Not everyone feels they are funny or have the ability to tell a good joke. Read through my prompts and see if you can get your inner joker to come out and play. Only then will you be fully equipped to make your coworkers or audience members laugh.
1. Your life
Writing jokes and writing in general are most genuine and fun when you share what you have personally experienced. List some of your quirky personality traits, like how you can’t sit and eat cereal, socks and underwear must be in two separate drawers, or how you can’t take a shower until you sing your favorite song five times. Your audience sees you as a peculiar creature and wants to verify how different they are from you and to squirm when they completely relate to every word you say.
2. Someone else
There are some people who I want to follow around all day simply recording every word they say because without knowing it they are hilarious. My father has a litany of phrases he peppers his conversation with. If he has some bad news he will say, “I don’ mean to put a turd in your pocket.” When my father sees someone as a wimp my father will say, “I wish (so and so) would have the testicular fortitude to handle their business. When discussing his weight, he claims to suffer from Dunlap Syndrome, “My belly done lapped over my belt.” Writing jokes about family is one the fastest way to fill a comedy set.
3. Strange people/things you see
I see strange thing on almost a daily basis. I don’t even have to leave my house and odd things will come to me. I was visiting with my sister, and we watched as a man wheeled two ten-speed bikes down the road, this would be weird enough, except that I have seen this guy wheeling these same two bikes down my street for several weeks.
One day, I was driving to the grocery store, and I saw a man walking down the street with a glass dinner plate and fork in hand. His body language was very aggressive as if he was daring someone to comment.
I was at the ATM at my bank and waiting for my order to process when the sky opened up and started raining really hard. I noticed a man passing on the sidewalk pull a paper bag from underneath his jacket. He unfolded it and out it on his head. He looked like a cone head because the mouth of the bag was scarcely as big as his head. I kept watching until he was out of sight to make sure it was not a hallucination.
4. Things that make you crazy
A wealth of funny jokes can be found in what irks you daily, whether it is the economy, the way your sibling breathes indescribably loud, or the way the hot water runs out far too quickly when you wash your hands. The more ridiculous the scenario that makes you upset the more hilarious it can be to your audience. Personally, few things trouble me except slow drivers, my store being out of my favorite food, remixes of old music, etc.…
5. Things that delight you
The things that make you deliriously pleased can be just a funny as the things which drive you nuts. Some of the absurd things which make me happy are people getting instant karma, hitting every light green on the way home, and finding an extra bag of chips I forgot about in the back of the cabinet. You can take a more ridiculous approach and talk about things like hearing sneezes that end in a fart, kids who unabashedly pick their nose in public, and people who think pajamas are appropriate to wear in public.
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6. Things you would change
What would you change to make this world a better place? You might think about making chips free on Wednesdays, only people with names that begin with the letter J have to work in factories, coal mines, and nuclear plants, or perhaps you want to be more benevolent and give everyone the choice to try out for American Idol or to take a course in learning a new language. Would the world be better, it is hard to say, but I am sure you will get a laugh.
7. Go back in time
If you could go back in time what would you alter to make your present different, would you study harder in school, propose to the one who got away, or invent the Internet? My favorite comedic answer to this question was given by Dan Cummins, who said, “I want a time machine to go back in time, not to do anything noble, but I want to find the man who was about to give the first high-five and give him a high five, and then watch the world implode.”
8. Retell a story how you wanted it to happen
Life can be dull as watching paint dry so take some artistic license with what happened in your day. Maybe you quit your job in a glorious display of self-righteousness, or you saved a group of mimes from an invisible box. It is our jobs as comedians to freshen life whether or not the story you tell is true.
9. Complain about being single
The most common complaint of a comedian is having no one special in his or her life. It’s easy to complain about solo dinners, parties, and awkward small talk. Make it clear that you are on the market and the reason why you think you are still single. It’s comedy gold and will give the audience a way to relate to your plight.
10. Complain about being married
The only thing worse than being single is being married. The only difference between being single and being married is that instead of a host of people turning you down, it’s the same person every single day. Marriage has a barrage of excellent material to use, just be sure your partner is game for share and tell on the stage.
11. Juxtaposing diametrically
I love the way caffeine makes me feel, I just hate having to use the bathroom every fifteen minutes. It is the job of a good comedian to bring opposing ideas into the same thread of thought to bring about a new perspective, for instance, I think all women should be barefoot and pregnant…with ideas as they walk in the park.
Comedy comes to those who make a habit of seeing it all around them and recording it. Try some of the exercises I have provided and let me know what you come up with in a comment.