I just finished typing out quotes I underlined from The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter. I read this about 3 months into comedy but didn’t get a chance to type up what I previously underlined until now. Judy is way way way way way more experienced than me, so hopefully you’ll find some use in the messages I found important.
I highly recommend reading this book multiple times and following the exercises if you’re serious about becoming a comic and want to understand the basics (and some of the not so basics). Also keep in mind, that a lot of Judy’s tips are basic and formulaic, and this is just a starting point. But you have to know and understand the rules before you break them.
- “What it takes to make it as a comic or as a comedy writer is a combination of talent and craft.” (21)
- “Comedy performers and writers can no longer afford the fantasy of waiting to be discovered. Instead they need to discover themselves and become masters of their craft, so that when opportunity knocks they are ready and able to deliver the goods.” (22)
- “Normal people express their sense of humor by memorizing jokes; comics transform their life experiences into punch lines and write their own jokes.” (34)
- “The more pages you have, the more likely you are to hit on some truly inventive stuff… it’s a numbers game. The more darts you throw, the more likely you are to hit on something.” (38)
- “Brave people are not unafraid. What distinguishes them is that they act despite the fear.” (46)
This should have been mentioned as part of my post about stage fright.
- “After ten years of teaching, I’ve learned that it’s not always the person with the most talent who succeeds – it’s the one with the most endurance.” (51)
- “No one is a natural – you have to work at being a natural.” -Greg Proops (71)
- “You might have a funny idea for a joke, a great topic, a funny character, but without attitude it will remain just that – a funny idea.” (72)
- “Each sitcom can be reduced to a single-line premise.” (76)
- “Get specific because funny is in the details.” (76)
- “Thinking in terms of what is weird, stupid, scary, or hard, rather than thinking about what is funny, will free your creative process.” (78)
- “Chances are if you are using the words I, me, or my in the premise, it’s too self-absorbed and won’t interest the audience. Start general and then get to something specific about yourself.” (78)
- “Comedy writing is an intense investigation into what it means to be a human being – not what it means to be you.” (79)
- “A premise is not a description of what happened. It’s a cut-to-the-chase, get-to-the-point, original observation.” (79)
- “Comedy isn’t meant to be read. It’s meant to be performed. The laughs are in the execution of the act-outs.” (99)
- “There was such a difference from the A rooms to the B rooms. I think a lot of the young comics picked up bad habits watching B room comics.” (101)
- “Creativity is not about picking funny topics, it’s about making ordinary topics funny.”
- “To connect with an audience, comics and comedy writers need to find those topics that they are truly and deeply passionate about and that other people can relate to. These become their authentic topics. For stand-up comics, these topics form the core of their act and shape their persona. For writers, these topics form a point of view and shape their voice.” (103)
- “No matter how relatable your topic is, if it doesn’t resonate with you, it probably won’t resonate with your audience either. Passion about a topic can’t be faked. The audience can sense if your topic is authentic for you or if it isn’t.” (104)
- “It’s a kind of trade-off: bad for your life equates to good for your act.” (108)
- “Premises are a combination of being truthful and relatable.” (122)
- “Do ten or fifteen minutes up front of likeable material and then go to your vile self.” – Greg Proops (140)
- “A comedy disconnect happens when the comic tries to be funny rather than communicate ideas. Reality is sacrificed in a desperate attempt to get laughs at all costs.” (146)
- “Rehearsal tips:
- Never rehearse your act without emotion
- Always picture what you are talking about. Visualizing who and what you are talking about makes material more dynamic and immediate
- Don’t practice in front of a mirror or video camera. You won’t be looking at yourself when you perform, so don’t do it while you rehearse.” (154)
- “Professional comics want to know why a joke didn’t work and how to fix it. They’re willing to expend the time and energy necessary to perfect their craft and solve the problem. Comic wanna-bes, on the other hand, generally go, “I hate myself, let’s get drunk,” when a joke doesn’t work. Pros don’t take bad jokes all that personally – it’s about the material. Amateurs take it all too seriously and make it about themselves or about the audience – “They really sucked.” (166)
- “Creating comedy is sometimes a matter of inspiration, but mostly it’s a matter of perspiration – in the form of constantly creating new material.” (171)
More quotes coming tomorrow. If you want me to try to explain any of the quotes in more detail, please let me know via the comments.