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Home » Archives » June 2007 » I Guess He Really Can't Drive
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06/21/2007: I Guess He Really Can't Drive

Okay, apparently I just can't leave this alone. I'm all hung up on this "I thought you said you could..." set-up. And it occurs to me that this is a really good exercise. Take a set-up and think of all the punches that you can to follow it. They don't have to be outright jokes, but should at least have some attitude to them. This is a pretty good simulation of what you do in a comedy writer's room, actually. On Ellen we were often all working in our offices simultaneously on the same jokes, generating lists that looked a lot like this:

I thought you said you could drive!
Yeah? Well, I thought shut up!


I thought you said you could drive!
It's two pedals! I assumed I could!


I thought you said you could drive!
I also said this was my real hair, so you knew I couldn't be trusted!


I thought you said you could drive!
We were talking about golf!

And so on forever. I'm not saying these are great, just that they exist. And that there are always more. Give it a try with another set-up. Something like "Are you wearing that?" or "Is this ketchup?" Go 'head, come up with as many as you can. And set the bar low. This exercise is about quantity, not quality.

And here's the big secret. This isn't really just about finding jokes. This is about finding possible attitudes for your characters. I mean, look at what the list above really represents. The first choice is petulent, the second is sort of absurdist, the third is flippant and the fourth is confrontational. Would I have considered all those colors if I'd approached the scene another way? I don't think so.

I knew jokes revealed character. Maybe they can also create it. Hmm...

Lunch: more bread and cheese and apples


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June 2007

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