Here’s my current comedy writing process, hopefully this is helpful to someone.
Every morning, when I wake up and before I have breakfast, I write three pages of stream of consciousness by hand. My goal is to just write for fifteen minutes without stopping my pen. Anything goes in this and I really try not to judge it. Most of the stuff I write isn’t even an attempt at a joke, but occasional funny ideas pop into there, and the more important thing it does is get the writing momentum going for the day.
Whenever I notice something, think of something or something happens to me that I find funny, I write it down. Usually I type it into the notes feature on my phone, but sometimes if I have a notepad with me, I’ll write it on that. I usually note between 1 and 5 funny things each day.
I’ll email my newest notes myself once a week and then go through each idea. If an idea still seems funny to me, I go through it that one idea a few times and rewrite it as a stand up bit. If I like the joke, I’ll move it into my joke file, and put it under the “new jokes” header. If I don’t like the new joke or if an original note is completely uninspiring, I cut and paste them into a file of “New Jokes that are still forming” (aka the junkyard). If an idea seems better as a sketch, I put it in a file called “Sketch Ideas” and before my weekly sketch group meeting, I go through that file to write a sketch.
I have a weekly stand up writing group, and I work out my newest jokes there and discuss them. More than half of the jokes that I bring in there, I never even try at an open mic, cause I can see they don’t work. We’ll discuss a joke at the writing group, I’ll take notes and I’ll either rewrite it or put it into the “still forming” pile.
If the joke passes the writers group, I’ll try it at an open mic (after I’ve said it aloud to myself five or ten times to more or less memorize it). I analyze how the joke sounds and feels the first time on stage, and if I still like it, I’ll keep doing it at mics and random bar shows. If the joke keeps working, it starts to go into my “better shows” set. Otherwise, it eventually ends up in the “still forming” pile.
I try to go through my existing jokes once a week and see if I have any updates to them, because I usually make a change in a live set before I make it in my file.
And whenever I work on a new joke or a complete rewrite of an existing joke, I create a new word document where I only have that joke there, so I don’t get distracted by looking at other jokes.
Once a week, I review my videos, and write the performance critiques. (I count this as part of my stand up writing.) While I watch the videos, I’ll have my joke file open and edit it down on the spot.
The Actual Writing
I talk into my mic as I write and when I practice the jokes, I’ll do them without looking at the word file. Sometimes I’ll come up with additional punch lines when I’m practicing memorizing the new material. Talking into the mic helps this “writing on your feet” process more than just talking aloud.
I keep a copy of my latest version of my jokes on Google Docs so then I can access my entire joke file on my phone wherever I am.
How do you do your stand up writing? I’m always looking for new ideas on how to be more productive…