Our not-so-tame Saskatchewanian, Anil, has spent his entire L.A. lifetime in the local comedy club scene. Time now for a short report on what he’s learned:
To save aspiring comedians and comedy writers a lifetime of awkward silence from their sensitive comedy brethren, TVWriter.Com presents the simple rules for navigating the minefield of Joke Court. Take these rules to work-out rooms, smokey patios and dive restaurants full of funny people assured justice will always be served.
The Rules of Joke Court
- Make sure you’re in court. Even if it seems like a fellow comedian is asking for help, s/he may not be. Sure, s/he just said, “I really need help fixing this joke” out loud, but the subtext was “I’m dying on stage and the universal panic move of all comedians is to narrate their own act. I know I’m in the toilet, but I’m thinking out loud. Don’t interrupt me.” Always ask if you can make a suggestion, and only when the performer seems ready and receptive.
- Listen. Nothing helps less than notes on material no one heard but you.
- Don’t confuse style with mechanics. Sometimes a joke falls flat because it doesn’t fit a comedian’s POV, or has meandered structure. Don’t offer your version of the joke. Focus on the mechanics, and help shape their version of the joke. It will help your writing immensely.
- All records are sealed. A spitballing session can quickly turn into a heated, explicit debate about politics, sexual deviancy, criminal behaviour or religious beliefs. Don’t get offended. Don’t judge. Don’t take the transcript out in public. Some of the best material comes in the worst mess, but you’ll never find it without a safe place to do the digging.
- Everything is on the record. If you want to use something funny that came up in conversation, ask. Let it be known you’re interested in developing the gag. If there’s a dispute over who’s ‘brilliant idea’ it is, drop it. There’s no shortage of funny in the world. Something else will come along.
- Don’t hold grudges. The people who give you the best notes are the ones who genuinely want you to be your funniest. Consider all options.
- The judge’s ruling is final. Even if the jury hates it, the comedian who wrote the bit passes the final sentence. If s/he wants to stick with it, don’t push prosecution after the gavel’s been dropped.
EDITED BY TVWriter™ TO ADD THE FOLLOWING 2nd THOUGHT: Okay, so you might not want to use these rules in this particular workout room/club: