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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Books, Pamphlets & Lecture Notes » » Recommendations for Comedy-Writing books? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

crdshark86
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Can anyone recommend any books on comedy-writing, stand-up comedy, or improvisation? Appreciate it!
Ask me about Dan Harlan's Jam Sessions!
camron
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Judy carter's comedy bible is great!!!
RiffRaff
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Carter's other book (Stand-up Comedy: The Book) is also excellent. There is some overlap in both books. It has a great discussion on attitude.
Greg Dean's Step by Step to Stand-up Comedy is the best book for writing jokes.
The Comic Toolbox by Vorhaus will give you a broader understanding of comedy, comedy characters and different comedy structures.
Wanna know what it's like to be a comic? Watch Comedian (DVD) with Jerry Seinfeld. Outstanding documentary.
Then go out there and do it.
crdshark86
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I've studied Judy Carter- Not a fan of her teaching method. It's certainly A way to write jokes, but not the ONLY way. Thanks for the suggestions, though!
Ask me about Dan Harlan's Jam Sessions!
kozmic kettle
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The Comedy Writing Workbook by Gene Perret is about the best and most wide ranging book on writing comedy that I’ve come across. It seems to be out of print now but there are some cheap used copies on Amazon. The Naked Jape by Jimmy Carr (one of the UK’s most successful current comedians) and Lucy Greeves is not really intended as a “how to” book, but it’s a terrific exploration of jokes and the way that stand-up comedy works. Well worth reading. I think it’s also published in the States under the much less imaginative title of “Only Joking”.

I didn’t rate Greg Dean’s Step by Step to Stand-Up Comedy much. It’s just one very formulaic method of writing jokes and I thought the examples of the author’s own jokes written using the technique were very weak.

Having said all that, you can learn much more from studying top stand-up comedians and analysing what they do than you can from any book on the subject
Bill Palmer
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Here are a few things to consider.

1) If you aren't funny, no amount of study of any kind is going to make you into a successful stand-up comic. If you don't meet that single criterion, then don't waste your time and/or money.

2) If you are inherently funny, then you probably need some guidance concerning how to guide your inherent comedic talents. Some people who are inherently funny don't know where the lines are drawn and when to stop.

3) Comedy magic and stand-up comedy are not the same thing. With comedy magic, there are three goals.
a) be funny
b) fool the audience
c) use both of the above to entertain them.

4) Successful comedy magic combines magic and comedy in such a way that the magic doesn't get in the way of the comedy and the comedy doesn't get in the way of the magic. The two work together, and if done right, produce a synergistic effect.

5) There are good books on the subject of comedy writing that will help you that have not been mentioned here.
a)How to Be Funny by Steve Allen.
b)The Everything Guide to Comedy Writing by Mike Bent

I worked comedy clubs from 1982 well into the 1990's. I had a tight, funny, magical act, and I kept busy until I retired. I can't say that I know everything there is to know about comedy, but I know what worked for me. I experimented a lot at first, and I found that for me a relatively clean act was the key. By 1920's standards, some of my material would have been considered borderline "blue." But really blue material didn't fit my style.

I shared the bill with Louie Anderson, Shirley Hemphill and a whole bunch of other really wonderful comics.

When I started working comedy clubs, I started with the Laff Stop chain. There were three Laff Stops in Texas, and I opened all three of them. There were times when I had to follow a really bad opening act and bring the audience's energy up to where it was supposed to be. I was able to do this without any difficulty, because I knew how to make my audience like me. I never had the attitude that I was on an adversarial basis with my audience.

Kozmic kettle's advice to study top stand-up comedians is very good. However, if you don't understand the concepts of setup, punch line, timing, multiple kickers, thematic continuity and a host of other underlying comedic elements, you won't understand what you are analyzing. You must also understand that being a comedy magician requires that you understand acting and that you understand character development.

You can't just grab a book on how to write comedy and a handful of magic props and
sit down at your computer and write a show. If you want to understand comedy, don't just watch stand-up comics. Watch sitcoms as well.

When I started working comedy clubs in the early 1980's, the comedy club craze was just beginning to take off. There were about 25 comedy clubs in the US. Each one required three acts, an opener, a middle act and a headliner. The magician was usually the middle act, although in some cases, such as Harry Anderson, he might be the headliner. There were about 75 stand-up comics. Within a decade, there were about 3000 comedy clubs of various types. Some were in hotels and were "active" only on weekends. Others were full-time comedy clubs. But there werent 9000 comics to fill the bills. There were still only about 75 comics.

There were a lot of wannabees, though. And most of them weren't funny at all.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
puggo
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What an great, informative post Bill.

John Archer has his 'Comedy Writing Workshop Notes' available for a very modest price from his website http://www.john-archer.com; and he is a very funny writer performer.

Charlie
Bill Palmer
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I really like John's work. I know him, and I have seen him perform on a number of occasions. There was an article about him in a recent issue of Genii, I think. Either that or the Magic Circular. It answered a lot of the questions that people who are trying to get into comedy and/or comedy magic usually have.

I worked the comedy clubs for about a dozen years. At a certain point, they couldn't afford me any more, and I didn't want to hit the road to work a week here, travel 1000 miles, work a week there, etc.

One of the best compliments I ever got was when I asked the owner of a local comedy club why she hadn't approached me to work at her place. She said, "I didn't think I could afford you."

I'm going to let you in on one of my pet secrets.

When you get ready to do a comedy act or a comedy magic act, the first thing you MUST do is to figure out who your character is. Then you get into character and let the character write the script.

If you are laboring under the delusion that "Larry the Cable Guy" is the actual person who is doing the character, you are way off. His real name is Daniel Lawrence Whitney. He is NOTHING like Larry.

Jeff Foxworthy, on the other hand, is really playing someone very close to his real self when he does his shows.

So it varies from performer to performer.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
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