One of the things that many comedians deal with is a condition called writer’s block – a condition where a comedian is stuck and unable to produce new stand-up comedy material.
I find this somewhat odd, because…
Comedians shouldn’t be “writing” anything in the literal sense or experiencing writer’s block at all.
Let me ask you a couple of questions that may help explain what I mean by that…
Some Easy Questions
The last time you were in a conversation with someone or a group of people and you made them laugh, did you you experience any sort of talkers block?
Have you ever stopped in the middle of a conversation and said:
“I’m sorry. I’m having a talking block right now and can no longer continue in this conversation.”
Then, you just stopped talking or walked away?
Note: If you have actually done this, there are now medications available that may help with those sorts of issues. 🙂
All kidding side, my point is this: No one ever seems to develop “talkers block”.
But “writers block” — now that is a completely different story.
Issues With Writing In A Literary Fashion
Here’s what you need to know about “writing”:
- Writing is a separate and distinct method of communication than verbal communication (speaking, talking).
- Writing is NOT the form of communication that you used to develop your sense of humor or the way you have learned to express your sense of humor.
- Writing involves only words and sentences that are produced for a reader, not a live audience in person.
In other words, writing requires a completely different skill set than talking or speaking because there are more attributes than just literal words and sentences involved when we communicate with others verbally.
Now don’t get me wrong — since you cannot see words as they are spoken, what you want to say (and express) to an audience should be written down.
Otherwise, you have no means to make edits, additions, revisions, etc. to your comedy material in order to tighten it to the maximum extent possible.
But there is a huge difference between writing down and structuring what one wants to say and express on the stand-up comedy stage and trying to “write” stand-up comedy material as if one were “writing” an article or short story.
Conditions Associated With Writer’s Block
I would say that if any comedian is experiencing writer’s block, that means that the comedian is experiencing one or more of these 6 conditions based on what I have provided so far in this article:
1. They are trying to mechanically manufacture “funny” from thin air, instead of using their own sense of humor to describe and express experiences, opinions, observations, ideas etc. that they have on a daily basis.
2. They are only working with words and sentences (7% of verbal communication) and are clueless about the non-verbal aspects of what makes them funny in everyday life —body language, facial expressions, voice tone, etc. (93% of verbal communication).
3. They are having a very hard time trying to determine what is funny or not funny in the course of their “writing”.
4. They are unaware of the fact that most stand-up comedy material does not read funny from a piece of paper (because of missing non-verbal communication elements).
Note: Comedian jokes that you read online or in books are “cherry picked” — by that I mean they are selected for reading because they have the dual functionality of reading “funny” and generating audience laughter when delivered by that comedian.
If you were to read the rest of the stand-up comedy bit from which a specific joke (or jokes) is “cherry picked” from, you would discover that it doesn’t read funny at all.
5. They don’t realize that many punchlines may not even make sense when isolated (because of the missing communication elements verbal expression affords).
6. They overlook the fact that audiences do not read stand-up comedy material and that most of their laughter generation power (comedy talent) is not just about the literal words used in any stand-up comedy bit.
In other words, they are totally unaware that what makes them funny in everyday life are EXACTLY the same things that will make them funny on the stand-up comedy stage.
Writing in a literary fashion is difficult, no matter what a person is “writing” about. Talking? Not so much, especially when you consider that stand-up comedy is a specialized performing art focused on talking.
Developing stand-up comedy material is NOT difficult at all, provided the individual actually has comedy talent to begin with and knows how to develop stand-up comedy material based on their own unique sense of humor and comedy talent.
Let me put this another way:
Even if a comedian understands the difference between “writing” in the literal sense and “writing down” what they want to say and express on the stand-up comedy stage to an audience…
- They don’t really know why they are writing anything down.
- They don’t know how to structure what they do have written down.
- They don’t know how to easily generate punchlines for maximum laughter impact.
And they certainly don’t realize that the reason why the “spoken word” is more compact and economic (less words used) than the written word is because of the concurrent non-verbal aspect of that communication that happens when a person is verbally expressing themselves.
All I know is this:
Writing (in the literal sense) will almost always result in some sort of writer’s block.
But knowing how to develop stand-up comedy material for live audiences is by far easier and…
If you know what you are doing when it comes to developing stand-up comedy material, you should always have more comedy material than you have stage time to perform it.