Thursday, December 30, 2010

Learning Comedy Part 1 - Dissecting George Carlin and Sam Kinison



As I have mentioned a few times before, I've been recently dipping my toes in the comic world. So far, so good on stage and in the classroom. Unfortunately however, it has come at the expense of this blog. My posting rate has gone down approximately 33% since I started doing the comedy thing. Instead of reading my wit and wisdom nearly every other day, you have only had roughly two posts a week of my pointed and powerful prose.

So in an effort to leverage my synergy, fully exploit my processes, and migrate completely out-of-the-box, I've decided to use this blog for some of my comic endeavors. Specifically, as I read and go through the highly recommended book "Comedy Writing Secrets" by Mel Helitzer, I'll be posting the exercises here.

Lesson 1: List my 10 favorite comedians and find a joke or quote from each. Then dissect the joke: find the subject/target and explain why it is funny.

#1) George Carlin

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

Subject/Target: Society

Why it is funny: Carlin takes an excepted saying, "the average person", and analyzes it. By accepting the truth that the "average person" exists, he posits that this "average" should be at the 50% point. Hence, 50% are smarter and 50% are stupider. Carlin also bonds with his audience by deriding this average person. He says "them", which assumes that his audience is "we", and that they must be above the average because the audience is there with him.

#2) Sam Kinison

"If you want to stop world hunger, stop sending them food. Don't send these people another bit folks. You want to send them something, you want to help? Send them U-hauls. Send them U-hauls, some luggage, and send them a guy that goes 'Hey, we've been driving out here every day with your food for the last thirty or forty years, and we were driving out here, through the desert and it occurred to us that there wouldn't be world hunger if you people lived where the food is! Get out of the desert! You live in a fucking desert! Nothing grows out here! Nothings gonna grow out here! Come here you see this huh? This is sand. You know what it's going to be in another hundred years from now? It's gonna be sand!' 'Get your kids, get your shit... We'll take you to where the food is! We have deserts in America, we just don't live in them ass hole!'"

(YouTube here.)

Subject/Target: Starving Africans

Why it's funny: Kinison took the idea of starving people and flipped it. He first brought the crowd down by taking a controversial stance - that we should not help someone. Then he proposed an alternate solution, one that while funny, makes perfect sense. He looked at the situation from a different, non-conventional angle. Kinison also employed the us vs. them idea. That they must be fools for their current predicament and that since we must help them, we might as well do it to avoid future problems.

Numbers 3 & 4 tomorrow!

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