In my experience it seems like there's an iceberg of shitty comedy. At the top of that iceberg is the hacks; beneath the surface are open mikers that have jokes that are not funny mainly because their jokes lack clarity. Most comedians when they start out struggle with clarity. Truthfully, I feel this is what separates the successful comics from the unsuccessful ones.
Paul F. Tompkins has a six minute joke about peanut brittle. Since he is a master, he focuses specifically on the unlikelihood of someone opening a can of peanut brittle and not expecting it to be snakes in a can. A lesser comic would have gone off on a tangent regarding how bad it tastes or they would have thrown in some lazy non sequitur about robots or ninjas.
So what are your thoughts on how clarity affects comedic development?
Interestingly, I wasn't completely clear on what this question was asking. So I asked him what he meant by "clarity" exactly. His answer, "I mean a joke that is clear to the audience. The set-up serves the punchline and vice-versa. The audience has to know what the fuck you are talking about. In other words, don't babble."
Which seems like he kinda answered his own question. I agree. Don't babble.
In fact, editing seems to me perhaps a bigger issue than clarity. Any word that's not the funny part or leading to the funny part is a waste of time. As soon as someone goes onstage and enters storyteller-without-jokes mode or just seems to be talking without making any point, I tune out. Get in, get out, and move on.
Also, I don't think clarity is the main problem for most people starting out. I think it's that they're not interesting. They don't have interesting views. They don't have anything they really need to get off their chest. They're not saying anything surprising. They're not compelling. They just want to be on a stage. Yawn.
Labels: about standup
Permalink | 6/21/2010