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.
It never really dawned on me, but I've been getting emails from people actually seeking my help in how to make their writing funnier.
Me - the guy who foamed at the mouth saying Johnny Manziel would transform the NFL back in 2014, and solidified his point by drafting him FIRST in his $100-entry Fantasy Football League (3-13, that year).
I once told a kid he should try noodling for catfish because he had a tank on his ranch. What I didn't know, was that "Kevin" was allergic to "water moccasins." Nor did I know that elevating his arm above his head was the exact opposite of what he was supposed to do. (By the way: he's fine... now.)
But if you've ever come to this site and laughed, these are the three tools I use for writing that content that got you chuckling.
TOOL 1: BE HONEST
If you're going to write anything funny, you've got to be honest about your thoughts on the topic. It's a little scary to do, especially if your readers and subscribers have titles like "mom," and "wife," but it's at the pole position on this list for a reason: it's an absolute necessity.
Two reasons. First, if you are honest in your approach to the topic, your writing will be consistent. Readers can sense fakery from a mile away; if you start writing about how big an idiot an athlete is, you can't suddenly start making excuses for them.
You can't say, "He hits the ball harder than he hits his wife," and then a few lines later excuse him for for domestic violence because he grew up with an alcoholic father. It doesn't work that way.
It's not consistent with your view, and it will make the collective of your writing less funny because you pussed out.
The second reason you need honesty is because honesty makes your topic easier to write about.
I'm not in any way saying you should be honest so you can be lazy. Eff that ess, man.
But comedy writing (and performing) is a trade that involves constant editing and more editing. Rewriting a line / joke over and over and over (and over) is a HUGE part of that trade. If you're honest about your approach to the subject, all these steps will not only be easier for you, they will also be more enjoyable.
You wouldn't get into an apple pie eating contest if you didn't like apple pie, would you?
TOOL 2: SELF-LOATHING LOVE
I don't want this to become some self-help guide, but if you're going to write comedy, you've got to expose yourself. They call it "giving your writing a voice," but I don't understand all that. If my writing had a voice, it would be called 'speaking,' wouldn't it?
Instead of giving it a voice, give your writing a perspective; a background. Let your audience know you're flawed, and they'll be able to see how those flaws got you to see the topic in your unique way. Hell, that's why they come to you in the first place: because they want to see the world like you do!
And there's another little benefit to self-loathing: it somehow... builds your credibility. Sounds crazy, but people can't laugh at jokes from writers who think too highly of themselves. If I wrote a joke about people who fart into the break room fridge, and you found out I thought highly of myself, I wouldn't come off as funny, I'd come of as a prick!
A little outward modesty will go a long way is all I'm saying.
TOOL 3: YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Let's do the math real quick (I may bore you, but hang in there):
There are 125,800,000 households in the US (so say these guys) and according to the Pew Research Center, 84% of them have computers with internet access. That means 105,672,000 homes have access to your writing. If you reach even one-tenth of one percent of those households, you reach 105,672 homes where living, breathing people follow your writing.
Think about that: that's like being mayor of a funny city! A small city lacking some of the amenities and behavioral health services the bigger cities enjoy, sure, but it's a city nonetheless.
(And, since it's a funny city, it'll probably be a growing city, so sit tight: you'll get Google Fiber one day.)
The point is, these are 105,672 homes that have people who think like you. People who want to say what you say and how you say it, but haven't quite figured out how to.
It's never just you, is my point. You hate crossfitters begging for accolades on Facebook because of some workout when you know they're on their third marriage and can't remember their kids' birthdays? Great! According to statistics, there are 105,671 other people who feel exactly the same way!
So get to writing some funny. Be honest, be vulnerable, and know you are never alone in your line of thinking.
The world needs more laughs. The world needs you.
Body hair in weird places.
I don't know how it is for women, but men get these patches - nay, thickets - of course black hairs that can be several inches long and have roots DEEP in our into our derma.
It'd be one thing if these hirsute groupings were made of thick, straight hairs, but no-o! That'd be too easy! The hairs all curl up against each other, intertwining into a basket weave strong enough to hold a pen.
I mean, you know... so I heard from a friend.
Shaving only makes these things angry, too. They come back thicker and fuller... and I even think they spore. You ever step on a fungus in your yard and that 'POOF' of dust comes up? Those are spores - fungal "seeds" that go airborne to put that same fungus in someone else's property. You shave these random wolf hairs, and it's like a new patch just pops up somewhere else.
"Hair around my nipple? Oh! That's right: last week I shaved my finger..."
And I know it's not EVERY man that goes through this. I doubt Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise has mid-digital hair on one big toe (but not the other). But for every one of those guys, there's a Hugh Jackman tweezing a course curly from just outside his ear canal. (What's up, ladies??)
And can you imagine what Robin Williams had to go through??? What a nightmare! His poor wife, hairdresser, or... daily mistress having to clean all that out of the sink... Yeeich! It's not THEIR fault he hacked all those other comics' material!
('Flubber' WAS pretty good, though...)
See? This is why I hate clothes. They hide so many secrets. It would have been great knowing this was a struggle for my dad and grandfather; something where some secret remedy had been passed down through generations. Or, I could have prepared myself to do other things, namely dipping my body in hot wax once a week and having it ripped off when it's no longer moist. It seems like the pain of being semi-flayed weights less on me than the embarrassment I suffer every time my shoulder braids whip my arms at the pool.
I'm not saying body hair is gross. When tasteful, it exudes a certain masculinity women seem to like. Big men, brawny men, the big Brawny towel man... A little forearm fuzz seems to give women a sense of safety and security.
Why? I have no idea. As a guy, forearm hair is just another thing that can catch fire.
But patchy, coarse groupings of hair just... they serve NO evolutionary purpose! What, like somewhere earlier in my genealogy I a swath of ancestors died because they couldn't regulate heat loss from their lower back?
First, I was a fat kid. Then in high school, acne and halitosis. Now, as an adult, it's this.
Can't a guy just take his shirt off at the beach knowing people are laughing at his chicken legs and not his new-found knee hair???
Whatever happened to moms?
I know, they're still around, but remember when a mom looked... well, like a 'mom?'
A bit on the hefty side with the wedding band sunk tight into her finger, a jovial and supportive nature, and that edge to them that made all your friends a little scared?
And that hairstyle? Like one day they walked into a salon at 32, sat under one of those gigantic domed dryers, got up and said, "Yup. This is it. This is the hairstyle I'm going with UNTIL I DIE?"
Those were moms then. But moms now?
Moms are hot! They look better in their 40's than most chicks look in their 20's. They don't drop their kids off at school wearing dresses anymore - they drop them off wearing LuLu Lemon pants and a tank top, explaining to those kids why they were in Time Out the night before.
Look, I'm all for fitness and taking care of yourself, and how you raise your kids is your business. That's fine.
My thought is, if I'm a boy entering puberty, and my mom's got 8% body fat and implants... what the Hell is happening to me?
Do I need ANOTHER challenge? ANOTHER girl to try to impress?
Then, when my teens are in full gear and all I think about (yes, ALL teen boys think about) is sex... I'm gonna wonder if all my friends want to bang my mom.
Not only will I wonder if THEY will want to bang my mom... I'll wonder if I'LL want to bang my mom.
Holy shit, did I just type that?
Will Kate Upton SI covers on my wall be replaced by pictures of family trips to the Coast?
Oh my God! What's happening to me?
Okay. I'm back. Where were we?
Oh yeah... ick.
I don't think it helps their daughters, either. You've got the main female figure in your life running Iron Mans and deadlifting 315, suddenly your straight A's and first chair in your school orchestra aren't looking so impressive. Seriously, with all that time spent training, who's going to be there to watch you belt out a flute solo anyway?
It's a new phenomenon that I never experienced growing up, and I wonder what affect it will have on future generations is all.
Our great state of Texas has over 21,000 square miles of coastline (check it) facing the Gulf of Mexico, the choppy, brownish-green, offshore-oil-derrick-studded body of water in which we Texans love to party. Many a Bud Light has been cracked along its seaweed-awashed beaches, where activities range from simple sunbathing to wenching your buddy out of Big Shell because he thought his truck could handle the birthplace of quicksand.
And we all live pretty close to said coastline; most of us can can hop into a car after breakfast and be catching waves before lunch. Granted, these aren't the rolling waves you see in movies or in surfing competitions, but they ARE the hallowed waves of many a tiger shark story, so to say they don't have their own "charm" is kind of an injustice.
At any rate, there are people who live at the beach. Not ON the beach, just at it: people live in Galveston, Port Aransas, Corpus Christi, and other areas that are just a stone's throw away from where ocean meets land.
But there's something about the people who live on the Texas Coast that just seems... well, they look HARD, and I can't quite put my finger on it. You know how when you see a guy with a cauliflower ear, you think "wrestler," "boxer," or "bad listener?" There's just something about the look of the Texas Coast lifer that distinguishes them from the rest of the crowd.
First of all, they look NOTHING like the other beach dwellers of the world - the Brazilians and Hawaiians you see in travelogues. The person who lives on the Texas Coast enjoys NONE of those physical attributes: the smooth bronze skin, the bleach-white teeth, the curves... Nope. Texas Beach Folk are LEATHERY, and tan to a nice roofing-shingle brown.
You see a girl from Ipanema burst out of the water in slow motion, and you notice droplets of clear water careening from her jet black hair as she whips her head back. And that thing she does where she grabs her mane and rubs the rest of the excess water out before tossing it over a shoulder and walking to the beach? Yeah, that doesn't happen in Corpus.
A girl from Corpus bursts out of the water in slow motion, you notice the white sea foam clinging to her hair, and the rogue fishing leaders dangling from her swimsuit. As she "saunters" her way to back to land, you notice tar on her heels and her overly cautious gait, always on the lookout for the purple globs of beached Portuguese man-o'-war.
I'd like to know if this hard, rugged beach life is unique to Texas, or if everyone in the Southeastern U.S. has seen someone they know vacation at the beach for ten days and come back looking like they've been chain-smoking unfiltered Menthols for forty years.
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.