B. J. Novak says comedians naturally gravitate toward the laughs. “Only say what you think is funny,” he says. “Only keep what they think is funny.”
Jim Gaffigan says he and his wife spend hours ripping apart a topic for jokes. “There can even be some that aren’t A’s, but within the context of other jokes they can survive. That’s how George Carlin did things,” Gaffigan says. “It’s about getting all the chicken off the bone.”
Bob Newhart builds “escape hatches,” he says. “If I get past the first bail-out point and the routine is still working, I go to the next.” Paul F. Tompkins says, “I let the actual phrasing of the idea come to me onstage, to keep it as conversational as possible.”
"Escape hatch" = good way to put that. Those extra tags can sing if the crowd's up for it. But if not, you're best off bailing while you still got 'em a little bit. Can totally see how Newhart would need some exit points in his one-sided phone call routines.
Hardwick also advises, "Never analyze comedy in public. It makes you look like a douche." I agree. This whole blog is one giant exercise in me looking like a douche.
Over at his Nerdist.com blog, Hardwick mentions the toughest thing for him about the piece.
The toughest thing for me with this piece was allowing my stand-up notebook to be photographed. A comic’s notebook is half Tome of Spells and half diary, but like a child’s drawing it only makes sense to the artist. I always fear that if I leave it in a hotel room, whoever finds it is going to misinterpret its disparate ramblings as those of a serial killer’s (I have the words “Grandpa Soapy Handjob” sloppily written down. I have no idea what it means.). I would almost rather have had my penis photographed than my notebook. I think the below picture is the comic’s equivalent to that first Playboy shoot for a corn-fed Midwestern girl–I’m allowing the world to see my soul’s tits.
Here's the shot of his notebook:
Here's a page from my current notebook. I usually keep set lists/stuff to try at shows on the left side and random ideas on the right.