There is a lot more to comedy than just being funny and anyone who’s ever tried their hand at joke writing can attest to how much of an art it really is. Honestly, I’d say being funny is the least important ingredient to a solid joke. Which, as someone who grew up surrounded by people who said, “you’re so funny you should be a comedian,” was kind of a devastating realization once I actually started pursuing comedy. There is so much that goes into a successful joke. Precise word choice, inflection, pauses – everything is intentional. Joke writing is as meticulous as writing poetry, and frankly, it’s daunting.
Luckily for anyone trying to break into the stand-up scene or for anyone trying to elevate their writing and performing skills, master of comedy Gary Gulman has made it his 2019 resolution to regularly tweet tips for joke writing.
Starting January 1 I am going to give one joke writing tip each day. I can’t promise they will be effective but they will have worked for me.
— (((Gary Gulman))) (@GaryGulman) December 30, 2018
If you’re not familiar with Gulman’s work already, get on that. His performances are so incredible and fluid because every single word serves a purpose; if there’s one comedian to take notes from, it’s Gary Gulman.
Given that we are now at the end of January, there’s a month’s worth of joke writing tips to scroll through and they’re all excellent. Here are a few highlights, but the full list can be found on his twitter page and it’s definitely worth reading.
1)Record every set. The hard part: Listen to it and transcribe everything you want to say again. It’s sometimes depressing but it gets you to do the hardest part which is to sit down and write. Usually you’ll think of something to add or change. This works for me.
— (((Gary Gulman))) (@GaryGulman) January 1, 2019
2)Write out a favorite joke word for word 1 sentence at a time. After completing each sentence, analyze each word. Why does it work? How do the syllables of the words create rhythm? How do the sentences build to the punchline? What’s the grammar of comedy? #GulManTip #WriteNow
— (((Gary Gulman))) (@GaryGulman) January 2, 2019
6)Words with the sound “buh” “puh” and “kuh” esp. @ the beginning/end are funnier. No1 knows why. “Buick” is funnier than “Nissan”. I learned this early. I assumed everyone knew. They don’t. Take some soft punch-words and replace them with a b/p/k sound. #GulManTip #WriteNow
— (((Gary Gulman))) (@GaryGulman) January 6, 2019
16)Be the comedian you wanted to see. Think about the things that you wished someone made jokes about when you sat in the audience. Make a list of topics and ideas that you’d be EXCITED to see someone discuss. Become that comedian. You’ve got 30 years. #GulManTip #WriteNow
— (((Gary Gulman))) (@GaryGulman) January 16, 2019
20)Today, try to eliminate those verbal tics. The “and aaaahs” (I Call it Miller-ing) after the flat punchline, the “What else…” when you forget your next bit. The ahms, y’knows and stammers that muddy your rhythm. Again, record and LISTEN to your set! #GulManTip #WriteNow
— (((Gary Gulman))) (@GaryGulman) January 20, 2019
23)Timing. Some say it’s “essential” others “useless”.You can get by with lousy timing but you can soar with great timing. It can take thousands of shows to figure it out. EXPERIMENT every show to see what works best. Some day you’ll just feel it. #GulManTip #WriteNow #heuristic
— (((Gary Gulman))) (@GaryGulman) January 23, 2019
24)There are things you’ve become expert in because of passion. List them and write jokes about them. Writing informed by a vast knowledge in unusual subjects will lead to original compelling jokes. @pattonoswalt is King of this. Today, mine your obsessions. #GulManTip #WriteNow
— (((Gary Gulman))) (@GaryGulman) January 24, 2019
All of these tips from Gary Gulman have been compiled into a nice little twitter moment right here.
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