Sunday, January 24, 2016

Comedy Lessons Part 1

I've been working on this blog for eight years (at least, that's what it says on the title graphic).  After all that time, I've come to one, stark realization:

I'm not funny.

My most popular blog posts are either about serious issues (marginalization of women, gun control, Candy Crush) or had sexy pictures in them (mostly me in Speedos).  The point of this blog was to help me improve my humor writing, but after eight years of trying I have to accept I need help.

Enter Teach Yourself Comedy Writing.  It's a book that's been sitting on my shelf for years.  Like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and How to Create a New Identity, looking at it made me feel like I'd learned something without actually reading it.

I've decided to stop procrastinating and do the comedy lessons.  I'll share them with you here because you will find them humorous and illuminating.  Also because I can't think of anything else to post.

Here goes.

Lesson 1

Exercise 1:
I'm going to talk about things I own only.  I could make fun of a Salad Shooter, for example, but I don't have any experience with them.  Yeah, they sound silly, but how and in what way?
  1. Toilet AugerA long pole with a tube inside it you use to push clogs through your toilet. Essential when you have large children and small toilets.
  2. Range Hood
    Related to kitchen fires from poor chefs.
  3. Toolbox
    Mine is filled with more things than it can hold, most of which I've never used.  Anyone need a Torx screwdriver?
  4. Display Cabinet
    If you have kids, they're full of art supplies instead of... Well, what would you display, anyway?  Fine china? Crystal figurines?  Yeah, if you have kids those mysteriously disappear to be replaced with fragments of fine china and crystal figurines.
  5. Electric fake fireplace logs
    'Nuff said.
  6. George Foreman Grill
    They still sell those.  People still buy them.  Nobody uses them.
  7. Fitness equipment
    Adjustable dumbbells, stretchy bands, foam rollers, PVC tubes, boxing gloves and handwraps, Costco-sized boxes of Gatorade.  All covered by insurance.  All gathering dust.
  8. Flowers?
    There are funny flowers?  I heard of one called Phalaenopsis.  It looked like a penis.
  9. Foods?
    Hm.  We have almond and coconut flour.  They're masochistic replacements for normal flour.  Imagine eating chewy sand.
  10. Halloween candy
    You have to find a place to hide it from the kids so they don't eat it all at once.  You have to find a place to hide it from yourself, because eating your kids' candy is the definition of a bad parent.  Since nobody knows where the candy is, it gets lost for three years.  When you find it, it's hard as a rock and covered in green fuzz.  The kids won't eat it.  It's yours.
Exercise 2:  Famous people
I have two problems with making fun of public figures:  
  • don't keep up with popular culture.  Few things depress me more than People Magazine.  Who cares about the lives of actors or reality show participants?  More importantly, who cares so much they want candid shots of stars walking down the street in sweatpants and sunglasses?  I can understand looking at People at a doctor's office, but if you have a subscription, seek therapy.
  • I watched this impressive interview with John Cleese.  In it he was asked about the enduring popularity of Monty Python.  He pointed out Python didn't poke fun at contemporary figures, so it was still funny after decades.  He has a point; I'm sure jokes about Lilian Gish or President Taft were hysterical at the time, but who would get them now?
So, I'm going to skip Exercise 2.  I don't know enough about Kanye West or...  


Vincent D'Onofrio?  Is he famous?  

See?  Not my thing.


Daniel Bruckner said...

The one thing about studying comedy is you can really dull the fine-tipped edge of your mind by getting too much into the mechanics of how to 'be funny.' I suppose these exercises you're doing are an asset to some degree (what was it the dalai lama said about having to learn the rules so you can know how best to break them?), but a sense of humor is just that, a sense. You don't need to build a toolbox and all the other suggestions that a writer will make to pad his instructional book. You just need to have the discipline to write every day and try out your material on others. And you need to repeat this process over and over until you refine things down to what works, until you find your voice. You mentioned John Cleese. I was lucky enough to see him speak when he was promoting his autobiography. And as John likes to say, "What's funny? If it makes you laugh, it's funny." Building a funny idea is one thing. But if it doesn't actually make you laugh....Anyway, just passing through. Good luck.

Matthew Kagle said...


Thanks for the advice.

The problem is, I'm funny EXCEPT when I write. It's easy for me to make people laugh when I'm teaching, sitting around the dinner table, walking naked through strangers' gardens, but when I try to write...

Well, it just doesn't work. I just can't come up with funny moments. Or, when I do, I'm the only one who thinks they're funny (hence the lack of success of this blog).

Jon Stewart once said that being funny with friends is like being a karate master. Something happens and you deflect it in a funny way. Standing up and being a humorist is more like building a house of cards.

So, after years of this blog, I'm trying to get new skills.

And thanks for passing through. Although, judging from your blog, you pass through just about everywhere.