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Home » Archives » April 2007 » I Finally Get Why Some Joke Writers Don't Want To Talk About It
[Previous entry: "Smelling like a thing and another thing!"] [Next entry: "Don't Just Stare. Stare AT Something."]

04/19/2007: I Finally Get Why Some Joke Writers Don't Want To Talk About It

A big thank you to the wonderful group at USC that had me out to answer questions for them this evening. I had a blast! One of the questions made me think about what makes a good joke writer.

There are two ways to be a good joke writer. One way is to be a person-who-says-funny-things. Most sitcom writers fall into this category. They don't like to analyze jokes because they don't want to ruin what happens naturally by thinking about it. It's like when you think too hard about how you're typing -- I'm not thinking 'b,' I'm just reaching for the 'b', so where is the 'b'?? -- and then suddenly you can't type. These sorts of people write jokes by thinking of funny things and then writing them down. (By the way, this is a new revelation for me. I never really understood why some joke writers were so scared of joke-analysis. But once I realized how unconscious their process truly is, I got it.)

The other way to do it is the analytical way, like I do. If you don't think of yourself as a "funny person," this is the way to approach the job. Analyze jokes, take them apart, put them in categories, find the key to what makes them work. If you have a sense of humor, which is to say, if you laugh at other people's jokes, you can learn to do this. This is how the rest of us write jokes. We don't write a joke and then figure out afterwards why it's funny. Instead, we think of what a funny attitude would be for a character to have, and then construct a joke that reflects it.

Know which kind of person you are. There's no shame either way. The first kind of person does fantastically well in a sitcom room, where speed is valued. But the second kind of person does well in some sitcom rooms and almost every other kind of room as well.

Lunch: pumpkin-filled raviolis at Ca Del Sole, right near Universal. Sooooo delish!


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