My Writing Process

Here’s my current comedy writing process, hopefully this is helpful to someone.

The Daily:

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.writing-center

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.

The Weekly:

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.

Accessing Jokes

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…

4 Replies to “My Writing Process”

  1. Hi,

    I just wanted to say how helpful this piece is, there is surprisingly few articles/interviews with comics talking about their specific writing process habits.

    I actually got a raging boner when I realised we have the same technique. ie. notes feature on the phone, emailed to docs etc. But one thing I have come across which is awesome, is Microsoft ONENote, its part of office usually.

    This is a “one document” program with tabs meaning instead of buggering around with numerous docs, u have one central base for everything. I use it for uni, comedy, media to get, chicks i wished i fucked on the road (ps. i don’t actually go on the road) 🙂

    I have one question which I would love to hear your thoughts on. It’s regarding your process for forming premises and punchlines. Like, how do your approach it?? Say you think of a funny idea which is essentially the punch line…. say…. Steven Hawkings…. how would you work to develop a premise and punchline from that? Do you think of opposites? Random situations?? are there any workshop techniques u use? etc

    Anyway, good site man. Keep up the funny work

    Cheers andy

  2. Hi Andy,

    Glad that you find this helpful. I haven’t tried ONENote. Too many tabs drives me crazy, cause I like to line up different windows on the screen sometimes, if that makes sense.

    My process for forming premises is kinda different than for forming punch lines. For premises, I usually jot down any sort of funny thing that happened or was said (into the iPhone notes) and then later on, I kinda talk to myself outloud and try to make something funny come out.

    I haven’t had much luck at starting with a punch word, but I think the key I’d go for is surprise: Drive Thru windows were setup in the 80’s and they wanted the voices to sound like a celebrity, which is why every drive thru window sounds like Steven Hawking. (That took me 20 seconds, it’s not the best joke, but there’s a surprise there of “drive thru’s sound like Hawking” or so I think…)

    Lots of improv techniques help, like doing characters or just continuing to talk to yourself until something makes you laugh. That’s usually a good sign.

    Hope that helps,
    Ben

  3. This is a great way to write comedy and is very helpful. I know you wrote this 2 yrs ago do are you still doing stand up? If so how goes the battle?

  4. Hi Randy,

    Yep still doing stand up and my methods are similar as before, although now I don’t fully memorize new jokes just so my body says them how it says them without it being over-written first. I also try to watch videos of old sets within 1-3 days as I’m performing so often these days that even week-old videos feel super old.

    Best,
    Ben

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