Myq's joke writing process profiled by the New York TImes

"A Stand-Up Joke Is Born" takes a look at how Myq Kaplan developed this bit from nothing to Conan-ready in two months.



The most underestimated quality of successful stand-up comedians is how hard-working they are, which became clear as this joke evolved over two months. Stand-up is the rare form that usually requires test driving in public. [He] has since tried variations of his chivalry joke at about 80 performances. Almost every time, he tapes it, studies the results and jots down new ideas. That’s the job, he said, one he can’t imagine ever not doing.


Everyone talks about taping sets. But I'd say only 30% of comedians I see actually tape every set. And I'm guessing only 30% of those ever actually listen to the tapes. (I know when I'm done performing, the last thing I want to do is sit down and listen to myself.) Myq's work ethic to actually review all those performances is probably one of the things that helps him succeed.

Also, it's interesting how distilled the final joke is considering all the work and variations that went into it. It's as if a comedian builds an entire house just so he can present one window.

P.S. Myq is the only comic I know who will pull out his recorder in mid-conversation and speak into it in order to capture an idea. Trying to catch lightning in a bot-, er, recorder.

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3 Comment(s)

Blogger Kevin S. said...

“Also, it's interesting how distilled the final joke is considering all the work and variations that went into it. It's as if a comedian builds an entire house just so he can present one window.”

I saw Myq at the Laughing Skull in Atlanta last Saturday, and he did the expanded version of the joke that included a lot of the beats mentioned (eight coats, nine puddles; car door opening with “chivaaalry”, clothes on the floor, etc.) Knowing there’s a condensed version reminds me of the Newhart bailout point writing-style that’s been discussed here. Now Myq has a choice to go long or short with it depending on the crowd.

3/6/12, 2:31 PM  
Blogger myq said...

Thanks for posting, Matt, and commenting, Kevin.

I was going to say (and am about to say, and then will have said, let's say) that I do still perform an extended version of the joke in live sets, compared to the shorter version that ended up on Conan. So to say that the "final joke" is "distilled" is slightly misleading, because the TV version isn't the be-all-end-all.

Thanks again, to everyone who read, wrote about, and/or thought about the article.


PS Matt, I think you could have stopped at "lightning in a bot." Good turn of a phrase.

3/7/12, 1:18 AM  
Blogger Kara said...

Jason Zinoman and his comedy coverage for the Times may be the best thing that ever happened to still-learning comedians. The guy really has respect for the craft. Thanks Myq for being so open with your process! I think it takes a lot of humility to say "this is how hard I work." My ego still wants it to be the case that good stuff just "falls out of me." (It doesn't help when I hear about comedians who never write at home and just "write" on stage. Compare and despair!) It's really helpful to learn about a fellow tinkerer--it inspires me to tinker even more. Also, note: I am finding it super informative to video, not just audio record. I have REALLY unskillful habits that it's really good to be in reality about. I would tell a newbie video like crazy.

3/7/12, 6:06 PM