Saturday, January 24, 2009

How To Be Funny, tips 4-10

NOTE: This is a continuation of How To Be Funny, tips 1-3

Greetings, fellow travelers on life’s hilarious highway, I’m back as promised to regale you with more hahas than you can shake a chuckle stick at. More chortles than you can swing a silly goat at. More guffaws than you can stuff in a hat. What’s a "chuckle stick" or a "silly goat" or a "hat", you ask? Those are great questions! Chuckle sticks, silly goats and hats don't actually exist but if it did they would be what we in the comedy business refer to as "props."

This is a figment of your imagination

4) Props are tops!

Props are funny always. Rubber chickens? Funny. Arrow through the head? Funny (unless it’s a real arrow which isn’t funny). Hiding out in your ex’s trunk until he or she and the new guy or gal he or she is dating get in the car and then banging on the trunk from the inside with a nine iron until someone lets you out of the trunk and then offering them some jujubes? Regardless of gender? Super funny! Just don’t eat all the jujubes when you’re waiting in the trunk! I’d advise bringing along a sandwich actually. Something nourishing. And don’t forget a drink to wash it down. It’s important to stay hydrated while in the trunk of your ex’s car.

In sum: Props? Funny! Dehydration? Not funny.

5) Laughing at you or with you?

At some point you’re going to wonder whether people are laughing “at” you or “with” you. As a really fucking funny comedy professional I can tell you that I've had people laugh "at" me and I've had them laugh "with" me. I've also had them laugh "near" me, "under" me, "behind" me, "around the corner from" me and often "very far away" from me. Once I had someone laugh inside me. It was a very small, very funny leprechaun who'd taken up residence in my spleen. And when I say this leprechaun had a great sense of humor it's not just because he laughed at my jokes. I mean certainly that was part of it; he just got me and my sense of humor. But he also told GREAT dead baby jokes. Anyway, I tried to get him an opening slot on a USO tour and that's when I encountered some surprising difficulty. Turns out quite a few people are, shall I say, skeptical when you explain that there's a tiny but hilarious leprechaun living in your spleen and you'd like to get him booked at a small to mid level club. In fact, I was told by three therapists, two Irishmen and someone from the Historical Society of Gnomes that it's impossible that there could be a tiny leprechaun cracking jokes from inside my spleen. But what does a gnome expert know? Gnomes and leprechauns are not the same. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. What, does tinker bell want to weigh in next? And then the tooth fairy? I know the tooth fairy and that bitch lies. I'm still upset about this.

In Sum: Go ahead and slip on that banana peel or run into a plate glass window. The whole world will be laughing at you! Also, there is a small hysterical leprechaun living in my spleen.

6) Funny Words

Certain words are just funny and as a soldier in the hilarious army, it’s up to you to find these words and use them as many times as you can. Think of them as pine nuts in a funny pesto sauce. There are pine nuts in pesto, right? Granted if you were truly in an army you wouldn't want to be stuck fighting the enemy with pine nuts, and the fact that my leprechaun claims he fought off an army of angry field mice with pine nuts is, well, it's far-fetched to say the least.

Some funny words: duck, pine nut, pianist (hahahahaha), duty (gross!), love, affection, glue, Care Bears, Jujubes, leprechauns, hysterical, funny, laughter, defenestrate, Ralph Fiennes, arbitration

In sum: the leprechaun living inside me has fanciful imagination. I like it because it's never a dull moment with this one, but sometimes I wish I could trust his sense of reality a bit more.

7) Riddles involving genitals and vegetables

Q: What do you call a cross between a penis and a potato?
A: A dictator!

In Sum: Riddles involving genitals and vegetables are always funny.

8) But a potato is a tuber not a vegetable.

9) It's both actually.

Q: What do you call something that's both a tuber and a vegetable?
A: a potato!

In Sum: Not all riddles work. Neither do all comedians. But what if it was a comedian who had a small chuckling leprechaun living in his or her spleen? I am telling you: comedy gold, people! What do I have to do to get you to see this?

10) To work blue or not to work blue

Ah yes, the perennial question. Any comedian can keep it clean but it's only a select few who can work dirty words into their act. I say go for it. You can always fall back on your clean material.

In Sum: Fuck yeah you should work blue!

Well that's all the time we have for today. I'm off to swallow a very small pair of shoes with tiny gold buckles because the leprechaun needs them and it's the only way. I'm sure we've all been in that boat!

Next week we'll look at comedy through the ages and I'll be bringing in special guest: Sherman Sillybones (probably not his real name) who happens to be both a live chicken and the author of the hilarious, trenchant and insightful, "What the Cluck? Yeah I Crossed The Road, You Wanna Sue Me?" to discuss his years performing stand up. I think you'll be surprised at some of the things he says.


DarkKnight3565 said...

The only time I get laughs out of anyone is when I ask out a girl who is way too hot for me, which works very well but I need to diversify, I think. So I appreciate these tips...very helpful and very well-written.

By the way, wanna go out sometime?

Anonymous said...

She's right. I walked into a plexiglass window of a skybox and fell backward right over my heels to land flat on my back, my plate of hors d'ouvres flying everywhere. People thought it was hilarious (after they checked to see if I was alright; I was just stunned.) I was scarred for life, but to this day am still teased about it. Point is, if everyone else gets a laugh and you don't get injured, go for the physical comedy.

annalytical said...

i remember a tad friend piece in the new yorker years ago -- something like 10,000 words devoted to the topic of what is funny. and all i remember out of those 10,000 words? that if you want to be funny and are talking about animals, you should always reference a duck because a duck is the funniest animal name. can't remember why tho.

Joe said...

Well written Alison!

A friend of mine was at the day care one day picking up her young son. In the play yard was the owner's dog. Lisa's son looked at the animal and said "duck." Lisa said "No, that's a dog."

The little guy said "duck" again and Lisa corrected him a second time. The kid said "duck" a third time and threw a toy at Lisa hitting her in the head.

She didn't duck.

Prototype said...

Intro: You into pilgrims?

4) "Rubber chickens"? You're gonna have to be more specific.

5) What's your fascination/infatuation with garden gnomes? Also, why stop at just a leprechaun inside of you? Why not also throw in your gnome, or a porcelain doll? Chucky? A gargoyle? Let them cross inside you and create a new hybrid? I'm sure that would be one hell of a comedic lineup.

Also, I've ran THROUGH a plexiglass window before (during football practice, not just for kicks). What would you classify that as?

6) Angiosperms? Knunchucks? Johnny Knunchucks? Don Knotts? Slapnuts? Matches Malone? Screech? Skeet Ulrich? Cousin Skeeter? Moose Mongoose? Crowbar? Mofo?

* Not "douchebag" though. That word and insult is not funny at all. And it's already played out. Sorry, just had to get this out there.

7) Riddle? Not if you have an audience with an IQ of Dickwit Jones.

8) ...

9) ...

10) Eh.

11) Oh that's it.

RE: Anna David - How about an aardvark?

This past summer I actually had a writing class on humor and we discussed all the elements that makes something funny. It was all theories and postulates, but I'd have to dig up my course reader for that list. Pretty informative.

As for me, random, irrelevant comments or actions out of nowhere, insults, possibly some exaggerations here and there, some unintentional stupidity, or a standard deviation of the Wayans Bros. normally does the trick.

TR said...

Just face it Alison... We all love you