How to Write Comedy: The Search for Best Practices via Mike Bent

Two and a half months into this somewhat laughable career, I’ve decided to learn how to write comedy from the professionals…no more pairing good ideas with bad execution.

Education Doesn’t Happen In A Classroom

When I started my career in IT as a Recruiter for a consulting firm (B Wyze Solutions), I was immediately enrolled in an IT Best Practices course (ITIL).

Though I was a Recruiter, the IT knowledge helped me forge strong relationships with my clients because I could talk shop with them. Optional Digression: That’s how education is supposed to work. You get schooled, and then take the schooling and see if it works in the real world, throwing out what doesn’t work and keeping what does.

I realized a few weeks back that I didn’t know any comedy best practices. My growth was stunted.

 

My Comedy Hits A Ceiling

I’ve created funny material since I started in October. I know the jokes are funny because I laughed at them; I still do. But something was missing. I needed professional help.

Sure, I could spend two years banging my head against a wall and bombing every night at open mics to figure things out on my own, but who has the time? More to the point, I can’t afford to have good ideas continue to get poorly translated on stage.

Luckily, I found who and what I was looking for.

 

The Everything Guide to Comedy by Mike Bent

The title sounds corny, I know. Hear me out.
My Reading List

My Reading List

This book, by Mike Bent, was freaking amazing. Here’s two pages worth of advice:

  • Understand the difference between and how to leverage the:
    1. Set-up: Premise of the joke.
    2. Punchline: Line that gets a laugh.
    3. Tag: Another line that gets a laugh.
    4. Follow-up (Surprise) Tag: Yet another line that gets a laugh.
  • Rule of Three: Audiences expect a joke on the third beat.
  • Ellipses: Using …’s to add pauses when writing

 

An Example: Don’t let the Car Fool You…

  1. Set up: I saw a guy driving a Neon and he had a bumper sticker that said, ‘Don’t let the car fool you, my treasure is in heaven.’ I don’t think that I could use that excuse when I’m with a woman.
  2. Neon from this morning with the Bumper Sticker (zoom in)

    Neon from this morning with the Bumper Sticker (zoom in)

  3. Punchline with Rule of Three: I drop my pants, I drop my underpants…she sighs, gets upset, and starts to leave. I couldn’t make her stop by saying, ‘Don’t let my lolee fool you, my treasure is in heaven.’
  4. Tag: BTW, how pissed is that guy gonna be when he gets to heaven and everybody is driving a Neon? Hey God WTF! You make me drive a Neon for 40 years and now this! Why have you forsaken me?
  5. Follow-up (Surprise) Tag: My son, everyone drives a neon here….(wide eyes of realization)Noooooo…I should’ve been a hindu! I just couldn’t get past the elephant man with the 8 arms; It doesn’t make any sense!

 

Mouthful of Gold

Gucci Jagdeo's Mouthfull of Gold

Gucci Jagdeo's Mouthfull of Gold

I’m teaching this weekend, so my time will be limited. I’m going to prepare another blog for Saturday with all of the jokes that I came up with today as I was reading the book. They include:

  • Pretty white girls in Toronto seem to be angry for no reason. Why? You could have any white guy you want. With a few more pounds, heck, you could have any black guy you want.
  • I’m a stud: I have like ten hot chicks following me on twitter.
  • My home is a whore because the outlets are loose and don’t hold the plugs.
  • Does BRB stand for BRownie Begone? Because when people say that when they’re chatting with me, they never come back.

I got out of line at Shoppers Drug Mart today so I could strain my ears to hear the lyrics to this song:

Damn I wish I knew how to play guitar…in the rain…on a park bench somewhere…then I’d get all the bitches…(premise – beat 1 – beat 2 – joke on beat 3)

Damn sometimes my brain comes up with shit that’s soooo good I amaze myself. I’m not being sarcastic. It’s weird. Why does my brain work like this?

Michael Jagdeo

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About Michael Jagdeo

My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for blogTO.com.
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4 Responses to How to Write Comedy: The Search for Best Practices via Mike Bent

  1. Pingback: Using Comedy Best Practices 4 – Tension & Release with Norm McDonald’s Moth Joke | Diary of a Toronto Stand-Up Comedian

  2. Pingback: Stand-Up Comedy: What are some things I should know before writing and performing my first standup comedy routine? - Quora

  3. Pingback: Using Questions and Crowd Work In Stand-Up Comedy | Diary of a Toronto Stand-Up Comedian

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