Friday, March 23, 2012

Stop Reading About Brian May And Go Get Your Waffle


I am including this photo because it is among about 5 in my life I think are any good. I would have liked to have lost about 20 more pounds, but let's not nitpick.

I am not a comedian, a comic, or a comedy writer. But I am a funny person. I think that’s fair to say. An athletic person with a good build could be qualified to talk about fitness; a couple married 35 years could give tips on a successful marriage. I’ve made a lot of people laugh in my life. So here I go.
I’ve met a sizable chunk of humanity in my life that couldn’t make another human being laugh if you threatened them with a 9-hour insurance seminar and ass herpes. They simply don’t get the rhythm and flow, or the overall purpose of comedy. Now, I certainly have the time right now to delve into the purposes and foundations of humor in my life, but that is the work of a killjoy. There could not be an exercise less funny.
There is something I’d like to share, though.

If you aren’t funny and you’d like to take a crack at it, there are so many simple opportunities that present themselves in your normal life buying dental floss, hanging out with that co-worker with vanilla breath or lounging with your significant other when there’s no hope of any action that night.
The title of this post is a sentence: “Stop reading about Brian May and go get your waffle.” I said it last night. I said it to Holden, and after I said it I said aloud: “There’s the first time that sentence has ever been uttered.”
I could have let it go. A more mature and wealthier man would have. But there was a little comedy to be mined in a time right now when we need some laughs around here. So I did it.

The tip is, when one of those insane sentences pops up, make a mention of it. It could get a laugh. It might not. Use your discretion, but whatever you do, do not:
Say it more than once.
Use this bit again for a minimum of three weeks.
Jump the gun and use a sentence that isn’t that obscure.

All of these are comedy killers.

The one lesson you should learn is all of this is that being funny is for others. Comedy and being a funny person in real life, despite what is says about you as a person (fear of social interactions, walls of privacy, ego, basic uncomfortable feeling outside of your own space) is like giving good massages. A person who gives good massages usually gets nothing in return from his efforts. At most, he gets to be known as a guy who gives good massages and maybe gets a few shitty massages in return. It has to be its own reward.

A few years ago, my son Nick asked me about being funny. He was in a drama production and he wanted to get few laughs with his cast members. This is how he asked me:
“Dad, do you know any jokes I could use?”
I said: “I do, but don’t use them. Jokes aren’t funny.”

They aren’t, really. It’s 2012. Sixty plus years of TV, forty years of morning radio, SNL, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray, Carlin, Pryor, and Dane Cook. We’ve heard enough damn jokes. Jokes to me are what you start out with when you tip your toe into enjoying humor. It’s like the melba toast of comedy.
Unless you are a professional, you are one of us in the crowd. Stop recycling jokes. If you want to be a funny person, develop your own bits. A bit is different. A bit is like chili, meatloaf and homemade cookies. Depending on the cook, every one of them is an interpretation. And that’s cool. A joke has no personality. It was processed in a lab somewhere. Your own spin on a bit is homemade and at least an honest try.
I told Nick he already was funny. He’s a sweet person who laughs a lot on his own. I thought that was the key. Let people follow your laughing lead. Don’t worry about the material. Just be genuine when there’s funny out there, and you will get the credit for finding something funny. It would work for him. Not really for you. Or me. Or my neighbor with the aging Siberian Husky. That’s Nick’s way.

Not sure why I got so deep into this. Probably because it’s brought me a lot of joy since I was about 10 years old. Also, I like to help. I’m a people-pleaser. (I know, I’ll take it to my therapist someday.)

Ok, one more tip and I’ll go.

Don’t be in a rush to be the first guy with a joke. Comedy, for regular folks, is a strange dynamic where being the first guy usual means a failure. Think of it as the first pancake. The first pancake sucks because you didn’t let the griddle heat up. You jumped the gun.
Be the second guy.

Here’s a fun example.
A couple years ago, a Mexican food chain called Taco Time ran an ad around Thanksgiving that featured the attractive spokeswoman petitioning the viewer to avoid the hassles of making a traditional turkey dinner and “start a new tradition, with Taco Time”. I still find this hilarious.
Now imagine the guy watching this on TV in mixed company. He thinks it’s best to get to the joke first and blurts out: “Yeah right! Like I’m gonna eat tacos for Thanksgiving!”
Meh. Yawn. Fail.
Now imagine you, hesitating a beat, waiting to digest the essence of the funniness floating out there just waiting to be plucked…
You say aloud: “Grandpa, it’s your turn to carve the chimichanga!”
Blam. Guaranteed that’s a laugh. Especially after that first clunker.
Why? It shows a little thought. You’ve set a scene they have to imagine. Plus, ‘chimichanga’ is a ridiculous word. Bask in the glory for the next 11 seconds.

Oooooh! I like that. It describes being funny to the letter.
Being funny is basking in glory eleven seconds at a time.

-jim

1 comment:

  1. Gram was your biggest fan when you started out at age 10. She always thought you had a great talent. Thanks for all the wonderful advice. Good luck on the job front.

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