How to be Funny by Learning What is not Funny
Remember the line where a sculptor is asked how he carved an elephant out of a piece of rock? He says that he simply cut away all the pieces that didn’t look like an elephant. There is a degree of similarity in this elephant from rock approach to learning how to be as funny as one’s innate comedic ability will allow.
On stage, the best way to learn how to be funny is to study your moments of the bombing. The same can be true of social situations in which you might be trying to create a few laughs, and instead get a few puzzled – or annoyed – stares. There is as much, and probably more, to be learned from your comedic failures than from your successes. Particularly in stand-up, too many times a comic tends to throw aside his or her bad nights or lines and concentrate on expanding on the things that did work.
In social situations, many times the funny falls short because the wannabe comedian is trying too hard. If the line that you know is actually funny isn’t there, don’t scramble around and throw out anything just because the opportunity presents itself. If you do, instead of being funny, you will sound like you scrambled around and threw out anything just because the opportunity presented itself.
Whether being socially or professionally comedic, try and get a feel for your audience. In social situations, that’s pretty easy and opens up great opportunities for inside humour that always kicks butt. If you happen to know that cousin Darla cries every time the flying monkeys pull off the scarecrow’s legs, that opens up great possibilities for insider barbs. When on stage, you may have to learn on the fly what type of sense of humour is possessed by the crowd.
Because a line killed one time, don’t think it’s a shoe-in for every performance or smart-aleck remark. By the same token, because something bombs once do not necessarily mean that it’s not funny. Along with the particular tastes of the audience that heard the joke, there is the possibility that timing or delivery may have been off just a bit. Whether the situation is social or professional, timing and delivery are the whole ball game.
Doing stand-up comedy requires not only a thick skin but a lot of years of trial and error. It is not of a lot of value to regurgitate all of the common and practical advice, such as the obvious one of getting on stage as much as possible. Professional lessons may help with one’s timing and delivery, but don’t believe that there is a roadmap to becoming a successful stand-up comic.