It is kind of sad really because here’s what I know about those folks without ever having to meet them:
1. They are either not funny and they are trying to “write” their way to becoming funny on stage or…
2. They are funny, but they are desperately trying to find the right “joke formulas” in order to “write” comedy material that actually works
Either way, these folks are pretty much screwed when it comes to getting substantial laughs on stage trying to use joke formulas.
Let’s start with the fact that most (93%) of an individual’s laughter generation ability has nothing to do with the words/sentences a person says when they are on stage. It comes from how they express what it is that they say.
Words alone count for a mere 7% of an individual’s laughter power.
To put this in perspective, this is much like trying to paint a portrait using a paper clip.
It can be done — but it’s hard and will take a very long time.
Note: I am well aware of the challenges that can be found online to Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Communication Model involving the assignment of the “hard” number percentages as it relates to the weight of the various communication elements involved with speaking (7% words, 38% voice inflection and tone, 55% body language and facial expressions).
However, for anyone who has issues with that model — one need only refer to any number of references on reading body language (#ad) to confirm that MOST of an individual’s in person verbal communication comes from facial expressions, micro facial expressions, body movement, gestures, voice tone and inflection, etc.
Knowing the exact numerical weight of any particular verbal communication element isn’t as important as understanding that the vast majority of spoken word communication DOES NOT come from the actual words being spoken but from the other communication elements that are involved.
But here’s the real problem with “joke formulas” that you should be aware of…
Joke formulas represent an after-the-fact description or definition of sentence structures that have been identified as having generated laughter.
But here is the hard, cold reality using just a few examples…
Knowing the names and history of every player on a sports team does absolutely nothing to show you how to actually play the sport yourself.
Knowing the make and model of every single automobile does absolutely nothing to show you how to actually drive a car.
Knowing every single “joke formula” by heart won’t give anyone comedy talent or give them a clue how to structure and deliver the comedy talent they already have — provided they have comedy talent to begin with.
You will see this over and over again on this blog…
There’s a hard way and there is an easier way to develop stand-up comedy material that works.
Trying to use joke formulas is the hardest way ever devised. A far better approach is to realize that you have already developed and use your own “organic” joke formulas that you use when you talk and make others laugh.
These natural “joke formulas” are not some sort of simple “plug-and-play” affair — they were developed over years of countless interpersonal interactions with others since you started talking as a child.
The “natural” joke formulas that I am referring to are what gives you the power to cause others to laugh when you talk — they represent a symphony of things that are specific about you that you engage effortlessly when you communicate with others face-to-face.
There has been an unimaginable amount of shear trial and error involved — again, since you began talking as a child — in order to give you the sense of humor you have, your attitude and views on life and the way you express yourself in a way that works for you and gives you the comedy talent that you have right now.
The things that make you who you are were not developed as a result of exchanging countless written notes with others to get laughs.
There weren’t any “a + b = c” calculations involved when you said something to make someone laugh.
But once someone makes the decision that they want to take a shot at stand-up comedy, this is exactly what all the so-called comedy “experts” express or imply that you need to do, without any regard to the complexity of all that gave you the comedy talent you have in the first place.
My take on the matter is very simple:
You do not need to know a single joke formula to create and deliver powerful and funny stand-up comedy material for audiences to enjoy.
To try to do so is much like trying to learn all the extremely complex involvement of the muscles, biology, physiology and neurological functions involved with brushing your teeth in order to be able to brush your teeth better. In other words, it is a serious waste of time.
What you do need to be able to do is to take the comedy talent that you have along with the natural “joke formulas” that you already use instinctively and “package” that for the stage in a condensed and refined way for maximum laughter impact when you do hit the stage.
The easiest way to do this can be found in the Killer Stand-up Online Course which focuses you being you and structuring what you want to say and express to an audience in the tightest and most compact way possible.
You have already done the “complex” part which was to develop that natural comedy talent that you have.
You just need a process to effectively capture, structure and deliver your comedy talent to audiences.
Now if you’re stuck on the whole “joke formula” thing and have some money to waste, you might want to get a hold of Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer (#ad).
That is probably still the most detailed and extensive book on all things that don’t matter at all or are not needed to know in order produce a stand-up comedy routine that actually work on stage to get big laughs.
But don’t take my word for it — ever. Check it out for yourself. Then send me a video of you killing on stage as a result of learning all the “secrets” contained in that book.
Let me start with this:
Like many, you haven’t been on stage as a comedian nor do you plan to be. From that perspective it is very easy to pontificate about what stand-up comedy writing is or is not and how it is produced and delivered.
I would ask that you consider that:
Writing is a completely different form of communication than talking or speaking.
Writing is specifically designed for consumption by an individual reader. Stand-up comedy material is designed to generate a laughter reaction from a group of people as a result of in person delivery and expression.
Unfortunately, the “common knowledge” regarding the development of stand-up comedy material is that writing (the written word on paper designed for an individual reader) is completely interchangeable with talking or speaking to an audience.
I submit to you that notion is false.
So let me ask this question about using joke formulas…
How is a person supposed to use ANY sort of joke formula to produce any sort of stand-up comedy material that will actually get laughs on stage (which is what stand-up comedy is all about) when joke formulas can only be identified to a very small percentage of a comedian’s material?
That’s not something I made up. You simply need to transcribe the stand-up comedy routine an accomplished and skilled comedian is delivering to see for yourself that most of what they have to say and express DOES NOT fall into any sort of recognizable joke formula category.
That’s because talking is not the same communication medium as writing no matter how badly a new comedian wants it to be.
Joke formula examples are cherry picked from any comedian’s act for illustration purposes without the benefit of evaluation of the rest of a comedian’s act.
Let’s see if this makes sense — understanding and recognizing the alphabet is essential in order to understand the formation of words and sentences.
But knowing only the alphabet doesn’t do anything when it comes to actually forming words and sentences unless you have knowledge and skill beyond mere recognition of the letters of the alphabet.
Joke formulas fall into the same category – after the fact recognition of “formulas” a comedian may have used in their stand-up comedy material doesn’t help another comedian produce their own original stand-up comedy material for the exact same reason that only knowing the alphabet will help a person form words and sentences without any additional information.
My job is to help new comedians understand that the “common knowledge” about developing and delivering a stand-up comedy routine that actually generates big laughs is not only seriously lacking but also largely misleading and often taken out of context as well.