What is comedy? It is the art of making people laugh. Most comedy has two parts: a set up, and a punchline based off a comedic trick or device. The set up creates a temporary shared reality (see “Properties of Reality” in my Life Education Curriculum) between the audience and the comedian on which Comedic Logic (see “What is Judgment and Logic?” in my Life Education Curriculum) is applied to produce the punchline.
Comedy and a sense of humor are great ways to get to know people because every joke serves as a measurement of each person’s way of thinking as well as the values and beliefs that each participant holds. Someone who thinks a broom is normally used on walls, won’t find it funny when someone sweeps the wall with a broom. Comedy is also a great way to measure context, because if not everyone is on the same page, then again the joke will not work. If I think you said the broom should be used for “calls” instead of “walls,” I will be very confused about the telephone broom you are suggesting, and you will be inaccurate in thinking that I must think brooms should be used on walls because I didn’t laugh at your joke.
In this way, comedy teaches you to always be aware of the context, and helps you be more socially appropriate with your jokes, and your conversations in general. (See Why Dad Jokes Exist)
Comedy Responsibilities: Keep in mind that while there is always a joke you could make, it isn’t always appropriate to make it. Comedy allows you to say many things that you normally would not get away with saying, but it doesn’t allow you to cross the lines of human decency or respect that your audience has. Sometimes you can be jokingly offensive or insulting, sometimes you can’t. Know when the right time is requires understanding the context and your audience, an understanding that is developed with practice, experience, and mistakes.
In my discussion of comedy below, I distinguish between a Comedy Device and a Comedy Trick. A device is a form of delivery, “Knock Knock Jokes” are one kind of device, and “Why did the chicken cross the road?” is another. A Comedy Trick is what makes the joke funny. A Comedy Trick is where you find people’s values and what their context for the joke is.
Here are some comedy devices
- Nine out of ten doctors agree ___
- _____ called, he wants his ____ back
- Listing [absurd] choices, then picking the [absurd] one. (Example from The Office: “If I had a gun with two bullets and I was in a room with Hitler, Bin Laden and Toby, I would shoot Toby twice.” – Michael Scott to Toby)
- Pure Absurdity (seahorse; absurdity done right)
- Misdirection: Naming two things, describing one, then calling it the other. (Example: A person named Tony, and a rock. One of them is a stationary object that we use to hide money under, and the other is a rock!)
- Long winded story topped off with a joke that uses none of the back story (Harrison Ford’s Joke – What makes it funny is the unnecessary set up beforehand)
- Speaking of [summarize previous topic with adjectives], [name something or begin a new topic that does not relate at all to the previously listed adjectives].
List of tags you can search for on my website for posts about specific Comedy Tools: Absurdity, Authenticity, Blatant, Exaggeration, Immersion, Irony, Layering, Misdirection, Ridiculous, Suspense, Visualization
Good current shows to study
- Finland is known for personal space (people wait at bus stops standing very far apart)
- British people have bad teeth because they never brush their teeth
- French people have bad body odor because they never bathe; they also have never won a war/fight
- Chinese people are good at math and martial arts, nerdy; tiger mom and high expectations father
- India is extremely dense with people, cows are sacred there
- Dating hierarchy: black, white, chinese, indian
- Audition Tapes of SNL Cast Members
- Anatomy of a New Yorker Cartoon – TED Talk by Bob Mankoff
My Articles on Comedy
- My answer to Who will succeed David Letterman on The Late Show (2014) – Quora