Comedy Writing

Comedy writing is big business and many of the freelancers in the industry are highly paid. They are often seasoned players in the comedy world and well-trained as well.

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Indeed, creating jokes or bits is a skill that is learned and developed over time. Sure, stand-up artists like Louis CK or Chris Rock make it seem effortless. But their jokes follow certain structures and formulas, with the element of surprising driving most of the punchlines.

An old joke here should help illustrate,

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. His eyes are glazed and he doesn’t appear to be breathing. The other man calls emergency with his cell phone. He gasps to the operator, “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says in a calm, soothing voice, “Take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard.

The hunter is back on the phone and says, “OK, now what?”

Did you laugh after the “shot is heard”? That’s the surprise in the joke. It is an unexpected twist or turn. You think the story is going one way and then, surprise, it suddenly goes a different direction.  It triggers a chuckle as a burst of air is pushed out from the lungs. Just as with the uncontrollable spasms of a weeping widow, it is a physiological response or reaction to stimuli.