can show you how. @JudyCarter #TMOY . Judy Carter's created a day interactive PDF journal to · guide you to Judy Carter, guru to aspiring comedy writers and stand-up. Stand-Up Comedy: The Book by Judy Carter. Read online, or download in secure EPUB format.
If you're serious about comedy, then here's whv you need this book: Some of the funniest people I know are waiting tables, cleaning craft. If you have a gift for comedy, then 1 can show you how to shape houses, temping in offices, and whining about their lack of success while your gift into the sort of "funny" that will get you noticed and paid. The less gifted comics and writers are making millions. No proof? After taking my eight-week course, many beginning stand-up matter what your day job is now, you could make a living doing comedy, comics have been signed, often after their first performance, by some of although very seldom docs real success come over night.
And some Even the best comics started out doing something else. Jay Leno stand-up students who have gone on to become successful writers found started out as an auto mechanic. The late, brilliant Sam Kenison was a that their scripts read more humorously and sold more easily because Catholic priest before he started doing stand-up.
Rodney Danger- career happen, there also are things that will kill and sabotage your suc- field was selling house paint before he became famous—which might be cess. This book will tell you which is which. Believe me, I know, because why he didn't "get no respect.
If you have a talent for making people laugh, there are a lot of oppor- tunities for fun and profit just waiting for you. And a person can make it in the funny business without ever getting onstage. Comics express them- selves in many different ways. Many, of course, do get onstage, acting and doing stand-up, but others write sitcoms, screenplays, and songs, while I have been very fortunate to make a living doing what I love most—com- others express themselves through cartoons, advertising, and more.
Peo- edy. I've worked at only one nine-to-five job in my life—teaching theater ple who know the craft of comedy writing are pursued and paid well for for two years at a private boys' school in Los Angeles. Other than that, for their talent.
From politicians to manufacturers, everyone has got some- twenty-five years I've made a living performing, writing, and teaching thing to sell, and comedy sells it best. It's no wonder, then, that many comedy all of which is not bad for a twenty-nine-year-old. For the first politicians have a staff of comedy writers working for them so that they ten years of my career I did clubs and television shows.
At the height of don't become big jokes themselves. They know also that ideas presented my performing career I was on the tube even' week and on the road forty with humor become the sound biles that make the six o'clock news. And weeks a vear as a headliner in comedy clubs and concert venues. I was of course, advertisers know that commercials that make a jaded TV audi- nominated lor Atlantic City's Entertainer of the Year award for my per- ence laugh will move merchandise more effectively than any other formances ai Caesars Palace.
I have produced and written television method. Even Hallmark employs comedy writers to write their humorous shows. I've written books that have won awards OK, one book that won cards. Humor can even get you dates. Just look at the personal ads—"sense Sometimes I look at the things I own and marvel: But the big question is, how do you go from being one of the guys these years, I still am amazed at being able to make a living off my sense who gets drunk at parties and lights his farts to being a Jim Carrey, who of humor.
But this book is based only partially on my successes.
In fact, it's After ten years of running comedy workshops, coaching over live based mostly on my mistakes and failures. Like when I had too much thousand comics, and doing stand-up at thousands of events myself, 1 t'me in the greenroom before going on national TV and decided at the as have developed an understanding of what it takes to be successful in com- t minute to throw all my material out the window and do something edy—and it isn't luck, relatives in the business, or a boob job.
Those new—-and unfunny. Like the time I spent doing material that I didn't things may get you in the door, but they aren't going to make people H-lieve in because I wanted to be what I thought was commercial. The laugh—unless, of course, it was a really bad boob job. What it takes to tone I didn't sign with a major manager because I was seared of success.
You can per- form it, write it, draw it, or manage if. From the list below, check which ones you're interested in or think you know you're good at. Q Stand-up c o m i c Depending on the quality of your act. Improvisers are in d e m a n d for acting and TV commercials as well as for voice-over work, feature animation, and game shows.
Comedy directors often start their careers with live performances. Two years later, he directed his first feature. Ace Ventura. Radio stations download prerecorded song parodies, "Funny" can also translate into books, magazine articles, and newspaper impersonations, and other comedy bits produced by small production columns.
George Carlin turned his unused stand-up material into the houses that specialize in creating this type of material. Dave Barry expresses his "funny" in turning to comics to keep their listeners laughing and listening. If you've got four different twenty-minute Paul Reubens's character Pee-wee H e r m a n started out as a character in clean sets and don't mind living with your audience for a few weeks, then an improv show at the Groundlings.
It turned into an H B O special, two this could be for vou. Irene Mecchi began as a com- edy writer, writing comedy material for Lily Tomlin. Now she works for Disney animation and was the screenwriter of Tlie Lion King. Some stand-up comics who perform supplement their income by writing Q Speechwriting for other comics. And then there are those funny people who have never Many CEOs and politicians turn to comedy writers to provide sound done stand-up themselves but who write it for others, such as funnyman bites so that they get noticed, win over their audiences, and don't get Bruce Vilanch, who writes for Betle Midler and the Academy Awards show.
Many of the most successful sitcoms are off me. Even jokes have become merchandise: Rosie O'Donnell's slingshot toy has sold over 2 million units.
I became a stand-up comic thanks to United Airlines. Skyler Thomas, who started writing jokes in my my grandmother's girdle. United Airlines changed the course of my career class, put his jokes on T-shirts.
They became major sellers and he now when I arrived in Cincinnati and my act arrived in Newark. That night I runs a multimillion-dollar T-shirt business called Don't Panic, with stores walked onstage without my tricks, without an act. I was so scared that 1 throughout America. I then ranted about all the humiliations of my life and the laughs Who do you think writes those funny bits in ads that gel your attention? It was then Comedy writers. Recently I've added to my work schedule by doing funny — L A.
W h o knew? For right now, you don't need to know selves and ended up booking others. But first, let's make sure vou have one. Right now, of course, you don't need to make a commitment to any specific comedy field. Actually, no matter which field of comedy you are interested in at the start of this book, be open to the possibility of shift- ing winds.
It could happen. You might start off thinking you want to be a stand-up comic and end up discovering thai you have a lot of ideas that can work as sitcoms. Conan O'Brien and Garry Shandling were both sitcom writers before they became comedy stars. The Zucker brothers and itn Abrahams, who created and directed the movies Airplane!
And then there's Gary Coleman, who started off as a comedy actor star- ring in his own sitcom and ended up as a security guard. Go figure! The various fields of comedy can morph into one another. Such as, "What if men got pregnant? Garry Shandling, famous comic, would answer all twenty questions "Yes. You might be working as an accountant but you are Some people, no matter how hard they try, just aren't funny. It takes a thinking like a comic. It's not how you currently make your living that certain disposition to do comedy.
So, how do you know if you have makes you a comic but how you think—how you sec the world, your atti- the right stuff? If you imitate your family members behind their backs, you're not being rude; you're doing what we call act-outs. If you are funny when you get angry, you already know how to deliver with attitude.
If you have opinions about the service in a restaurant, the new TV season, Circle the answers that describe you best. And if you are insanely jealous of other comics' success, it just yes no Do you think that you're funnier than most of the schmucks might be a healthy expression of your own desires for success.
But if you you see on TV? Get help. We funny people are not normal. In my workshops, the normal ones yes no Could you think of funny jokes even at a funeral? We think differently. For instance, having a hard yes no Do you ever think that you are the only sane one in your Crazy time at work? Normal people think, "What a bad day. They're always so mean to the new girl in the office. You have lunch at nine-thirty. I kept answering the phone by yes no Do you study the minute details of life, such as lint?
You know, I cussed and communication was at a minimum, but we remember every found it difficult sitting on the new girl's l a p. I recently broke up with this woman. I felt Normal people express their sense of humor by memorizing she wasn't into me.
I said, 'I love you. I adore you. I worship you. We like aughs, even at our own expense. We funny people We've kept a mental record of our family's weirdncss because we were the cave people who probably slipped on the knew even at an early age that they were a source of material.
We think a lot about little "Both my parents got high my entire life. We used to go on family trips together things, such as lint or hotel soap. I don't have childhood memories. I have flashbacks. I think that's why I hate to travel, because we never went anywhere. Oh wait, we "I like tiny hotel soap. I pretend that it's normal soap and did. That was fun. We are not normal. We are comics. Most people have misconceptions about what comics are like.
Comics "A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me—I'm afraid of widths. She anticipated a laugh-a-minute kind o night. It was a Nietzsche sort of night: At one point, when the conversation turned to creative ways to bald, how insecure, the better we feel—as long as we get a laugh. That way when the onlookers walk up they can go, 'Oh, Snickers, hey! It's a up by the police, please put your video way of looking not only at your life but at your dreams.
If you are a camera down and help me. That's the dis- these ideas are nothing. But look what Jerry Seinfeld did with "nothing. There are a thousand little observations about the details of life that fly past us every day. Don't let them go to waste. We wake up with them; we get them in our sleep, or while drinking coffee or driving our car, and even in times of griel.
I was out at dinner and ordered a bottle of Ellen DeGeneres is an example of someone who managed to turn wine and the waiter gave me the cork to smell, and 1 felt stupid sitting tragedy into comedy. A close friend of hers had died, and while alone and there sniffing it. But I thought at times like this when we can't figure it out for ourselves. Just pick up the phone and call up God—'Yeah, hi God, it's Ellen.
Listen, God, there's certain things on this earth. I just don't download Comedy Supplies understand why they're here. No, not Fabio. No, I didn't mean that. That was great. No, I was thinking more about insects. No, bees are great. The honey. You're welcome. I was thinking more about fleas. Well, I guess sound bites you're right. Of course you are. Keeping an Idea Book Whenever I tell someone that I'm a comic, they bend my ear about their idea for a sitcom, a screenplay, or a joke.
Well, now tell me that I'm funny! It's time to write them down. Get yourself a notebook that you keep by "OK, and please install my cable, Mr. Carry this, So, what is the difference between someone making a living from a working pen, and a small tape recorder with you all day. You don't want their ideas and someone who sees their ideas on TV and says, "Hey, I to lose the next major sitcom hit that will boost the profits of NBC thought of that? Write down all ideas It starts with paying attention and writing your ideas down.
Many Within a few minutes of thinking about them. Some people and career ideas. Each morning before you get out of bed, before you pee, are so overwhelmed with the day-to-day struggles of life that they don't spend just ten minutes writing down fresh ideas. They don't have to be funny. Just the act of writing down these ideas will keep the mental pipeline open. Keep the paper and a pen by "I carry a pad of paper everywhere and if some- your bed so that when you wake up, all you need to do is reach over and thing strikes me funny I write the premise down.
If you need coffee badly, then prepare it the night before Over the course of a few months I will have thou- and put it in a thermos by your bed. Any activity that you put between sands of these premises and I circle those that you and writing will give you an excuse not to do it at all.
If you have to really make me laugh, and think about how I can go to work early, set your alarm ten minutes earlier. It's a start. Over the course of a tour, Do not get out of bed before concluding this brief writing period.
And premises develop and grow into routines and do not give in to any self-negotiations, like "I'll skip today because tomor- oftentimes strong one-liners. I tape every show and row I'll have the whole day to write. Very few writers write the whole day. It's unrealistic. Can you write for ten minutes? It might not seem like much, but if you fill three pages a day, in a week you'll end up with twenty-one pages. At the end of a year, that's a book, a screenplay, an act.
Some suggestions about this free-form writing: These morning writings are not supposed to be masterpieces. Occa- sionally you'll produce an incredible idea, wonderful dialogue, hysterical Do not judge it. Get the juices Re messy. The more pages you Do not try lo be funny. As any- Don't go back and reread your stuff for at least a month. That way you'll one in sales knows, it's a numbers game. The more darts you throw, the be able to reread it with fresh eyes. The more people you dale. You gel the idea.
It's like Anrway. There are half- "I write my joke from seeing slupid things. Stupid signs. One of the mistakes neophyte siren going 'Woooo. For instance, which of these ideas is "bad"? If something does strike you as a workable idea, put it on an index card.
These index cards will come in handy when outlining a sitcom or Idea for a sitcom—"How about a sitcom where a nun has a big hat thai putting together your stand-up act. Everyone is getting blown to bits. But the doctors are really funny. I wonder if there is a punch line here? Describe what it felt like to get laughs. Be descriptive rather than just say- ing, "It felt good. I had to bring along a stack of books and some snacks.
People would go by and tap at the window and say, 'How's that suicide coming? Writing Vour Ideas Look over the lists you just made. You might have noticed that when vou are getting laughs, there is something that you are doing differently What are the ideas that you've been carrying with you? It's important to know what that something is.
Remember, ideas arc starting points. If you are like most creative peo- For example, if you got a laugh while telling a friend a painful story about ple, you probably have been carrying around a lot of ideas. Whether you something that happened to you, did you exaggerate the humiliation?
Did you make your- good to explore different forums. Write ai least one idea in your notebook self more of a victim? Sometimes it's someone's attitude, the way they say something, the combination of different points of view, an argument, or simple stupidity. Carry around your idea book with you for the next forty- eight hours and write down exactly what you saw, heard, or said that got a laugh or a smile. Telling a joke does not count, unless it was a joke that you wrote.
Rather, your laugh-getting comment could be an off-the-cuff remark you made while at your therapist's office, at a party, at the office, or at the "People ask me, 'Steve, how do you get so funny?
Get off the couch, out of the house, and pay attention! That way Make a list of what got laughs. I feel funny. Are the following some ol these words on your list—alive, present, playful, angry, imaginative, energized? If so, then you Know what it's like to be in the funny zone. All of us funny people have been there. You're at a party and the subject lever and smart but sound too literary and contrived to get laughs.
The of bad dates comes up. You join in with stories about your own dating hell. Matter of fact, the threaten to create hernias from laughing too hard, is to capture and more horrible the story is, the more everyone laughs.
You ride it, and you gepand upon spontaneous moments. That means that you want to create get a feel for controlling the laughs, exaggerating just the right amount, act- material when you are in the funny zone. And that is how you create comedy material. It was spon- think. Put a comic and a kid onstage and the audience invariably will taneous and it worked.
The trick is to write it down watch the child, because children are always in the zone. You can write as soon as you can, before you forget what you said.
This doesn't mean you necessarily need to be standing, talking, writing, and improvising all at the same time when you "I hate singles' bars. Guys come up to me and say, 'Hey, create comedy material.
It's different for everyone. You need to tind for cupcake, can I download you a drink? Someone who keeps the energy going. I almost never create material alone or sitting down. I need to be standing up. I am turned funny? There you are, both yelling at each not funny in a chair.
I also. Instead, I other when suddenly you take a turn into the funny- jot notes on the back of unopened junk mail envelopes. That is what zone—still angry, but funny. You might be still fight- works for me. What works for you may be very different. Write it down. And you'll probably win the fight, too.
We are more likely to win fights with a punch line than a punch-out. Finding Your F-Zone "Does it hurt your back to kiss your own ass like that?
Were you standing? Was there music on? You have leaped into the zone. And you write it down. Whether it's a joke, a script, or a greeting card, comedy takes work. I've seen a lot of very lunny, tal- ented people quit when the going got tough. Comedy can get scary. Do any of the following criticisms have a familiar ring to them?
You were absolutely committed to translating the vision in your head into reality. Then let's say your dad comes along and tells you that you are doing it wrong. You don't want to do it wrong, so you just don't do it.
How mans- times did something like that happen to you? It becomes safer not doing, not trying, not taking the risk of being wrong. And because there is only one of you in cizing others, saying things like, "This guy sucks. I could do it better all of time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never than him. It is not your business to But you don't do it at all. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. It is your business to keep the channel open. I see so many very tal- Does the thought of standing alone onstage trying to make a sea of ented comedy neophytes quit because they let fear get the best of them.
Do you get a knot in your stomach at the One student in my class was so terrified of going onstage that he made his words "Well, I read your script and I have some comments"?
Does sitting beeper go off as if he were being paged. Each time, he said, "My wife is in front of a computer with no ideas whatsoever fill you with thoughts of having a baby. Many students won't If comedy scares you, then congratulations—you get it.
Comedy is admit that they are frightened. They just stop showing up. A lot of times we don't realize when we are ple—and dying, so to speak. Just look at the words comics use: Or at least it fear.
Imagine you're writing a script. What are your fears? You might stop reading this book because you feel uncomfort- 1 won't have ideas. Someone will steal my idea. Brave people are not unafraid. What distinguishes them is that they act 1 won't be able to sell it. And funny people don't necessarily find it easy to pop off Mv script sucks.
Actually, people who are self-confident Mv characters suck. You might notice that there are not many spiritual gurus who have achieved cosmic con- sciousness hanging around open-mike nights at comedy clubs. Also, inse- Step 2. Evaluate Your Fears curity is funny. Woody Allen is at his funniest when he's most neurotic.
Now go back over these lists and cross off all unrealistic fears. For instance, if one of your fears is dying onstage, you can X that out.
More "I don't mind death—I just don't want to be there when it happens. So if you're waiting to get more confidence before you perform— forget it. Do the following instead. Step 3. Confide in a Friend Exercise: Fear loses a lot of its power when it's out in the open. Plus you might also get a Step 1. Admit Your Fears to Yourself few laughs. Some of the best material comes from outbursts of honesty.
Stand-up Comedy Fears With the right twist, those neggie thoughts of yours can turn into com- Imagine yourself doing stand-up. Write all thoughts of fear, impend- edy gold. And be honest, not funny. When I get a nice compliment I like to take it in, swish it around in my brain. Golden Opps Incontinence In this exercise we are going to play out our realistic fears and, step by Running out of material Step, give them a positive spin. For instance, one of my fears is, "Nobody The audience doesn't get me.
Your fear is I make a fool of myself. I have to follow someone who reallv kills. They'll hate me. On the left column I play out each step of what will happen with my Most human beings are afraid to look stupid, and when doing com- fear, playing it out until it turns positive.
You fill in the right column. There is only one way to deal with this Write as many or as few as you can think of. Pick something that you are scared of doing and go do it—something Judy's List Your List legal, of course. It won't help to say something like, "Oh, Officer, I robbed If nobodv understands me. Pick something to do that is out of your comfort zone. It doesn't even then I'll feel bad then. Or it can be something to further your comedy career: Are you going to let the fear of losing your lunch money dictate where and how you live?
Or will you do the scary thing and deal directly with Exercise: Taking Action the bad guy? Successful people arc not necessarily less frightened than Write down five actions that you would like to do today were you not you—they just do things in spite of being frightened. Try flop sweat that ended up in your shoes!
Now pick one and do it! In fact, I am still wearing the same very After you take action on one of your fears, write how it felt. Was it as Phyllis Diller expensive Herbert Levine boots and the seary as you thought? Can you do something tomorrow that is even scarier? In my case, I had to do it—I had five hungry children. Poverty and motherhood together are the greatest motivation in this world.
I strongly recommend working through this book with a comedy buddy. Can't think of anyone? We can also help you on-line. To find a comedy buddy in your neck alone and neither should you. Most often sitcom writers are hired in ol the woods, post a notice on our Web site at www.
It's important to have someone to bounce your ideas off. So, Stand-up students are always asking me, "Do you think I have what it until you have your own staff, find at least one buddy you feel comfort- lakes to do stand-up, or should I quit?
After ten years of because sometimes comedy is not pretty. Some people make von who succeeds—it's the one with the most endurance. Fed funnier just by being around them.
Others make you wonder if you've ever been funny in your life. Your grandmother might make you "Hey, Judy, I haven't even begun.
Why bring up quitting now? A good comedy session is like a hot game of tennis. You want to play Planning when you quit is better than quitting in reaction to a bad with someone who is going to return your ideas and maybe even put a audience, a writer's block, or a lack of progress.
How many projects have new spin on them.
If you keep serving and your comedy buddy never you started and never finished? Probably quite a few. Sometimes we quit returns the ball, think about working with someone else.
When we had a bit that wasn't working, other NBC offered him S5 million an episode. Seinfeld listened to his inner New York comics would say, 'Try this and try that.
And yet, if you wait a little bit longer and try to give them more for their money, t hey walk out feeling not as good. If I get off now, 1 have a chance at Exercise: Finding the Right Comedy Buddy a standing ovation.
When Will You Quit? I did it purely for the passion of it all. When vour life gets too "busy" to finish this book? When your comedy buddy turns out to be a flake and doesn't get to- Being successful in comedy means making a commitment to your cre- gether with you?
That means deciding at the starting gate where your finish After you bomb at your first open mike? After you kill at your first open mike? Ai the first signs of writer's block? I once had a repertoire of a hundred and fifty enough money to cover your rent? Too often I'd heard studio executives saying, 'You've had your When your parents threaten to disinherit you for choosing comedy as a chance,' and wham!
When vou get your first television job and then get cut out of the show at the last minute? As of right now.
When you get a development deal and nothing happens? When your agent dumps you and you can't find another agent? Use to playyoul When you sell your screenplay but the producers hire another writer for a rewrite? And I wras lucky—one doesn't get picked up? I walked out one night, got a standing ovation in front of When you're fired from the show that you created?
Diana Ross, and I thought, 'I could go back to advertising sales because When they offer vou S5 million an episode to keep your sitcom on the I've reached my goal. After reading this list? So, when are you going to quit? I thought ai first that I would quit when the phone stopped ringing. But when the phone stopped ringing, 1 hired a publicist and made it start ringing again. Every seeming roadblock has a detour that will eventually get you back on course.
I'm quitting comedy after my first stroke. If you're like me, you find it harder to break a com- eyeball-controlled computer. So I'll quit when I'm dead.
Unless I'm a mitment if someone else knows about it. Have you ever avoided telling a funny spirit and can channel jokes to some up-and-coming comic. Mend about a project because they might hold you to it? Telling someone When you are going to quit?
Aim high. For example, "I'm going to keep doing comedy your own commitment. We at Comedy Workshops are committed to your until my tenth million is safely in the bank. Fill in in ink. I commit to doing comedy until Signed Date: If or e-mail info comedyworkshopS.
At the beginning, you know the audience doesn't like you, and the club owners don't like you because the audience doesn't like you, and you don't like you because the club owners and the audience don't like you.
It's a very rocky hard time. There's no getting around that boot camp period. Honor thy mother and father, but don't hesitate to put them in your act or scripts. Some beginning comics think it's disrespectful to poke fun at their par- - us rhey're right. But being a comic is not about being nice and polite— it's about being funny. Those little irritating habits of your parents can be comedy gold- Actually, students are surprised to find that their parents c flattered to be included in their act.
But no guarantees here about staving in the will. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Be authentic with your point of view and explore topics that you really care about. The old days of doing disingenuous jokes for the sake of being funnv will sound hack.
Humiliating your wife or husband for the sake of a laugh won't make you famous and might make you single. Can you say "divorce"?
Thou shalt notice how stupid God made the world. Forsake them and you could spend your entire career in open-mike purgatory or spec script hell. Funny is all around you. Keep your eyes open. Write down all the wcird- ness, stupidity, and oddness you see. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's jokes, premises, or bits. Thou shalt get a comedy buddy. Throughout this book there are examples of jokes from my students and Material that you write by yourself is guaranteed to makejww laugh—and the pros.
This material is for educational purposes only. It is copyrighted usually, that's about it. If you want to make sure it will make someone else material and should not be reproduced or stolen.
When you rip off some- laugh, why not have someone with you while you write it? Working with body else's material, you are not only robbing them; you're also stealing someone can help you find new slants on the old stuff and keep cranking from yourself because you're not pursuing your own creative process. You il out when you want to nap. You'll cheat yourself from developing your own unique perspective. Don't swim in 6- Thou shalt choose a comedy writing day and keep it holy.
Make the time to get together with your comedy buddy as important as Someone else's material might help to get your foot in the door, but your appointment with your therapist, lover, or plastic surgeon. Don't you'll soon find some comic's foot in your butt. Word will get around fast teak your dates with your comedy buddy. Your own material—don't do coated without it.
You may think that you will remember it. Action Checklist So far I've 8. Thou shalt not skip any of the exercises in Part One. Don't written down ideas for a joke, a sitcom, a magazine article, and a film waste time getting critical of your ideas. Even the flimsiest of ideas can examined what makes me laugh and what puts me in the funny zone lead to something extraordinary completed Judy's 5-Step Fear Management Program signed and mailed in the commitment contract 9.
Create a stand-up act even if you just want to write sitcoms. In the kernel of a joke lives the underlying structure of all comedy forms. If you know how to write a joke, you will be able to translate that skill into writing scripts, articles, and other comedy forms. If you're wondering where the tenth commandment is, then con- gratulations. You're already starting to notice the weird, the stupid, and the odd. Your Creative Process Where are you the most creative?
In the living room, bed, or maybe on the toilet? To get the creative juices flowing, do you need quiet, your stereo blasting, or just more fiber in your diet? What is the best environment for your creative process? A lot of this book was written on a laptop in the lobbies of cheap hotels.
Wliat is the best time of day for you to work? I do it in the morning or I don't do it at all. Who is your best choice for a comedy buddy? Relatives are generally not a good choice. That's right, twenty-six days from now you are going to know how to write jokes based on your life experiences and perform them. Many of my students who have followed these techniques have ended up as working stand-up comics and comedy writers. Why not you? The instructions in this book are suggestions only.
Joke writing is a very elusive art form and there are many different ways of approach- ing it. There might be some exercises that will do nothing for you and some comedy theories that you will find stupid and of no help. That's good. You're funny—you're supposed to find things stupid. I always say, use what works for you and leave the rest.
And if nothing works for you, well, sorry, no refund. But Judy, I'm really a writer. I have no Intention of performing. TIte idea of getting up onstage makes me want to projectile-vomit. But doing stand-up taught me how to pitch jokes and story ideas which get me work.
And from working in front of an audience I got a real feel of what makes people laugh. Stand-up comics are ducers started by doing stand-up.
Because stand-up is the most condensed frm of comedy, and if you understand the basic principles of PRO TALK with Seth MacFarlane, creator and executive producer of'Family Guy the simplest of jokes, you will be able to translate that skill to many dif- ierent domains, whether writing, performing, or marketing.
Because it's "I developed many of the voices for the characters in Family Guy in my all about making an audience laugh. And whelher that audience is sitting Stand-up act. All comedy forms have basically the same structure. A joke is just the But it's not just important to know how to write jokes; it's vital to get sparest version of that form. As elegant as a haiku, a joke has a setup, a up and perform jokes.
Since most jokes end up being spoken rather than turn, and a tag. A sitcom has act one, a turn, and a resolve. A screenplay read, it is necessary for comedy writers to get the direct experience of per- has the same elements—it's just a longer form.
And look at a greeting card: Performing stand-up in front of an audience will the front cover is the setup; open it and there's the punch. Many comedy give you a direct, immediate feel of what is funny that you can't get from professionals started out by doing stand-up. Thus it's not too surprising sitting in front of your computer. And although the joke examples in this that major motion picture comedy director Tom Shadyac who directed section are mostly from stand-up comics, later you will learn how these Liar Liar, Ace Ventura, Vie Nutty Professor, and Patch Adams started in stand- joke writing principles apply to all forms of comedy—sitcoms, articles, up—in my class!
Why is it so important stand-up—but not in my class. And how long does it take before you get bored and change the channel?
Two "Having started as a stand-up comic, I can truly understand the con- seconds, if you're patient. That means your material has to dazzle an cerns of the actors I work with, such as Jim Carrey Robin Williams, audience in a very short period of time. And in the comedy business, an and Eddie Murphy.
It really helps. Once vou know the construction of a joke you will know the principles of grabbing and Sometimes a joke becomes the premise for a sitcom. It then gets holding the attention of any audience you may have to face. Should I wait until Seth MacFarlane, creator and executive producer of the animated 1 have more time?
When one of my students, Davey DiGeorgio, was interviewed for a staff writing position Students who wait until they have enough time usually wait them- on the Late Show with David Lctterman, his written material was not selves out of doing it altogether. Note that these twenty-six days do not need enough; they wanted to see the video of his stand-up showcase. And if " '' consecutive days. When I skip a lew days of writing—OK. But I find that I need that time to process ideas in my subconscious mind.
Thinking about writing fa working. It you live in one of tne major cities it's often thing to get yourself back on course. If you find yourself really stuck, go best to stay clear of the major comedy clubs for the first year and do open back and redo Judy's 5-Step Fear Management Program page 46 to mikes in low-profile places.
When I was a kid magician, I produced a show in my backyard for charity. I printed up tickets, went Time allotment: I actually got it featured in the crastinate. Book yourself doing three minutes at two different open L. Not bad PR for a ten-year-old. What should I watch out for? I don't even have an act yet! I'm going to skip this one. Some are not set up for comedy, Comedy is not for wimps. To paraphrase the old saying, "To procras- so no matter how funny you are, you won't get laughs.
Here's what to tinate is human, to perform is nuts. If you art- look for when choosing a venue in which to perform. That is why all our comedy workshops, even the ones for novices, end with a showcase.
A lot of open mikes are not really set up Knowing that they will have to perform in public makes the students well for comedy and have all sorts of obstacles blocking the audience's view. And committing to two open mikes is impor- When I was starting out, I performed in a revolving bar at a Holiday Inn. By the time I got to the punch, I had a different audience. Not a good room. Sometimes you discover too late that a place is too way to make sure you develop an act;—in this case your fear works for rough—like when you're already in the ER having bullet fragments you.
Face it, no matter what you do, you are going to die anyway, so you amoved from your kidneys. This book will tell you which is which. Believe me, I know, because I've done it all—the good, the bad, and the unfunny. If you have a talent for making people laugh, there are a lot of opportunities for fun and profit just waiting for you. And a person can make it in the funny business without ever getting onstage.
Comics express themselves in many different ways. Many, of course, do get onstage, acting and doing stand-up, but others write sitcoms, screenplays, and songs, while others express themselves through cartoons, advertising, and more. People who know the craft of comedy writing are pursued and paid well for their talent. From politicians to manufacturers, everyone has got something to sell, and comedy sells it best. It's no wonder, then, that many politicians have a staff of comedy writers working for them so that they don't become big jokes themselves.
They know also that ideas presented with humor become the sound biles that make the six o'clock news. And of course, advertisers know that commercials that make a jaded TV audience laugh will move merchandise more effectively than any other method. Even Hallmark employs comedy writers to write their humorous cards. I have been very fortunate to make a living doing what I love most—comedy.
I've worked at only one nine-to-five job in my life—teaching theater for two years at a private boys' school in Los Angeles. Other than that, for twenty-five years I've made a living performing, writing, and teaching comedy all of which is not bad for a twenty-nine-year-old. For the first ten years of my career I did clubs and television shows. At the height of my performing career I was on the tube even' week and on the road forty weeks a vear as a headliner in comedy clubs and concert venues.
I have produced and written television shows. I've written books that have won awards OK, one book that won one award , seen my film scripts optioned and my plays produced.
Some of the funniest people I know are waiting tables, cleaning houses, temping in offices, and whining about their lack of success while less gifted comics and writers are making millions. No matter what your day job is now, you could make a living doing comedy, although very seldom docs real success come over night.