“The Comedy Bible” Quotes (2/3)

This is a continuation from yesterday’s quotes from The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter. 

  • “There are no funny ideas. It’s what you do with an idea that makes it funny. Steven Wright: “As an exercise I pick unfunny topics and see how I can make them funny.”” (172) 
  • “If you want to have a career as a comedy writer or performer, being funny isn’t enough. You have to have a unique point of view.” (179) 
  • “Mind Mapping topics: Write your topic in the middle of a page and draw a circle around it. Then quickly draw other balloons containing elements of this topic until your entire page is covered with words having to do with your topic. Then focus on each balloon and write offshoots containing the specifics of that topic. Don’t judge, just draw as quickly as you can.” (183) 
  • “If you try to make your act fit into a predetermined box you’ll end up limiting yourself. Instead, create the best material you can and let your persona evolve from that.” (189) 
  • “Honing Your Act:
    1.      On each card, circle one topic.
    2.      Make sure the topic is relatable.
    3.      Write an attitude word on each card.
    4.      Is that attitude expressed by any of the following words: stupid, weird, hard, bugs me, scary?
    5.      Does each topic have a premise that is written out?
    6.      Does that premise answer the attitude-topic question? (“Do you know what’s weird?)
    7.      Do most topics lead to an act out?
    8.      Does the act-out have the same cast of characters as the setup?
    9.      Does the act-out exaggerate the attitude?
    10.  After some act-outs, do you have a mix?
    11.  Do you follow the mix with another act-out?
    12.  Do you have a lot of hits on most topics (topic run)?
    13.  If you have a list of three items, is the third one a turn?” (191) 
  • “To get the spontaneity back into your material, picture what you are talking about and feel the attitude as if the event just happened and this is the first time you’re mentioning it.” (192) 
  • “There should never be even one moment when you are onstage and attitude-free. It’s the kiss of death because audiences respond to emotions, not words.” (195) 
  • “When a mishap occurs, such as the mike stand breaks, the lights go out, or there is a puff of smoke from the grassy knoll, acknowledge it. When you call the situation, it puts the audience at ease.” (198) 
  • “If it’s a small crowd, less than fifty people, talk to them because they’ll tend to laugh more in their heads than out loud. That’s especially true if they are spread out in a room. Involving the audience in a conversation reminds them that they aren’t watching TV – you can hear them, and it’s appropriate to laugh out loud.” (198) 
  • “Audience members can feel very uncomfortable when the comic talks to them. Most people in an audience do not want to be the center of attention. Therefore, try not to talk to one person immediately. Talk to the audience as a group, then maybe address a row, and then a table, and finally one person. This way you have slowly gained their trust as you worked your way down to one person.” (198) 
  • “I sit down and write crap for forty minutes. Everybody thinks that they have to write funny, every line. All you have to do is pick a subject and write about that and then pick another subject and write about that. I guarantee you that at the end of forty minutes, you will crank out a funny line because it takes forty minutes for your brain to click over from the dealing-with-life side to the creative side. Then go back to what you wrote and fix it. And the more writing sessions you have, the quicker your creativity will click in.” – Chris Titus (204) 
  • “Technique can carry you only so far. Passion and soul have to take you the rest of the way.” (211) 
  • “Don’t write in the past tense, such as, “I was standing on the street corner and I saw this woman.” It should be, “I’m standing on this street corner and I see this woman.” When you write in the present  tense, your whole emotional system shifts to the inside of the story. If you work in the past tense, not only do you distance yourself from the material, but you distance the audience from it as well.” (219) 
  • “What often keeps a script from becoming great is that the writer is married to things that are just OK. Just as in writing stand-up, you must be willing to dump not only the things that don’t work but also the things that are just adequate. Adequate won’t get you a job. Only brilliance will.” (261?)
  • “Not every line can be a joke, but you can punch up even the straightest of lines doing what the pros call adding color. That means saying something in a clever way rather than a straightforward one. So, instead of, “Where were you? Getting a manicure?” your character would say,” Where were you? Getting those claws filed?” Adding color is an offbeat way of saying the same thing.” (261) 
  • “Carter’s 3-step comedy business strategy.
    Step 1: Get good.
    Step 2: Get noticed.
    Step 3: Get paid.” (275) 
  • “Putting yourself out in the marketplace before you’re ready not only can hurt your career, it can even prevent you from ever having one.” (275) 
  • “Many people don’t know who veteran stand-up Paula Poundstone is, but almost everyone recognizes the name of penis slicer Lorena Bobbitt. Cutting off someone’s penis is quick and easy. Spending years perfecting an act, writing scripts, and waiting three hours to do three minutes at an open mike is long and hard. So, if fame and fortune are your only goals, start a pyramid scheme, live with O.J., rob a bank.” (276)

The last batch of quotes are coming tomorrow. If you want me to try to explain any of the quotes above in more detail, please let me know via the comments.

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