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Home » Archives » February 2008 » Another Bite of That Onion
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02/23/2008: Another Bite of That Onion

I think you should listen to an episode of This American Life called Tough Room that includes a fascinating visit to the offices of The Onion, including an actual
session in the room, and lots of discussion about which jokes work and which don't.

I recommend that you listen to this segment. This room feels very similar to some comedy rooms I've been in and very different from others, but even if you're just sitting at home writing jokes to put into your spec script, I think you'll find it useful for jump-starting your own thinking about what makes a joke work.

I particularly enjoy the discussion of the joke "Thirsty Mayor Drinks Town's Entire Water Supply." The hypothesis is that the joke works because it's actually not randomly silly, but is instead a silly version of a story about misappropriation of public resources. The joke works because it means something.

There is also a wonderful discussion of why the proposed headline, "Nation's Girlfriends Complain about Lack Of Quality Time," feels tired, while "Local Man Complains Girlfriend Always Wanting to do Stuff" works, even though they appear to be the same joke.

The answer is that the first version is nothing more than a very old observation about women's demands while in relationships, while the second version is a less-used joke about a very specific kind of man who prefers not to go out and engage in activities. Yes. That sounds like the right analysis to me -- I love it when logic agrees with instinct.

Follow the link. You'll get room experience just from listening.

Lunch: the "Mexican Scramble" at Jerry's Deli


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February 2008

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