My study is a mess of different instruments and equipment. I got tangled in wires last night.
Also busy running a comedy competition. That's going well, though in some quarters it seems that it's a lot easier to take a small debating point and inflate it into a mass of jeers, rather than either be constructive or stay silent. Still, that's the internet for you. Nobody every made it big in comedy through being a smart arse on a comedy forum. In fact, you usually make it small from that sort of activity.
Last night I sawed through a hard drive while making a prop for a show.
Yesterday I went trawling looking for children's dressing up accessories for the same show.
The cats think I'm insane.
I have pretty much committed to the idea of writing for myself. Here's what I have to say on the subject in an article I wrote but which didn't get published.
I find myself pondering questions like – “how will this look on stage?” and “what would the audience reaction be for that?”. I know the rooms I’ll be performing in, and I’m wondering “what might be funny if you’re sitting at the back corner where it’s dark and there’s usually beer on the floor?”. In short, I’m asking some interesting questions about delivering the material, but they’re totally irrelevant when it comes down to finding the funny.
Although poor stage-craft can destroy your material, it can seldom make it funnier. For my show to work, I’m going to have to find stuff that is interesting, engaging and which delights me to share it with an audience.
A friend of mine does a comic podcast on Bolton Wanderers FC. He’s not a stand-up comedian, but he’s a funny guy and has performed on stage before (I’m pretty sure we did a Fringe show together in 2004). I’ve listened to his podcast (www.themeninwhite.com) and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is nothing to do with the subject. I couldn’t give a shit about BWFC. In fact, if pushed, I’m not sure I could even give half a shit about them. However, the fact that these podcasters are enthusiastic and witty on a subject they care about means that I find their podcast to be highly enjoyable.
And that’s the goal. Write a great set that you care about. But on what? This is the ultimate question. If there was a simple formula, then more people would be more original.
The easy mistake is to write about things that you think will make an audience laugh. It has to make you laugh first and foremost. It has to be something that you can find funny even if the audience are not sure or even hate you. These words are going to come out of your mouth night after night, so you should really like them.
By the way, this means you can and probably should drop material that works most of the time, but that you don’t really like anymore.
Generating material is hard. For wordplay or other jokes that twist normality, look at existing written word pieces and find the phrases you can subvert. There are even lists of idioms and sayings you can mine for one-liner setups or punchlines. For emotive material, why not make a list of things about yourself that are worth discussing outside of a comedy context, then interpolate some jokes. You could make a list of things you love, hate, fear or wish and work with that.
Finally, remember that stand-up is not a solely monologue-based artform. You can work banter into your material, and you can even engage the audience more by phrasing certain things as a question, even a rhetorical one, to make them relate it more to themselves.
Two useful books for exercises to help you write comedy:
Sally Holloway - The Serious Guide to Joke-Writing
Logan Murray - Be A Great Stand-Up: Teach Yourself
This article contains excerpts from the Funny’s Funny Information Pack, which will be released shortly and made available for free to all entrants to Funny’s Funny Female Comedian of the Year 2012. www.funnysfunny.org.uk