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We Professional Humorists, part 23

Written by Alison | February 16th, 2009 at 9:10 am | Comments

We professional humorists never forget where we were when we said something which tickled our own funny bone. Par example (and don’t be put off by my suddenly lapsing into French, I spent four days there on a teen tour and so you can understand why I don’t even notice anymore when I use the French instead of English)… Um, where was I?

Oh yes. What I was saying is that for the professional humorist, a conversation with a fellow human being can be a wondrous chance to say something funny, which then you will never forget, even if you forget the context, which might have been something grave or dire to the other person. Or you might forget the other person. For example (wait, did I do it again? Mais non, I didn’t. Phew!), they might be talking about the death of their mother, and you might make a hilarious Whistler’s Mother joke. Or they might be discussing a break up and you might use that opportunity to check your voice mail. Or they might be talking about ducks and you would make a joke about orange juice. And then you would remember the orange juice, but not what ducks are.

Allow me to tell you about last night. Are you sitting down? You’ll want to be standing up for this.

So a friend was talking about the idea of a theater which served soup. Naturally I asked what kind. “Broth,” was the answer. “Bouillon?” I asked, proud of my extensive knowledge of clear soups. “Probably some water with a couple chicken bones thrown in,” he quipped. “OK so what you’re really talking about is stock,” I parried, coolly. And then it hit me: “You should serve the soup in the summer!” I shrieked, also coolly. “You could call it… SUMMER STOCK!”

“That’s terrible,” he said, as if deliberately dodging my speeding humor bullet. No worries though, I was armed with a humor fusillade (a fusillade is when you shoot someone with a continuous spray of fusilli).

“You could call it… SUMMER STOCK!” I announced again, in between cartwheels. “Oh, come on!” I intoned, balancing one foot on the head of a sea lion. “SUMMER STOCK!” I yelled, shooting myself out of a cannon. “You know, because it’s summer and you’re serving stock, and it’s a theater!” I explained, because sometimes the little people need your help and also I had extra time while waiting for the trapeze swing to return to me.

“You know… like… SUMMER STOCK!” I yodeled, coolly, from inside the snapping jaws of a crocodile.

“Oh yeah, because what people want in the summer is hot soup,” he offered.

“Fine, then just serve gazpacho and don’t use the clever theater pun,” I said ruefully, mounting a tortoise and heading offstage.

Anyway though, I’ll always have “SUMMER STOCK!” which comes in a can and a handy snack pack and features macaroni thespians (chicken and “stars”… get it?) and also tiny comedy and drama masks made out of farina. It’s Broadway in a bowl, which might be the slogan, although it’s also The Catskills in a bowl and Peoria in a bowl and Branson in a giant bowl.

How To Be Funny, tips 4-10

Written by Alison | January 24th, 2009 at 11:21 am | Comments

NOTE: This is a continuation of How To Be Funny, tips 1-3

Greetings, fellow travelers on life’s hilarious highway, I’m back as promised to regale you with more hahas than you can shake a chuckle stick at. More chortles than you can swing a silly goat at. More guffaws than you can stuff in a hat. What’s a “chuckle stick” or a “silly goat” or a “hat”, you ask? Those are great questions! Chuckle sticks, silly goats and hats don’t actually exist but if it did they would be what we in the comedy business refer to as “props.”

This is a figment of your imagination

4) Props are tops!

Props are funny always. Rubber chickens? Funny. Arrow through the head? Funny (unless it’s a real arrow which isn’t funny). Hiding out in your ex’s trunk until he or she and the new guy or gal he or she is dating get in the car and then banging on the trunk from the inside with a nine iron until someone lets you out of the trunk and then offering them some jujubes? Regardless of gender? Super funny! Just don’t eat all the jujubes when you’re waiting in the trunk! I’d advise bringing along a sandwich actually. Something nourishing. And don’t forget a drink to wash it down. It’s important to stay hydrated while in the trunk of your ex’s car.

In sum: Props? Funny! Dehydration? Not funny.

5) Laughing at you or with you?

At some point you’re going to wonder whether people are laughing “at” you or “with” you. As a really fucking funny comedy professional I can tell you that I’ve had people laugh “at” me and I’ve had them laugh “with” me. I’ve also had them laugh “near” me, “under” me, “behind” me, “around the corner from” me and often “very far away” from me. Once I had someone laugh inside me. It was a very small, very funny leprechaun who’d taken up residence in my spleen. And when I say this leprechaun had a great sense of humor it’s not just because he laughed at my jokes. I mean certainly that was part of it; he just got me and my sense of humor. But he also told GREAT dead baby jokes. Anyway, I tried to get him an opening slot on a USO tour and that’s when I encountered some surprising difficulty. Turns out quite a few people are, shall I say, skeptical when you explain that there’s a tiny but hilarious leprechaun living in your spleen and you’d like to get him booked at a small to mid level club. In fact, I was told by three therapists, two Irishmen and someone from the Historical Society of Gnomes that it’s impossible that there could be a tiny leprechaun cracking jokes from inside my spleen. But what does a gnome expert know? Gnomes and leprechauns are not the same. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME. What, does tinker bell want to weigh in next? And then the tooth fairy? I know the tooth fairy and that bitch lies. I’m still upset about this.

In Sum: Go ahead and slip on that banana peel or run into a plate glass window. The whole world will be laughing at you! Also, there is a small hysterical leprechaun living in my spleen.

6) Funny Words

Certain words are just funny and as a soldier in the hilarious army, it’s up to you to find these words and use them as many times as you can. Think of them as pine nuts in a funny pesto sauce. There are pine nuts in pesto, right? Granted if you were truly in an army you wouldn’t want to be stuck fighting the enemy with pine nuts, and the fact that my leprechaun claims he fought off an army of angry field mice with pine nuts is, well, it’s far-fetched to say the least.

Some funny words: duck, pine nut, pianist (hahahahaha), duty (gross!), love, affection, glue, Care Bears, Jujubes, leprechauns, hysterical, funny, laughter, defenestrate, Ralph Fiennes, arbitration

In sum: the leprechaun living inside me has fanciful imagination. I like it because it’s never a dull moment with this one, but sometimes I wish I could trust his sense of reality a bit more.

7) Riddles involving genitals and vegetables

Q: What do you call a cross between a penis and a potato?
A: A dictator!

In Sum: Riddles involving genitals and vegetables are always funny.

8) But a potato is a tuber not a vegetable.

9) It’s both actually.

Q: What do you call something that’s both a tuber and a vegetable?
A: a potato!

In Sum: Not all riddles work. Neither do all comedians. But what if it was a comedian who had a small chuckling leprechaun living in his or her spleen? I am telling you: comedy gold, people! What do I have to do to get you to see this?

10) To work blue or not to work blue

Ah yes, the perennial question. Any comedian can keep it clean but it’s only a select few who can work dirty words into their act. I say go for it. You can always fall back on your clean material.

In Sum: Fuck yeah you should work blue!

Well that’s all the time we have for today. I’m off to swallow a very small pair of shoes with tiny gold buckles because the leprechaun needs them and it’s the only way. I’m sure we’ve all been in that boat!

Next week we’ll look at comedy through the ages and I’ll be bringing in special guest: Sherman Sillybones (probably not his real name) who happens to be both a live chicken and the author of the hilarious, trenchant and insightful, “What the Cluck? Yeah I Crossed The Road, You Wanna Sue Me?” to discuss his years performing stand up. I think you’ll be surprised at some of the things he says.

| Posted in How to be funny, comedy

How To Be Funny, tips 1-3

Written by Alison | January 10th, 2009 at 9:12 pm | Comments

It’s common knowledge that my humor is pretty insufferable and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. To know that my jokes could help someone who’s in pain or in suffering, well, it makes it all worth it. But I don’t want to just stand here using my humor to put people out of their misery. I want to teach you to do the same. Crazy as it sounds, I think I can.

See, humor can be taught. Granted I was born hysterical and have always been really fucking funny, but I think I can show you a few principles that will get you well on your way to being that person who’s getting groans and eyerolls from people who’d rather be talking about something serious or meaningful. And isn’t that really what it’s all about? Pull up a whoopie cushion (always funny) and read on!

1) Timing

Timing is vital in comedy. For example, take the following ripsnorter:

What has two thumbs and loves blowjobs?
[then you point at yourself with your thumbs and say...] This guy!
note: works better if you’re a guy

Now see, that’s a funny joke, but only if you include the punchline while your audience still remembers what you’re talking about, in this case blowjobs. I know a guy, we’ll call him Guy, and he made the mistake of saving up the punchline thinking he’d get a bigger laugh if he really let the anticipation build. He waited two days and happened to yell it out at a dinner party right as the host was asking who clogged the toilet.

In Sum: Timing is important. Don’t admit to clogging a toilet at a party when you’re trying to profess your love of blowjobs.

2) Funny Voices

The voice is a magical thing. You can use it to sing, to hum, to yell for help, to snitch on a friend and to be funny. The best way to do this with your voice is to make your voice itself sound funny. Can you talk in a really high pitched voice? Can you make your voice all low and grumbly? Can you make each word go up like this? Can? You? Make? Each? Word? Go? Up? Like? This?

Stop! I give! I’m crying uncle! You’re too funny!

In Sum: funny voices = funny

3) “oh, this old…”

I’ve personally gotten a lot of mileage by greeting each compliment I receive with “oh, this old [insert thing that was complimented]. I just found it [insert place you'd find it].” For example:

guy: wow, you have very straight teeth
me: oh, these old things? I just found them in my mouth.

The result? I had three offers for dates, won a government grant, a burrito and a trip to the Caribbean and no one didn’t have sex with me that night.

In Sum: It’s good to be the kind of person who receives compliments.

Congratulations! By now you should be well on your way to the kind of yucks you’d only dreamed about before, and this is just the beginning. In the coming weeks I’ll post more tips and before long you’ll be so funny people will be sure you experienced some kind of trauma as a young child.

| Posted in How to be funny, comedy


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