The Truth About Comedy

stand up comedy

I get wildly inspired when I see a brilliant comic perform.

Some of my favorites are Brian Regan, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan and  Ellen Degeneres–they perform observational humor and do so without the spicy language of many of their colleagues and that takes great skill.

When I watch them perform, I think of how brillant the writing is and often start to picture myself writing and performing just like them. The conversation I have with myself goes something like this:

(Andrew, a mid-thirties dad-to-be, sitting in his family room, watching Jim Gaffigan perform his ‘Mr. Universe’ piece on Netflix)

JIM: (on TV): Has your mother ever made anything as good as a McDonald’s fry? Not even close. We lie to ourselves when we eat at McDonald’s fries. Oh, they are so thin, they couldn’t be fattening. You ever eat too many McDonald’s fries? Of course not. There is never enough of them. There’s always that moment when you’re eating McDonald’s fries really. What happened? Where did they go? Then you search, scrunching for the fry crumbs. Oh that’ just a piece of paper from the straw, but it was touching the fry so…

ANDREW: (On couch) I could do that. I live. I think. I write. I perform. That guy makes a ton of money just talking about McDonalds and hot pockets.

(immediately inspired, Andrew picks up his computer and beings writing.)

 ANDREW: Ok, so something like McDonalds that’s funny. Ok, yeah. TV stuff… here goes…

[box options]Andrew’s TV Stuff Stand-Up Routine…

So what is it about TV, folks? We come home from work and watch it and nothing is even on TV.

Am I right?

I’m like “where is the remote” to my wife and she’s like “your on your iPhone–that’s not a TV.”[/box]

So then I switch topics, thinking maybe that’s the problem…

[box options]

So the other day I was eating Greek yogurt. I’m like ‘what IS this stuff’? When I was a kid we didn’t have Greek yogurt. We had yogurt made in America and just like the automotive industry, yogurt is going overseas.And how does American yogurt feel about this new trend?

I’ll bet it’s on the shelf saying “um, pal. It’s not so special…think about this: how many people even speak Greek that you know?

If yogurt could talk…right?!? Are you with me, folks? Folks? [/box]

The Truth About Comedy

All that actually happened–the scenario at least–and though the words are changed a bit, I am inspired by comedians and many times I’ve thought of how ‘easy’ it would be to come up with a stand-up routine.

I’ve even tried writing one–and it’s not a simple thing. It’s a craft on par with launching a rocketship into orbit.

The craft of comedy fascinates me because of the process…

  • Pick a highly relatable yet unperformed topic
  • Craft the wording to be succinct, surprising, and intellectual but not pretentious (more on pretentious here)
  • Memorize the routine word for word
  • Deliver to a massively critical crowd flawlessly

Comedians are some of the most creative artists: they write, produce, direct and act…just to make us laugh.

Now I’m gonna go try my hand at another routine–something like…

[box options]

Any Lucky Charms fans out there? Good, good. Yeah, me too. I can’t get enough of that stuff.

Well, we’re really talking about the marshmallows right? ‘Cause let’s be honest, we don’t eat Lucky Charms for the whole grain goodness, do we? We want those purple horseshoes and rainbows. And we shouldn’t even call them marshmallows. Marshmallows aren’t crunchy–or at least they shouldn’t be.

If you looked in my pantry you’d find 4 boxes of Lucky Charms right now. And ya know what’s in ’em? Nothing but those oat thingies and the cocaine-like Lucky Charm dust that accumulates in the bottom of the box. Mmmm–Lucky Charm Cocaine Dust. There’s a market for that.[/box]

Maybe I’ll start with Lucky Charms…for comedy and for breakfast.

***

[box options]Like this stuff? Subscribe to RSS or get new posts via e-mail.[/box]

email

Author: Andrew Zahn

I'm a son, husband, dad, business owner, actor and good sleeper/eater. On this blog, I pave a highway for creative growth by providing food, water, and shelter for those wishing to live, work, and play with creative zest.

  • Ann

    I believe you and my husband are twins. He loves watching comedians – esp. Seinfeld. He thinks he can be a wildly successful comedian and make millions. He is in love with Lucky Charms.

    Thanks for the fun read, Andrew! : )

    • 🙂

      So glad! I have great respect for Tony…and not just because he likes Lucky Charms, but that does help.

  • Dude. We need to talk.

    I watched this with great interest recently… http://www.nytimes.com/video/2012/12/20/magazine/100000001965963/jerry-seinfeld-how-to-write-a-joke-.html

    • So fantastic.

      Such a craft to writing and delivering comedy!

      I love your writing Tony–I bet you could do it. Check out http://www.bryanallain.com. He’s a friend here in PA that has written several books (some comedy) and is making it work!

      • thanks for the props, Andrew! I did stand up for the first time ever last month and hooboy! was it frightening. It was about 12 minutes of original material that I had been working on (off and on) for almost a year. It went fairly well…and now I’ve got another gig booked next month and I need another 5-7 minutes of material. It really is something how these great comics make it look so easy.

        • Fearless, Mr. Allain!

          I’m gonna have to give it a go. You’re inspiring, as always!

  • JP Sneedy

    Really got me thinking…and then I got distracted.

  • Really got me thinking…and then I got distracted.

    • You must’ve got REALLY distracted: two of the same comment! 😉

  • I can honestly say I’ve never thought about trying my hand at comedy. It just seems too difficult, and I’m not that funny.

    • I’ve never thought I’d like to much until recently either Jason.

      It terrifies me…which is why I might like to do it. 🙂

  • I try my hand at writing comedy periodically. Writing it and performing it are different, though. The performance can be challenging because of the intangible things such as timing and enunciation. A hack can take a brilliantly written set and flush it with poor delivery. Likewise, a good performer can massage a mediocre script and bring it to life. It is a tough medium for sure.

    • It’s risky and you described it well. I think I may give it a go at some point…might even have people throw tomatos at me during a practice so that any heckling would pale in comparison.

      • That tomato comment is funny. Stick with that;-)>

  • Teresa Carter

    The thing I love most about good comedy is the story (see Tim Hawkins… ANY of them) If you can tell a good story you are more than half way there!

    • I’ll have to check Tim Hawkins out! Haven’t seen his stuff yet. Thanks Teresa!

  • Duane Hespell

    Ha. I’m so far behind on your blogs, but am glad I caught this one. Once every week or two a “gigglie” (a moment of unexpected glee) pops up that makes me think, “Oh, I have GOT to remember the details of this! The story behind it is soooo unique, yet somehow relatable to people! I just HAVE to share this!” Those are the moments that the pros seem to be able to build on. Me? So far? I just sort of forget about them until they pop into my head when hanging around friends and stuff. Randomly fun at parties; but hardly the recipe for a successful night at the comedy club. WRITE IT DOWN!!!

    • We can do sit down comedy together when we’re old, Duane.

      We won’t be able to stand then.