Creativity vs Dependability

Sometimes life’s confusing.

The world wants you to be as reliable as an assembly line worker, but with the flair of an artist.

Best I can offer today – Ernest Hemingway*:

“Write drunk, edit sober.”

*(Shhh. Let’s just enjoy the quote before we start worrying that Hemingway never actually said this.

There seems to be a debate about where the exact line came from. I’m not seeing a solid conclusion.

Maybe the moral is: “Write drunk, edit drunk, do your tags sober.”)

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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.

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Jeremy Clarkson – Why The Laughs?

There only two ways to get a laugh, my old improv teacher said to us.

One is status drop*.

Imagine the scene. Jeeves (a valet) and Wooster (his boss) are in a room. Jeeves acts deferentially (verbally and non-verbally), tidying up after Wooster, hanging on his every word.

Wooster acts regally. Fluid, deliberate movements. He doesn’t even make eye-contact with Jeeves, to signal how in control of his own space he is, as he holds forth on some Society enemy.

Jeeves (respectfully, in an effort to please) breaks into Wooster’s monologue and offers some valuable information about Wooster’s enemy, and hints there is more.

Wooster now changes his physical behaviour. His movements and speech patterns are less fluid, he makes eye contact, maybe deigns to touch Jeeves on the arm. His confidence is gone. Wooster has something he wants.

I was taught this is called “status”. We were taught to think of the two players in the scene as being on a see-saw. One’s up, the other’s down.

When the arrangement is reversed, and the see-saw tips, there’s a laugh to be had. The high-status person has dropped and the low-status person is elevated.

Famous people are high-status. If they make themselves humble or contribute in way people like, it’s harder to drop their status.

If they bang on about “eco-mentalists”, or suggest we should shoot striking public-sector workers in front of their families, or put nuclear waste on the Rainbow Warrior, some people are going to enjoy a laugh at their expense.

This might be why people are enjoying the occasional Jeremy Clarkson joke today.

*I’ll talk about the other one tomorrow

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Change For The Change-Resistant

I was on a train once and it went past a piece of graffiti.

It said, “Routine is the enemy of creativity.”

I thought, “That sounds great and true. I must endeavour to take it on board.”

Then I got off the train and went and did my stand-up routine.

I’m just not having a wall tell me what to do.

But seriously… If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, it’s all very well people (and walls) advising you to make a change, but the rut always comes at a time when you’re feeling least energetic and adventurous.

The low-energy quick fix for me is to change the inputs. Maybe listen to some music or spoken word you haven’t heard in ages, reconnect with who you were when you first loved it.

I prefer audio, because it puts pictures in your head. Just that little bit of work from your mind can get things going. There are some great podcasts out there, ask someone who knows you for a recommendation.

Other than that, take the pressure off, be nice to yourself and ride it out. Sorry to state the obvious, but you can’t plan spontaneity.

Lastly, if you’ve made a commitment to publish every day, the rut is just something you ride over.

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