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Bob Baker
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At Ony's request, here's a new thread for sharing tips on how we develop material. I'll start.

I write most of my material in the shower, driving, or walking the dog. Really! I find that I start doing a routine and jokes start to come. I write them down as soon as I can (and unfortunately forget some jokes that I' sure were good).

I practice the routine again and again, first in front of the mirror, and then on tape. Following the advice of Bill DeMar, I practice in 3 parts. First, I just learn the lines and do the routine without the figure. I am working on lip control and my own facial expressions here. That is, I need to learn to react one way with my face while the figure is saying something entirely different. Next, I start doing the routine with the figure, working primarily on his/her manipulation and facial expressions. Finally, I put it all together. Once I have it working in the mirror, I go to videotape. Here, I always do the routine straight through without stopping, trying to simulate a performance situation. If I mess up, I cover and keep going.

However, going back to Ony's point, the only way to develop a routine is in front of an audience. Only there can you get the timing right. And timing is everything. Jokes that I think are hilarious may get zero response; lines that are toss-offs get a good response. If a line is not working, I'll try it differently in a few performances to try to get it to work. (Sometimes I become too enamored of a line and only remove it when a friend at a performance tells me it's not working.)

I record every single performance. I video if I can; if not, I record it on my iPhone with a program called iTalk. Then I listen again and again to what went well, and, more importantly, what did not. Recently I saw a tape where I allowed a laugh to go on a bit too long before delivering the follow-up line. In that performance the follow-up got less of a laugh than usual.

Finally, I am never satisfied. I try to make the next performance better than the last one. Some performances have been downright painful for me to watch, but I make myself do it. I figure out what went wrong and correct it for next time.

That's one of the thrills of performing--knowing that next time will be better.

That's it for me for now.

OK, guys and gals, your turns.....

Bob
Ony Carcamo
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First, the stock (or "public-owned") jokes. I use them, but in my characters' context, weaved in with my original materials. I don't think it's bad to use these jokes, as long as you don't copy those that are being used already by performers in your area.

Next, the original materials. I start writing ONLY when the character/personality of my figure is already solid and 3D enough for me. I found out that some materials write itself very easily when I know my figures very well.

Then I practice the new material at home countless times. When I feel ready, I perform them in front of live audiences. I make sure I record (at least the audio) of ALL my shows so that I can review them again and again.
Ony Carcamo
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ColinDymond
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I'm waiting for a Dan Payes old man to arrive, it's taken a while and in that time I've been running through my script in my head. I always run a new part of my show like a movie in my head before I even start with the charcter or props if it's a trick. If you get to know what the movie should look like then you can just step in and play the part!
It also works well if you are thinking of buying something new, if you can completely visualise how you will look with the figure and see it working, or not, you wont spend too much on wasted props. It doesn't always work completely but it helps.
tacrowl
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There has been a wave of "ethical-correctness" going through the variety arts community for several years. People have openly (not here) accused others of stealing when they have no idea where an idea even originated.

Lets start with the basics. I think everyone would agree it is wrong to steal a routine or character - period. But what if it gives you an idea? Then ask permission. Its that easy.

In my act, I incorporated a routine I originally saw Darren Carr perform on his DVD. I liked the idea, but it wasn't right for my style - so I re-wrote the bit. Because the bit hinged on the same concept, I contacted Darren, sent him the script and asked permission. Had he said no, I would have dropped it - instead, he told me to go ahead - and gave me further details on the original idea.

I mention that because recently a friend asked me why I bothered if I had re-written the routine. It was because the bit started on the same premise. Doing the right thing is easy if you just try.

I had to laugh when Bob said he came up with stuff in the shower. So do I. Seriously, it's a great place to practice. I find when jumping back and forth between myself and the character I come up with new ideas. The best way to develop material is to be yourself - or become the character you have created. Look at the world with your unique sense of humor and you will have tons of material - then refine it until it is great. Use video, then watch it - repeatedly. I still tape 90% of my shows. Unfortunately, getting "tight" requires being in front of an audience. If you don't have shows, it is tough to get good.

If your not funny? Then why are you doing comedy? I'm sorry - that is an extremely harsh sounding line - but its something you should ask yourself.
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Neale Bacon
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I find a lot of material by asking myself a lot of "what if" questions about my characters.

For example, what if Horton Hogg wanted to do magic? What if Gus had a really bad memory? and then expanding on it.
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Bob Baker
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I heartily agree with Tom about obtaining permission from creators even if all they have done is inspire you. Case in point: In his "It's Alive" show, Steve Petra has an extremely funny routine with a talking stomach. Now, in real life I'm a gastroenterologist. Steve inspired me to want to create a talking colon puppet. Before doing so, I contacted him to request his permission. I didn't know Steve, and our audiences would never intersect, but I felt he had the right to refuse to allow me to make any part of the digestive tract speak. Steve graciously granted me permission, and I've had a lot of fun with the colon for the right audiences.

In magic there is unfortunately a lot of appropriation of others' material. The logic seems to be "if I can figure out the method, I can do the trick." Of course, that's wrong. The magic community has not, in my opinion, sufficiently castigated those who appropriate others' material. In comedy clubs, if you use another comic's line, you are banned. Many years ago I saw Bud Shulman physically kick a comic out of the Improv for using another comic's material.

Several months ago I saw on an agent's web site a ventriloquist who had clearly modeled an old man figure on Walter, right down to the crossed arms. I was simply stunned at the chutzpah. Fortunately, I think that Jeff Dunham has gotten so big that anyone would recognize this other guy as a rip-off artist.

Bob
tacrowl
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Bob -
Thanks for pointing out the old man modeled on Walter. You may be right - copying is easier than developing your own character - but that brings us to another excellent topic.

I've heard a lot of discussion about the creation of Walter. The "original" was a creation of Bill Nelson. He created the old man figure that Jeff started playing with at VentHaven. Jeff wanted to buy full rights to the design but balked at Bill's price. The next year, Jeff introduced Walter - and many felt it was darn close to Bill's figure. From the WorldVent posts - Bill never got a penny. So who took what?

Without a doubt - Walter's character is Jeff's creation. Where did he get the concept? Did he ask Bill or appropriate the look on his own? Would this other vent mentioned by Bob be accused of copying Jeff? Or copying Bill? Or would Bill have given the other vent permission to use that look and we aren't privy to that info? Would the other vent's character personality be different enough to make it completely different? After all, if Jeff isn't copying - why would this guy be? Just because he isn't as famous?

Comics tend to be the same way. Bob provided an excellent example, but there are stories of Carlos Mencia being confronted by other comics while on stage at clubs. Samples of his TV show vs. the original acts he supposedly copied are out there. Yet Carlos is working and most people have no clue who the other guys are. His name gets people in the door - I'm not certain how many clubs have banned him. With the money earned from his show - I'm not certain he would care.

So it isn't just magic - it is almost every variety art form. The reasons I mentioned above are just some of the reasons "ethical-correctness" is a great goal to strive for. Care must be taken when trying to apply it to others. We are the ones that have to live with our decisions.

Not saying anyone is right or wrong - these are just thoughts and questions that rattle around in my mind...
Tom
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Ony Carcamo
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Quote:
On 2009-02-23 22:27, Bob Baker wrote:
In comedy clubs, if you use another comic's line, you are banned. Many years ago I saw Bud Shulman physically kick a comic out of the Improv for using another comic's material.

Bob



I've seen a local novice comic here banned--not just by the clubs but by the group he belonged--because he stole another local comic's material.

We all know developing original comedy material is soooooo hard. Developing characters is also not a quicky. That's why it's understandable that we feel so disappointed when we see others just copying what we created from blood, sweat, and tears.
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Bob Baker
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Very interesting comments, thoughts, and anecdotes from all. Thanks so much!

It is unfortunately true, in all areas of entertainment, I suspect, that success makes one somewhat invulnerable to charges of stealing. In comedy another example is Dane Cook, who is almost universally despised by working comics for lifting routines from Louis CK. [Personally, I just don't think Cook is funny.] But being despised has not kept Cook from filling stadiums and making oodles of money.

Regarding Jeff, I've heard the same story from Bill Nelson himself, who is not a member of the JD fan club. Also, on his 2nd DVD, Jeff gives the impression that he created Melvin the Super Hero, even though the puppet was originally created by Kristin L, who gets a brief credit in the speed-of-light credits at the end.

In show business, like everywhere else, life is not always fair.

Bob
marshalldoll
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I believe as you said Tom, Jeff created a Character but without Bill Nelson's Mr Horowitz for him to go by Walter never would have existed. I too have spoken to Bill Nelson at great length and he will never be happy about the fact that Jeff ripped him off for the figures looks. I also know that the amount of money was not so large that jeff couldn't have afforded paying Bill for the rights. I think it was wrong on Jeff's part but hey he is a star now and only we few in the vent community know about this subject.
Dan
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tacrowl
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Didn't know about Dane Cook - I'm not a huge fan of his - the "funny" somehow escapes me. Must be there though - otherwise he wouldn't be filling those arenas.

Thanks for letting me have my little tirade on ethical-correctness. With so many areas of gray, double standards and the unknown permissions out there, I just feel it is wrong to accuse or slam anyone. If you see a situation - do the entire community a favor by finding out the facts before saying anything. Even if just asking the "offender" (who would probably be embarrassed if it is stolen) or pointing it out to the "originator" or people you felt were wronged.

It is so easy to ask - and most performers are pretty generous - so just do it. You may end up getting additional feedback that makes the bit even stronger. Steve Petra is an excellent example of some one who gives inspiration to the community. Don't just assume "its out there", ask permission.

Now that I've got that bug out of my ... the topic was developing material. Anybody here have success with Killer Comedy?
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AC Vent
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One problem I have with devoloping material, is sometimes I come up with something I just know is going to kill...

Then I start wondering, wait a minute, did I actually come up with this, or just rip it off from something I saw a long time ago..maybe from an old Bergen tape..or that episode of the Winchell show.....or years ago watching a Conan monologue....or....you get the picture...

For this reason, I don't have a problem with someone using someone else's line, or two, or a joke or two. Now if you go on for 5 minutes with the exact same routine, then that would be a potential problem.

I have a feeling if you sat down and watched several straight hours of the masters of vent, from Lester,to Bergen to Winchell, to Nelson, along with today's vents, you might find quite a few similar jokes and lines in their routines, but again, a big difference in identical small portions, and an entire routine.

AC
Neale Bacon
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I do have one more comment on asking permission. I saw Steve Petruzella doing a cute multiplying egg bit with one of his puppets and thought it would be funny for my bird.
I know his routine had it's basis in the multiplying sponge balls, but since he was using eggs, I asked him if it was OK for me to adapt it and he said no problem.
I also do a bit in my show with the human puppet. Mask issue aside..the routine I use is almost the same as the late Peter Rolston (my mentor) but I do the routine as a tribute to Peter and tell the audience so.
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Matt_24
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I've spoken with Bill about the subject - and I think he is more at piece with it now, than he was...say...20 years ago.

Bill even complimented Jeff's abilities. I mean, Jeff is one of the funniest out there right now. Who wouldn't compliment him.

Anyway, honestly....according to copyright law Jeff could not have "purchased" the copyright from Bill. Bill is the original artist, and owns the copyright until something like...75 years after he dies would Mr. Horowitz have come into the public domain. He could have purchased user rights - but that is a different ball of wax.

Hey - Sweet Daddy D was originally a Selberg "Bully" character. He made his own version for the DVD. Guess who was the first to use that figure, and use him as a PIMP....can you guess....did you say JOHN PIZZI? You are correct.

MELVIN was most definitely a Kristin L....not Jeff's original design. Achmed is original, but he was heavily influenced from two artists. "Mr Deadguy" (ever seen Baby Cheezwhits) and Robert McRay (of Bighead fame). Of course, if anyone saw Mr. Deadguy's skeleton figure now they would say, "Hey, you're ripping off Jeff Dunham." Nope...Mr Deadguy was the FIRST to do that.

So...there is nothing truly new under the sun.
tacrowl
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AC,
You make an excellent point! It is sometimes hard to figure out exactly where an idea or joke comes from. There is also parallel thinking. Some situations simply offer an obvious response.

Matt - when I said full rights, I should have said exclusive. Sorry. Same reason Jeff remade Melvin & Sweet Daddy - he doesn't want potential problems to arise from people using the same exact figures.

Tom
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Ony Carcamo
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Quote:
On 2009-02-24 08:49, marshalldoll wrote:
I believe as you said Tom, Jeff created a Character but without Bill Nelson's Mr Horowitz for him to go by Walter never would have existed. I too have spoken to Bill Nelson at great length and he will never be happy about the fact that Jeff ripped him off for the figures looks. I also know that the amount of money was not so large that jeff couldn't have afforded paying Bill for the rights. I think it was wrong on Jeff's part but hey he is a star now and only we few in the vent community know about this subject.
Dan
http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com


With Jeff's wealth now, I'm so sure he can afford to pay Bill Nelson, etc. Why not do so and end the controversy?

Tom, I believe killercomedy's approach to writing stand-up comedy material is the best out there. Really a contrarian approach. It teaches, for example, how to write comedy material WITHOUT using jokes!
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ColinDymond
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Ive seen two clips on you tube one with Ron Lucas and scortch and one with Silvia Markson with her dragon both doing the "you missed reheasal" bit it's almost word for word. Can anybody shed some light on this?
tacrowl
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Colin,
E-mail Sylvia and Ronn and ask them how the bit was developed. Unless someone has seen the routine in print, there is no way we could shed light on it. It could be a classic example of a "stock line", parallel thinking (not that huge a stretch), permissions granted, or stolen material. Only they can tell you.

If it is something you'd like to add to your show - then either re-write the concept and change it, or contact them to get permission. Since they both use the same bit almost word for word - they should be able to tell you the background on the routine.
Tom
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Ony Carcamo
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I've also seen Sylvia Markson did with her dragon the "How far can you fly?--How far can you throw me?" bit, which Jeff Dunham exactly used with his Melvin character.

I guess, with permission, one can use the same bit as long as he's not performing it in the same area where he first heard of the bit.

Oh no, we may not know the real origin of these things.
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Wanlu
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Parallel thinking is so common in ventriloquism...often mistaken as stealing or copying.
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