a blog? I thought he was supposed to leave me wanting more?
How To Improve Your Comedy Writing
If you're in a hurry, and don't have time to read this post, it can all be summed up into this SFW video.
Painful things happen to all of us; that's just life. I, currently, am going through the most painful life event I've ever experienced this side of hearing, "you'll be fighting Dustin Blount at Fight Night for the MDA fundraiser." (People tell me that's a good story; I don't remember much after the opening bell.)
While it SUH-HUCKS right now, I'm not going to sit around cleaning my rifle, goin' "seven six two millimeter, full metal jacket." Because one, I don't have a rifle, and two: I am a firm believer that pain reshapes you into something better. We're human beings. We need pain. We need struggle.
We need crucibles.
And since pain is inescapable, it is my hope to help you bear your cross with dignity and eventual hilarity. After all: if you can't move on, who's gonna make those secretaries giggle blue curacao all over themselves on Glambling Night at Connie's every other Thursday?
This is by no means "the only way," because pain varies from person to person. It's just an effort to help you take your pains, put them on paper, and transform them into something that is as funny as you can possibly make it.
So here goes:
WRITE DOWN YOUR PAIN WHEN IT'S WORST
Get the demons out.
Cathartic in practice, yes, but I don't want to get too deep here. (Namely because I'm not that deep a person, and - according to my results from a "what grade you write to" test - neither are any sixth graders.)
The point is, when the pain hits its peak(s), write it out. Get it on paper, and not with a pencil, either. You'll just keep editing yourself.
A pen. No laptop, no Evernote, no typewriter. Just write it with a pen onto paper, big and bold. (Don't do it in red. If the cops ever find it, that'll scream "suspect.")
And be brutal, too. Don't just write, "Donny did my girl," write "That bastard Donny put his pig [expletive] in the woman I spent my IRA on!" Anger is all part of this process, and the more you can get it onto paper, the better you will feel without actually hurting anyone.
Writing down your premises while in pain gives your set-ups a more natural, organic feel to your future audience. It makes your pain more real and believable to a group of strangers, be they just reading your writing or listening to your act in person.
Also, getting your pains / premises out on paper will free your mind to come up with solutions. In comedy, we call those solutions "punchlines," and good ones are what every comic and comedy writer strives to get.
It's hard to admit, but there is ALWAYS someone who has it worse than you. Always. Put your dog down yesterday? Man, that sucks. Did you hear about the father of three who just got word he had Stage 17 nut cancer?
Even that guy watches UNICEF commercials and goes, "YIKES."
No matter your belief system, pain is undeniable, and it inflicts itself onto good, innocent people all the time.
Yes, your boss may treat you like a meagerly-paid Gofer ("Two-and-a-half creams?? Pfft. Psycho."), but that guy on the elevator with a wedding band on his finger, carrying a box full of stuff from his desk? Give that dude some space; he's suddenly got A LOT on his plate.
Also, get perspective to clear your mind. If you know - and you will have to consciously tell yourself this, especially at first - that someone else has it worse, you can come back to earth and approach your pain and comedy from a more rational and objective angle. This will help create that distinct "voice" your jokes need to separate you from the other comics vying for top spot at Karoline's (No Relation) Comedy Club.
REMEMBER: "IT'S DONE"
And you ain't Kronos.
(Unless, you know, you castrated your dad and took over his throne.)
You can't turn back time, is what I'm saying.
You can't bring that person back from the dead, get your wife to change her mind about the divorce, or get your bum-ass roommate to suddenly pay the $400 you're short on rent. You just can't.
I'd call this part "Acceptance," but acceptance is different in my eyes. Acceptance is a more long-term end shrouded in countless therapy sessions and self-help books you don't want your friends to know about.
This is simply uttering the phrase "It's Done." It has an immediate effect on both your mind and your body. When you say out loud "It's Done," your mind goes, "Oh, alright!" and your body starts moving forward.
It's arguable as to how permanent that kind of mentality is, but saying "It's Done" gives you instant momentum, allowing you to begin moving forward.
Like me, you'll have to say "It's Done" about a million times a minute at first, but then you'll start saying it as the pain begins setting in. You'll find its a very real and powerful shield against the onslaught of emotions that will, fortunately, come less and less as time goes on.
I'd like to tell you I'm an optimist by birth, but because optimism is something you must work on daily (hourly and minutely, even), I'll tell you I am an optimist by trade. Optimism takes some serious effort, especially in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.
There are several reasons to choose optimism: it helps you deal with pain, it helps get you out of bed when the going gets rough... all that.
But the real reason to choose optimism is this: because it is your job.
In my case, that attitude has very little to do with the job of being a comedy writer (can you call it a 'job,' when your earnings only cover a single bar tab at TGI Friday's?). The conscious decision to be an optimist has everything to do with it being my job as your fellow citizen.
What good would I be to the world (and to my loyal 7-reader fanbase) if I treated you, random stranger, according to my mood at that time? If I were to be, say, evicted from my residence and was all bitter and nasty about it, would you want me helping you change your tire by the side of the road?
No, right? If I did that, you'd get so sick of hearing about my problems you'd either reject my help altogether, or just jump out into traffic to spare yourself from my yammering.
It is my job - everyone's job - to be optimistic when hard times hit because society moves forward; it's not THEIR fault YOU'RE in pain. It is optimism, also, that alleviates the stress on your brain when you are in the thick of the hard times.
It lifts the clouds and lightens the burden of your situation, which, oddly enough, is EXACTLY what crowds and audiences want from you anyway.
So do it for yourself first.
WRITE YOUR PUNCHLINES IN UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY
If you can't afford to leave your city, go to write on another side of town, one to which you've never been. Flip your surroundings because doing so flips your mentality, and that provides a mental distance between you and your pain.
In an unfamiliar surrounding, you can almost see your pain as someone else's. Instead of 'My mother was killed by a rabid mule deer (WAH),' you'll see it as 'some guy's mom was killed by a rabid mule deer (CHUCKLE).'
Distance of any kind breeds objectivity, and objectivity - especially with pain everyone experiences - can lead to great punchlines that help both you AND your audience deal with life's buckets of poo.
So if scheisse hits your fan, I'm sorry. I'm truly sorry for your loss.
But you've been gifted with the ability to make people laugh, and that is a gift not everyone on this Earth has. You should take that job seriously, because it's not just for others, it's for you, too.
I'm Nick. I've never been afraid of getting in over my head, and I've survived every resulting injury from doing so. Played college football in the SEC while running a 5.1 forty at 200lbs, got booed off stage in front of 1,000 people at a 'Latino Laff Nite (I'm not Latino),' rolled with BJJ Black Belts, and got TKO'd by a Golden Gloves boxing champion during a fundraiser for MDA. The closest I ever got to being a real man was when my mom cut me off on the way to the Marine Recruiter's office - in the parking lot.