Writing jokes for stand up comedy is specific to the performer. It’s a performance art, so the writing should consider how the joke will be delivered. There are a few rules that help for a good routine on stage, though not a guarantee.
- Be original. Stealing other comedian’s jokes is a big no no, even if you can do the joke better than the guy who wrote it first. However, there is such a thing as parallel thinking. This is why having your distinct point of view about a topic is essential in creating unique material.
- When you write, keep in mind how you’re actually going to say it onstage. A lot of times, the written material is hilarious but falls flat when performed live. Delivery is about 90% of the routine. Read out the lines as you write them to give you a better idea of how it will translate in your performance.
- Write from the heart. This goes hand in hand with being original. You have to believe in what you’re saying. Let’s say you’re a good looking guy and you’re complaining about being ugly, nobody will believe you. Your routine will probably seem bogus to people and you probably won’t get the laughs. Instead, complain about how difficult it is being a handsome guy. People assume you’re dumb just because you have a beautiful face. Duh?
- When in doubt or can’t seem to make a good punch line, make use of the tried and tested punch line tools. These include: rule of 3s, misdirection, exaggeration, mix and match, callbacks, etc. These are devices that help you create a punch line for a set up. Though this article will not cover each one, they are basic to a comedian’s arsenal.
- Keep writing. You have to be disciplined in writing. Not all of your material will be funny, but if you have enough material you will find that a good percentage of it will be. So keep writing regularly and you will find gems. It’s a muscle you have to keep exercising. The more jokes you write, the better your sense of humor will become. Join a writing group that submits a minimum number of jokes every week.
Doing stand up is hard work, but it is also a lot of fun. If you are enjoying yourself on stage as you’re telling your jokes, so will the audience.