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9 Rules For Being Funny From “Inside Comedy” Guru David Steinberg


Misery Loves Comedy
"I used to say ‘If you’ve had a good childhood, a happy marriage and a little bit of money in the bank, you’re going to make a lousy comedian,’" says Steinberg. "The one thing an audience always has in common with a comedian is troubles. The Yiddish word for that is tsuris You’re always putting your tsuris on stage whether you like it or not. No one is untroubled, unless they’re just, you know, an imbecile.”
For Instance: Six months before he died in a car accident, the late Robert Schimmel was interviewed by Steinberg for Inside Comedy. “Robert talked about his cancer and how he’s taken this tragic life that he was living even then, and turned it into comedy material,” Steinberg recalls. “He was very articulate in describing how that liberates people from being depressed.”

9 Rules For Being Funny From “Inside Comedy” Guru David Steinberg

Misery Loves Comedy

"I used to say ‘If you’ve had a good childhood, a happy marriage and a little bit of money in the bank, you’re going to make a lousy comedian,’" says Steinberg. "The one thing an audience always has in common with a comedian is troubles. The Yiddish word for that is tsuris You’re always putting your tsuris on stage whether you like it or not. No one is untroubled, unless they’re just, you know, an imbecile.”

For Instance: Six months before he died in a car accident, the late Robert Schimmel was interviewed by Steinberg for Inside Comedy. “Robert talked about his cancer and how he’s taken this tragic life that he was living even then, and turned it into comedy material,” Steinberg recalls. “He was very articulate in describing how that liberates people from being depressed.”

If You’re Going To Do Brand Integration, Make It This Funny

“We had a couple ideas last year that we were going to put fake brands into anyway, and the Cheez-It one ended up taking the place of one of those. We were really into the idea of the musical episode breaking out into song in the middle of a commercial because the basic premise that we were working with was ‘this is every part of a talk show made into a musical.’ So the opening monologue would be a musical, the banter between [co-host] Reggie [Watts] and I would be a musical, the interview would be a musical. Then that naturally lead us to, “We should have a brand-integrated commercial that’s also a musical.”

So it was definitely an idea that we had been laughing about, all the while knowing that Cheez-It was interested in doing something. It was an idea that we would have done anyway with a fake brand, and Cheez-It wisely took advantage of it and had us do a real brand—which, to me, works even better. And I think that’s a testament to it, that it’s a lot of people’s favorite part of that episode. It’s such a great song, and Casey Wilson gives such an amazing performance that, advertisement or not, people really love that part of the episode.”                                                                                   

Chelsea Peretti Brings Innovation — and Mauling — With Her Comedy App 

Peretti foresees a future for the app that includes additional apps-within-the-app, as well. “Chels-emojis are in the works,” she says, excited. “I use emojis heavily in life, and I think a lot of people do. There are a number that are frustratingly absent—you know how there’s kind of a generic white man and a generic white woman? I just want to put a generic black man and a generic black woman. I want to put some similar things to what’s in the filters—like a bear, and a wolf—and I’ve noticed things that are missing from the vegetables, such as a radish.”

Also, if you haven’t heard Chelsea’s classic song, now’s the time: http://youtu.be/nyEGpFRWgmw

(photo by flickr user Zena C)

I’m a straight guy, in a marriage. I just didn’t know any transgender people. I’ve read stuff from transgender people on Twitter, and I never would have before. My wife is a teacher and has transgender students, but Twitter helped normalize transgender people for me. I used to use the word “tranny” in a manner that would be derogatory or hurtful if you were on the receiving end. But Twitter exposed me to the idea that they’re human people just like me with wants, needs, dreams, fears, and I don’t do that anymore.

Twitter accelerated the learning curve, where a straight white American guy where the world is classically considered to be my oyster, I now am delighted to be up to speed with the basic humanity of people born one gender who want to be another. I know that’s long winded. But that was an awesome eye opening. It’s helped reduce prejudices that I had.

Rob Delaney on what he’s learned from Twitter, from his Co.Create Master Class about how to be the funniest person on Twitter.

The Daily Show’s temporary leader John Oliver on operating outside of your comfort zone:

I’m not really much of an actor, so when I started on The Daily Show, I was just trying to adopt the faux authority of a newsperson. Having a British accent definitely gave me a sonic leg up on that because there is a faux authority to the British accent in and of itself. So I think it was just about saying everything with 10% more emphasis and 15% more of an arched eyebrow.”

Improv emphasizes showing over telling, a principle that often manifests in a technique known as “the invisible game” on Key & Peele. The central joke of these scenes is ladled out, beat by beat, but never spoken of. “The audience loves to figure things out,” says Key, who has extensive professional acting experience and a unique physicality honed by emulating silent masters such as Chaplin and Keaton. “They love it when a performer leaves a trail of bread crumbs for them, and they get to participate in the comedy.”
Innovation through improvisation: How Key & Peele busted the forumla and created something new

Improv emphasizes showing over telling, a principle that often manifests in a technique known as “the invisible game” on Key & Peele. The central joke of these scenes is ladled out, beat by beat, but never spoken of. “The audience loves to figure things out,” says Key, who has extensive professional acting experience and a unique physicality honed by emulating silent masters such as Chaplin and Keaton. “They love it when a performer leaves a trail of bread crumbs for them, and they get to participate in the comedy.”

Innovation through improvisation: How Key & Peele busted the forumla and created something new

Anthony Jeselnik On How To Be Funny By Being Mean

There are plenty of ways to be mean. Anthony Jeselnik uses them all. Here, the creator and star of Comedy Central’s The Jeselnik Offensive talks about finding the funny in everything.

Anthony Jeselnik has nothing nice to say about anything. His persona is that of an arrogant prick, constantly airing grievances and confessing evil deeds. Frequent targets of abuse include family members, small children, and any woman with the misfortune of being one of his girlfriends. Through sheer commitment to character, though, and a deep respect for old-school joke crafting, Jeselnik has elevated “being a dick” to an art.
Of course, nobody gets laughs merely by saying horrible things. There’s a certain finesse to it—a strategy built on misanthropy—of which Jeselnik is the undisputed master. The cranky comedian recently shared with Co.Create the tricks to cracking jokes by being a jerk.

Appeal to your audience’s dark side.

I think the biggest laugh is when someone laughs at something they don’t think they should be laughing at. It’s just a different kind of laugh, and that’s the only laugh I want from an audience.

Desensitize through quantity.

People can feel a little better about laughing at something awful when it’s surrounded by other horrible things.

Smuggle mean in with the humorously tragic.

When I wrote for Fallon, my favorite stories were the more tragic ones that people could still make fun of. Like when the inventor of the Frisbee dies. It’s a chance to make a funny, silly joke about that, but it was also making fun of someone who just died. 

Go ahead and offend people; they’ll get over it.

There’s a guy from New Zealand who was demanding an apology from me for this shark bit I did on the show recently. And I couldn’t care less. I would never apologize for anything. He’ll forget about it in a week. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t know who I am. The criticism was “How can you make fun of New Zealand sharks when you wouldn’t make fun of 9/11 or Newtown?” I’ve made fun of both of those things a few times on the show.

Be mean for the right reasons.

Laughing after a tragedy takes the power away from it.
It depends on why you’re making the joke. Are you trying to get attention for yourself? Or are you really trying to make people laugh at something. I think one is more noble than the other.

People like being insulted…sometimes.

There’s something about not taking yourself seriously that’s really fun. Especially if someone’s good at it. 

Use “third thought” to make mean twists surprising.

If I give you the setup of a joke, a punch line might pop in your head right away. That’s the first thought. But if your punch line is the first thought, nobody’s going to laugh at it because they’ve all already thought of it. If you sit there and think about what else might happen—the second thought—that could be an okay joke. But the third thought is where you really blow people away, because it’s something that they would have put together eventually, but it takes a while. 

The bigger the tension, the bigger the release.

Sometimes the punch line is something offensive, sometimes the setup is offensive—where it just makes people uncomfortable. That’s when you can really pull the rug out—because they’re looking one way. You build up the tension and then release the tension, and everybody laughs. I just think you get a bigger laugh when you’re talking about offensive subjects

Pretend there’s no line (because there isn’t one).

There’s no line. Comedy can go anywhere, as long as you can make it funny.

Read the full story here.

Anthony Jeselnik On How To Be Funny By Being Mean

There are plenty of ways to be mean. Anthony Jeselnik uses them all. Here, the creator and star of Comedy Central’s The Jeselnik Offensive talks about finding the funny in everything.

Anthony Jeselnik has nothing nice to say about anything. His persona is that of an arrogant prick, constantly airing grievances and confessing evil deeds. Frequent targets of abuse include family members, small children, and any woman with the misfortune of being one of his girlfriends. Through sheer commitment to character, though, and a deep respect for old-school joke crafting, Jeselnik has elevated “being a dick” to an art.

Of course, nobody gets laughs merely by saying horrible things. There’s a certain finesse to it—a strategy built on misanthropy—of which Jeselnik is the undisputed master. The cranky comedian recently shared with Co.Create the tricks to cracking jokes by being a jerk.

Appeal to your audience’s dark side.

I think the biggest laugh is when someone laughs at something they don’t think they should be laughing at. It’s just a different kind of laugh, and that’s the only laugh I want from an audience.

Desensitize through quantity.

People can feel a little better about laughing at something awful when it’s surrounded by other horrible things.

Smuggle mean in with the humorously tragic.

When I wrote for Fallon, my favorite stories were the more tragic ones that people could still make fun of. Like when the inventor of the Frisbee dies. It’s a chance to make a funny, silly joke about that, but it was also making fun of someone who just died. 

Go ahead and offend people; they’ll get over it.

There’s a guy from New Zealand who was demanding an apology from me for this shark bit I did on the show recently. And I couldn’t care less. I would never apologize for anything. He’ll forget about it in a week. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t know who I am. The criticism was “How can you make fun of New Zealand sharks when you wouldn’t make fun of 9/11 or Newtown?” I’ve made fun of both of those things a few times on the show.

Be mean for the right reasons.

Laughing after a tragedy takes the power away from it.

It depends on why you’re making the joke. Are you trying to get attention for yourself? Or are you really trying to make people laugh at something. I think one is more noble than the other.

People like being insulted…sometimes.

There’s something about not taking yourself seriously that’s really fun. Especially if someone’s good at it. 

Use “third thought” to make mean twists surprising.

If I give you the setup of a joke, a punch line might pop in your head right away. That’s the first thought. But if your punch line is the first thought, nobody’s going to laugh at it because they’ve all already thought of it. If you sit there and think about what else might happen—the second thought—that could be an okay joke. But the third thought is where you really blow people away, because it’s something that they would have put together eventually, but it takes a while. 

The bigger the tension, the bigger the release.

Sometimes the punch line is something offensive, sometimes the setup is offensive—where it just makes people uncomfortable. That’s when you can really pull the rug out—because they’re looking one way. You build up the tension and then release the tension, and everybody laughs. I just think you get a bigger laugh when you’re talking about offensive subjects

Pretend there’s no line (because there isn’t one).

There’s no line. Comedy can go anywhere, as long as you can make it funny.

Read the full story here.

How Ron Swanson became Ron Swanson.

My first meeting with Mike Schur, one of the two creators, about Ron Swanson, we almost opened the meeting by saying, “Well, this guy has a kickass mustache.” And I don’t usually wear a mustache. I think Mike had once seen me at an audition forThe Office with a mustache, so that was where we started.

There was a side of my demeanor—I’m not always stoic and expressionless like Ron, but sometimes I am. So I think Mike took that plainspoken, no-bullshit side of me, and liked that color a lot. They found it incredibly hilarious that someone would have a wood shop and make things out of wood for fun so they laced that into the character.

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