October | 2012 | vanessa lever

Writing is writing is writing, and no matter what kind you do, the goal is always the same. You want to get your point across as effectively, clearly, and concisely as possible. Unless of course your name is Herman Melville–geez, that guy!  I’ve tried to read Moby Dick like three times, and only ever get 12 pages in. Herman, read this post!

While my “professional” writing experience has been limited to stand up and sketch comedy and a couple of plays, the same rules apply. What I have learned from all this funny business is useful information for writing of all kinds.

1. Be Concise

The point of all writing is to get your point across in as few words as possible to make the most impact. Comedy is all about this. I’ve written before on the importance of being concise because, especially with stand up, no one wants to hear the five minutes of long-winded background to a joke – they want to hear the punch-lines. And if you want your readers to stay with you on your writing quests, you have to give them what they came for. Treasure!!

Cut out redundencies, choose words carefully, and create the best structure to accomplish max impact. BOOM!

2. Know Your Audience

While it may be a mutual dream for us all to write for our target audience (people with our same brains and funny bones), this is rarely the case. And we all want to spread our field of influence to gain a greater audience, right?  Right. Sometimes this means adjusting your voice to suit the type of audience that you are writing for in a particular case. I’m not going to go do a gig at a high school and tell all the dirtiest, cussiest jokes I know (I don’t actually have any…) because that would be considered “inappropriate”. Apparently. Depending on the assignment, you should adjust your tone, word use, structure, or length to accommodate a certain demographic.

3. People Pleasers

As with all art, writing is subjective and it’s impossible to please everyone with every single thing you write. There will always be some stupid dumb know-nothing idiot who doesn’t like your work or your opinion or your punctuation use, and they can all go straight to HECK!?!?!! But it is important to appeal to the audience with your writing and give people a reason to read/listen to your work.

People may offer you criticism, and you can take it or leave it, but rejection is and always will be part of the writing game. I wrote a post just last week about how accepting feedback helps you grow as a writer. Do what you love to the best of your abilities.  Keep your fans/followers/readers happy as long as it keeps you happy, and your audience will continue to grow.

4. Practise Makes Perfect

Most normal people have to really work hard to become great at the thing they are passionate about.  There are weird freaks who are naturally skilled at EVERYTHING (dicks), but they’re exceptions to the rule. Big, stupid exceptions. But as with comedic pursuits, writing is not something that people are just going to automatically start paying you for because you’re so wonderful. You have to pay your dues, do a LOT of free work, and practise perfecting your craft. But if you’re doing what you love, then doing it should be enjoyable, so no sweat!

What does a horse say when he wants his food back?  “Gimme Feedback!”  BAAHAHAHA!

Feedback, good or bad, is what makes us grow and become better people in every facet of life.  Stand up comedy is no exception. 

Sometimes you get a lot of feedback, sometimes hardly any.  Sometimes from your amateur peers, sometimes from a pro.  Sometimes you love hearing it, sometimes you DO NOT.  But you gots to suck it up and remember that it’s for your own good.  I love getting feedback, tips, suggestions, etc. on any of my material and you should too!  Here’s why:

1. Get a New Angle

You can record and listen to your sets over and over again, but you are still only getting your own opinion of that material.  Someone else’s response represents a greater thought pool and brings more to the table for you to work from.  Also, outside eyes and ears see and hear things that you or people who know you well wouldn’t.  Maybe a couple of your jokes are a little to inside-jokey for the average audience to understand.  You don’t have to agree with everything that everyone says, but maybe you’ll get a new punch-line, explore coming from another angle, flesh out an idea, or write a catchy tagline based on something someone says to you.

2. “If you can’t take the heat, take Science 14”

This is what our teacher used to say when we thought Science 10 was too hard.  And he was right!  Although he was talking about Science, it can be said for comedy too.  If you can’t accept feedback as a learning opportunity as an amateur, how are you going to take it when you’re a professional?  People will always judge what you do as a comedian, since comedy is subjective, so get used to hearing what other people have to say.  It doesn’t always have to be taken negatively and you don’t always have to like it.  Graciously accept criticism, take it, and grow from it.  People generally tell you things because they want to help you improve, not lower your self-esteem and make you feel insecure.

3. Free Advice!

People pay many cash dollars to take classes with professional comedians to learn how to write jokes good.  But if you have a pro or two in your audience one night, ask them for some feedback on your set.  Professional comedians give some of the best advice because they know what to say and how to say it.  They know what to look for when it comes to vocal cadence, timing, physicality, and expanding on an idea, and it may be stuff that you would never have been able to think of or see yourself.

4. Joke Evolution (Jokevolution)

Whether feedback is good or bad, it will help your jokes evolve.  All criticism should be taken as an opportunity to re-evaluate and create the best work you can.  Don’t be afraid to get rid of material that just isn’t working and instead focus on building some quality material.  The more open you are, the more opportunity you are giving yourself to do your very best every single time you hit the stage.

Toots & Fruits

Once upon a time I was standing in a line,

An average line, to pay for groceries.

An old man made a fart that blew away my cart

Which was filled with all the means to make a snack.

I didn’t mention to him that I was on the brim

Of passing out right there b’cause of the fumes.

But as I paid for all my food, I started feeling really good

And I just started to giggle without remorse.

I didn’t know what was wrong, and then others joined along,

But no one knew why we were laughing, it’s just a fart.

The old man looked behind, a situation asinine

Unfolding before his eyes, like a cartoon.

And with a knowing grin perched upon his chin

He said he farts out fumes from smoking pot.

We didn’t know what to say – Standing in Safeway

Laughing b’cause we’re high on reefer fart!

The old man was a sweetheart, he went to fetch my cart,

And bought us all some snacks so we’d relax.

The moral of this tale: Don’t directly bail

If in line you stand behind a man that farts.

Don’t over-think it, Bruno Mars, this is all I need.

I’d make our house smell of Glade for you,

Be a manly French maid for you,

Board games? I’d LOVE to play,

Because you do so much.

I’d be your personal cook,

I’d read you erotic books,

Learn to undo bra hooks,

Because you do the same.

I’d pull the hair from the drain for you,

Massage your shoulders when strained,

I’d love your body AND brain,

Because you’re the best life-mate.

I’d write you romantic songs,

Let you hop on my dong,

Then hold you tight all night long,

Because I love you so.

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