Comic Relief

I’ve had mixed feelings about Comic Relief since the arms trade scandal in 2013, and it makes me wonder where that story went. It’s all a bit Orwellian.

In Animal Farm, the animals start a revolution, emancipating themselves from human domination, but by the end become just like humans.

The Comic Relief scandal was like that, but instead of animals, piles of cash.

Here’s the plot:

Evil piles of cash create inequality and suffering in the world.

Good pile of cash is assembled to fight injustices created by evil piles of cash.

Good pile of cash ends up being just like evil piles of cash.

I think the moral of the story is that we need to keep assembling giant piles of cash, and then maybe one day, one of them will end up being nice.

Or maybe the moral of the story is if you enfranchise enough potential critics, memories fade.

Makes me think of the Milan Kundera line:

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”


The Other Way To Get A Laugh

Yesterday, I mentioned my old improv teacher told us there were only two ways to get a laugh. The first one was covered yesterday.

The second way to get a laugh (I was told) is reincorporation.

That could be as simple as a comedian harking back to a thing she introduced earlier in her routine. The second time she brings it up, the context has changed and this change makes us see the original thing in a new light, inducing laughter.

It doesn’t have to be a thing brought up in the routine. It could be a thing already in the consciousness of the audience.

If I parody a famous singer, as well as dropping the status of the famous person (satisfying, as mentioned yesterday) it’s also a type of reincorporation. You’ve heard it before, now I’m using it in a different way.

I’d say observational comedy falls into the reincorporation category. The comedian is making you see a thing that you’ve seen a million times before, but making you realise you hadn’t truly seen it until you saw it the way the comedian saw it.

I guess some musical comedy is a type of observational comedy. “Have you noticed (x) sounds like (y)?”

Maybe if you’re having trouble with a joke, it could be that you’re not lowering the status of someone or something (your target might not be one your audience can build hostility towards), or you’re not reincorporating, because you’re making an observation about a thing that’s not in your audience’s consciousness at the moment that it needs to be.

If you’ve been doing stand-up, this might be stuff you’ve already worked out, but hopefully I’m saying it in a way you may not have heard before.

Reincorporation without the laughs!

PS If anyone has anything to add to this, I would love to hear from you.


Joke Stealing: The Upside

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

…So wrote Upton Sinclair. What a great line. It’s witty and insightful. Steal it. Use it. Everybody does. That’s why it’s so famous.

I used to sell clothes to people who had shops for a friend of mine. I sold T-shirts and fleeces with designs on them, drawn by my friend, who was a talented and funny artist.

Her designs got ripped off a few times by greetings card companies, but there was one design that was just un-stealable.

It was so her style, you’d have to rip the whole thing off, which would mean becoming her. Which was impossible.

I’ve noticed if I want to tell a Johnny Vegas joke, or a Dom Irrera joke, or a Mike Wilmot joke, or a Rich Hall* joke to someone, I pretty much have to mimic the comedian in question.

It’s like an anti-piracy device built in to the material. You have to add the persona (and thereby crediting the creator).

I don’t quite know what it all means, but if you make a thing that’s as utterly nickable and costless to steal as a great joke, you may as well get something out of it. Like Upton Sinclair. You might read some of his other stuff now.

Couple of thoughts:

1) Is there any way you can inject a bit more you into your more spreadable stuff?

2) And which of your lines only work when you’re behind it? Maybe that’s a signpost to your next joke**.

People used to tell me there was a guy on the circuit doing one of my jokes (good luck with that!). He’s probably in another line of work now.

I reckon if the joke was so steal-able, my mission should be to make the next thing I come up with more unique to me. It’s about the only thing I can control.

Don’t get me wrong, I would definitely try and sue if I thought I could get some dosh out of it, and I’m sure there’d be lawyer out there willing to take my money to try, even if it was futile.

It’s difficult to get a person to see the futility of a thing when their income depends on them not seeing it.

*There he is again! Sorry, regular readers!

**This is just my home-spun rubbish. Remember the Golden Rule – don’t listen to anyone!