Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Comedy 101: The Radio Gig

Maybe it’s my giant head – there has to be a payoff. I’m often embarrassed by it and wear a hat, but sometimes I forget to appreciate what’s inside. Today I got a call at around 11a.m., the hour where I get the premises from the radio gig and respond. I told the comedian on the phone that I’d call him back when I was done banging out the jokes, and he mentioned the grind I have to go through everyday – in a joking manner of course. When the work was safely done, I paused before sending it out of state, and looked at the clock: 58 minutes. Then I went back and counted the bits: 56 jokes. That includes going through a second time and correcting the minimal typos and fixing the flow on quite a few of them. Flow is everything. Always try and do a rewrite upgrade, but don’t get stale with it. The key to comedy is to get it done quickly with as few syllables as possible, and always end on the right word – the word that goes “Boom.” You know the saying, “Brevity is the soul of wit”? In one sense it should be “Brevity is wit’s soul.” Why? Less syllables. Keep it brief. But “wit” is the “Boom” word, so that’s on the end. These are the basics but then you jump off into the artistry of the phrase. I’ve heard talk of comedians sitting at the airport with Dennis Miller watching him beat out the groove with a pencil. It’s all rhythm and flow, and what makes a phrase pleasing.
Another key is avoiding pitfalls: The derailing confusion of a second possible destination. Take them right where you want them to go. If you even build in a microsecond of doubt, all is lost. There’s also filters against saying something accidentally sexist or racist or corny or gross. Intentionally doing it is one thing – if that’s your bag – but know what’s there. Me? I’m not trying to get the DJs in trouble. I don’t have to go shock or hate – I’ve got the chops to be funny so I can stay away from the traps.
Not that it’s all an ego-trip. Lately I’ve been down a little on myself. We all go through that, so I have to remember that I’ve been given a quirky gift here. I can write marketable comedy as fast as I can type. That’s what I’m most proud of – my typing. That part I earned. But the comedy was a lucky break, and though that hour tires the brain, it also lights it up, so I go to the rest of the day with my work done and a nice creative glow. It’s easy if you can do it, but it’s a little like taking a test. You have to access your entire memory banks for your whole life – every correlation, reference, connection, etc… and that’s tiring. Mainly, you have to sit by the creative pool and describe the creatures as they surface and crawl out, ready to take on the world. 56 jokes in 58 minutes, more or less, 5 days a week, going on 10 years. Comedy for the morning commute in cities around America, Canada, and other countries as well. This is the radio gig.


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