In my ongoing struggle to avoid working for a living, I’ve invested a lot in my joke-telling ambitions. I’ve taken writing classes, standup classes, improv classes and read a appalling number of books on comedy technique. I now write for a living. Here’s the most important stuff I learned. For you, it’s free. 1. COMEDY COMES FROM SABATOGING EXPECTATIONS - If a penguin falls into icy water, it’s not particularly funny. If a penguin falls into a volcano, it’s funny. 2. COMEDY COMES FROM CRUELTY - Drama takes something mundane and inflates it. Comedy takes something elevated and disgraces it. In order to be funny, you need a heap of negative opinions. Maybe that’s why so many comedians are loveless assholes with a penchant for suicide. 3. FUNNY THINGS COME IN THREES - Start making lists of one normal thing, another normal thing, and then a weird thing. For example: “I’m really into physical activities… tennis… tae kwon do… rape.” See? 4. CERTAIN WORDS ARE ALWAYS FUNNY - Like raccoons, certain noises you can make with your tongue yield inexhaustible comedy returns.
The funniest sound in English is the hard “k.” The funniest word in the language is “ker-plunk.” Which has one less “k” than “cocksucker.” Or “KKK.” But it’s still the funniest. 5. COMEDY COMES FROM A CHARACTER - No combination of sounds will generate as much mirth as a well-defined, somewhat relatable character. When you do standup, you are the character. Your character must be somewhat likeable. At least until you’re marginally famous. Then it’s okay to come on stage as the incorrigible turd you always were. 6. COMEDY COMES FROM YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR AUDIENCE - Establish rapport. It’s easy. Ask someone for his name. (In the early stages, “riffing” with dudes is a lot less dicey.) Repeat it into the microphone, in case anyone mentioned it. Ask him what he does for a living. Repeat it into the microphone, in case anyone missed it. Insult him. Ninety percent of Zach Galifianakis' show is now insulting what the audience does for a living. 7. IT REALLY IS SUBJECTIVE - A good comedy instructor teaches technique, not opinion. If a teacher ever tells you your I’m-a-Jew bit is “not funny,” or even “really funny,” hit the door and don’t look back. Comedy teachers who think they know what’s objectively “funny” are so full of shit their hair won’t turn grey.
MADATOMS is an alt-comedy network focused on videos, articles and comics. We post daily videos, ranging from breakout virals to auteur driven shorts.