Stand-up Comedy – when something is funny and you don’t know why

In the past week or so, I’ve written about two jokes that I perform (here about a dead dog, and here about dead cats). It may be boring as hell or, hopefully, interesting to someone out there. One thing that I brought up is that it’s important to know why a joke works but it’s also important to know that sometimes funny can’t be analyzed or answered.

By the way – as I said before, these blog posts about my stand-up comedy is more for me than anyone – a circle jerk to analyze my jokes since nobody else will, right? So, if you don’t think it’s useful or funny, no worries. Go to tmz or whatever.

I think books or interviews of comedians about what is funny, etc. can be boring. Here I’m just breaking down a joke for my own purpose and for others – you don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to know how a joke may work or doesn’t work. There are plenty of funny people who don’t write/perform stand-up comedy. There are too many people who don’t have a sense of humor and might believe they will never have one. I think some people are naturally funny and some aren’t. But just because you are not  naturally funny, doesn’t mean you can’t learn some structure of a joke or see how others think in terms of what they believe to be funny (geez, that’s an awful sentence – I apologize).

When I began doing stand-up comedy a few months ago (after a break) I had one set that had such a ‘joke’ or statement by me that got a much bigger laugh than I anticipated.

The set-up. I was invited to tell some jokes at a small bar in the small town I live in. The bar is in an odd location in town (right by some railroad tracks, next to some other odd businesses, but nearby is the town post office). So before I am introduced, I decide I have to somehow mention that the post office is nearby – as if I’m only there to a) tell jokes and b) drop off my mail (aka, “get shit done” like a real adult).

So, my words were something “when Mike asked if I wanted to come down here to tell some jokes, I asked him where the bar was. He said “down by the post office” I said “I’m in.”

That’s all I said and it got a big laugh. Again, a large part of it was my delivery and persona because I am pretty calm on stage and so it looks like going to a place ‘near the post office’ is something that would intrigue me.

In the line “I’m in” there was humor in that because it I said it as if I was agreeing to rob a bank with a team of hardened criminals or agreeing that doing comedy next to a post office was a no-brainer and obviously going to be a great venue (turns out it was).

But it’s not really a joke, right? I can’t tell it again (maybe I can) but the way I said it was more spontaneous (the idea wasn’t as I had decide about 30 minutes before to mention it somehow).

That kinda gets into when a comedian says something that seems off-the-cuff or inspired by something that happened in the bar/club that evening. They may have ready-to-go one-liners or they may actually think of something fresh and new and funny in response to something.

If you are going to do stand-up comedy, and your act is the kind that can break away into ‘observation’ about your surroundings, getting there a little early, looking around at then neighborhood, etc, is helpful. I guess I would call that ‘localizing’ your set, something the best comics do but the more you do it, the better you’ll get and you can have fresher ‘observations’/funny lines compared to other comics (example – I’m sure every comic visiting San Francisco is going to joke about the steep hills – may be funny but not exactly original. Look for something more local that that if you’re visiting!)

Anyway, I’ve strayed from the topic that sometimes a comedian will say something (planned or unplanned) that is not structured in a usual ‘joke’ format but still is funny – mostly due to timing/personality of the comic and….magic.

Previous analysis on some jokes here and here. I may continue this series, perhaps organize it better later.

 

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Yet another Joke by me, analyzed by me!

Hello,

Let’s try to take the fun of out comedy by analyzing jokes. Ha! Actually, this is more of an exercise for my benefit. I did this earlier and plan on a few more post going over my jokes (but not all will be about dead pets/people – I promise). Anyway, part of the purpose is I write down a joke, have it saved on my blog but in writing about it, I may learn something.

As I mentioned before, any jokes I discuss are by me and are funny(funnier?) when heard in person due to my awesome presentation skills (or they are not funny at all).

The last joke I analyzed was about a dead dog and bereavement time. The joke below is about potentially dead cats but I write it here because it’s also very timely! Topical humor, people!

JOKE:

I pulled into my driveway the other day. I looked over and saw a neighbor of mine with a bucket of water and a box with some feral kittens. He was getting ready to drown these poor kittens! I immediately got out of my car, grabbed a stick, and walked over there and said “hey, asshole, I see what you’re about to do. I can’t let you do it. We are in a water shortage – a drought! Use this” and I throw him the stick. (to audience I say something about even animal abusers being more socially responsible, etc…

(this joke does not translate too well to the page  and the wording in the joke I’ve written may not have the impact. It also makes me sound like a monster. But in drought-ridden California, it’s funny).

I think this jokes works for several reasons:

1. My presentation is always of a pretty calm guy, a short nerd, so the idea of me grabbing a stick and confronting anyone is, hopefully, funny (when I first told this joke, I said “baseball bat” and when the crowd laughed, I was surprised – didn’t even occur to me that it was a funny image. But it was so I kept it. Another version has me telling the guy that the water he’s using better be ‘gray water’ (dirty) or to do this awful extermination while taking a shower.

2. Topical – here in California, it’s drought drought drought, and this is a darkly humorous take on the impacts of the water shortage – so bad that a (bad) guy can’t even some feral kittens.

3. The word “feral”. Drowning cats or kittens is awful. I use the word ‘feral’ to at least soften the blow a little because we associate feral kittens as a nuisance, like cute squirrels that could be dangerous.  Maybe it doesn’t matter but I think it’s interesting to note it, that it is something I include in this joke as a possible buffer.

In one of the variations, I had a tag line “swing away, Merril. Merrill, swing away” a quote from the film Signs, about an alien invasion that is, in part, thwarted by their aversion to water (the character Merrill is a baseball athlete who swings his bat at some glasses filled with water to fight back against an home-invanding alien).

That I got to add that tag line was fun for me. A small inside joke for those who had seen this movie and got the connection between the water and baseball bat. I may still include it when I tell this joke.

A comedian may get bored with some of their jokes and I think adding little bits like this to the main bit can keep it fresh (you can remove/add different ‘insider’ jokes if it helps.). The main premise stands – some jerk stopped from drowning cats NOT because it’s  wrong but because of the drought and the waste of water it represents.

Like the joke about the dead dog, this joke also catches the crowd’s attention because immediately they are presented with an image of my neighbor preparing to drown a box of cats – holy shit, right!?  So, they snap to attention, see where I’m leading to and so forth. Not the smartest joke, but it engages their mind to think about a) the crime/morality of drowning cats and b) the drought and nanny-state rules/fines over wasting water.

That is all.  Again, I’m writing this more for me, but also so that potential comedians see how one might view a joke after it’s been created and why it has the impact/effectiveness that I think it has. If you are thinking of performing stand-up comedy or writing jokes, you better understand a little why something is funny because you’ll save a lot of time but then you will also find those jokes that are funny for NO APPARENT REASON – it will happen and in those cases, that is just plain magic (I will discuss one of these moments some time later).

I could be totally wrong – this may not be funny at all to you, in which case you are invited to click away, Merrill. Merrill, click away.

PREVIOUS Joke Analysis.

 

Excerpts from the Alec Baldwin English Language Dictionary

Noted linguist, actor, CapitalOne spokesman Alec Baldwin this week provided a preview of his self-titled English Language Dictionary, following confusion among Americans over the real meaning of the word “queen.” Mr. Baldwin promises to update all editions.

From the upcoming Alec Baldwin English Language Dictionary:

Queen: 1. (noun) somebody who’s just above, not having any necessarily sexual connotations.  2,(adj, queeny): aboveness. ex. “I know women that act queeny, I know men that are straight that act queeny, and I know gay men that act queeny”; not a definite sexual connotation, or a homophobic connotation. 3. (adj. queeny) A non-slur adjective if used by an open-minded registered Democrat. A slur if used by anybody else.
 
Twitter. 1. (noun) social medial platform popularized by its simple design and restricted word count per post. 2. (noun) Celebrity meltdown software, often used by well-known persons to reveal their true emotional intelligence quotient through verbal bullying and homophobic/racist rants.
 
CapitalOne customers can purchase Baldwin's reference book at a fair. 28.99% APR.
CapitalOne customers can purchase Baldwin’s reference book at a fair. 28.99% APR. In stores never.

In 2011, Mr. Baldwin’s passion for language and words was revealed after being booted off a plane over the matter of the challenging cell phone game  Words with Friends. Baldwin remains an avid player. From the ABELD:

Boot. 1. (noun) Footwear covering the ankle and sometimes lower leg.  2. (verb) to remove from an area a superior person or persons, often an actor or actress.
 
Cell-phone. 1 (noun) an electronic device used to communicate via voice, text, or electronic mail, generally used with no consideration for surroundings.  2. A gaming device for grown men and women in confined places, usually in first-class on airplanes.

When interviewed by the online blog Gothamist Apologist, Mr. Baldwin stated that since being misunderstood so frequently by the American public and some of the press, he believed a dictionary was needed. “Whether it’s ‘little pig’ when talking about my daughter, or ‘queeny’ about a sloppy reporter, what I say doesn’t mean what everyone thinks it means.”

The publisher of the Baldwin Dictionary stated in a press release they expect copies to be available this Fall, unless a small vocal minority protest, then they will pull the book.

 

Ronan Farrow Is Sooooooooo Smart

You might have seen this story about Woody Allen/Mia Farrow bio-kid Ronan Farrow tweeting a severe diss to his Allen:

Oy vey!

Maybe well deserved. For many, Woody Allen is straight-up creepy and unfunny. For others, he is just straight up creepy and funny. And for some, he is not creepy, but still funny.

I’d say Ronan has every right to tweet, given the basics of his family history (ronans’ dad left his mom to begin a new relationship with ronan’s adopted sister – mom and and were never married but still, weird. throw in child abuse accusations for more drama).  Anyway, Twitter is where it’s at. That’s what smart people do – tweet (#getafuckinglife). Every mention of Ronan says how smart he is and he obviously is – he started college at age 11, and, later, was a Rhodes Scholar (#dork) and now does a bunch of important stuff with the government (speechifying and global community organizin’) – we all know when you want to make a difference, working through the State Department is the way to go (#circlejerk). Just ask Syria!  Although, if he was so smart, he would have invented Facebook.

Back to the tweet and what it reveals to anyone with a pulse:

1. He’s mad at Daddy. Not because he remembers being hurt by Daddy, but also because he has been raised by his Mommy/Mia Farrow (aka Mother Earth) to hate him.  Nothing new here. Eventually one might get tired of a parent telling you what to think (or you get upset realizing that you’ve been programmed – right or wrong, it’s still annoying). Plenty of people are raised by a single parent who hates their ex because they ran off when one of the kids. I read about it all the time on Slate’s Dear Prudence. Of course, most single parents don’talso adopt a kid every week, which goes to point 2.

2. He is probably increasingly more aware that his mom is a little crazy and so that just makes his situation more frustrating, raising the anger level.  The most likely reason he went to college early was to get away (#bitchbecrazy)!  Mia makes Brangelina look childless, she adopts so many kids.  Like Woody Allen, Mia Farrow is apparently a homewrecker, having started an affair with a married man, Andre Previn, a fancy-pants musician. Farrow got pregnant (#devilspawn), and Andre left his wife for her. Something the media doesn’t talk about.  So, if you’re Ronan, and you’ve read Wikipedia, you’re thinking, ‘shit, my dad’s a creep, and my mom is an angry little hypocrite. FML!”

3. Posting on Twitter means he KNOWS it will reach Woody Allen (#passiveaggressive).  In a weird way, he is communicating with his dad and nobody else. He has not heard of email, I guess. Not really knowing anything about their whole family drama, I wonder how much communication they have or had years ago after visitations ended (#miniseriesplease!).  Of course, the tweet is  a joke his own dad would have written years ago.

3. Ronan Farrow is about 25 years old. Why now with the Twitter?  Maybe he’s new to Twitter so he’s catching up on all his witty one-liners’ about his old man (#woodyismypops). If he was soooo smart, he would save all this shit for a tell-all book, called Dreams of My Father 2: Payback’s a Bitch Named Soon Yi!  (btw, does Ronan talk to Soon Yi? Uh, probably not). But alas, Ronan has been appointed by the Obama Administration to assist in issues related to the youth and so what does that leave any government official, but loads of time to tweet and work out their personal issues online, 140 characters at a time. When Government Officials tweeet, what could go wrong (#anthonyweinersweiner).

Who knows what Ronan was thinking. I think if my Mom changed my name to ‘Ronan’ I would be pissed about it forever. And if I was a boy genius who grew up to be a BORING fucking diplomat, I’d probably start spending time on Twitter, also. Exhibit A: Ronan firing up the U.N. about youth issues.


That’s right kids – this guy’s fighting for you! All Together Now: “Let’s Go – Children! Let’s Go -Children!”

Good luck, Ronan!  (#unfocusedblogpost)

New Black Panther Party – Comedy Gold

The old Black Panther party had better speakers. But whatever they lack in speechifyin’, the New Black Panther Party sure is stylish! Nice uniform, Captain Stubing. When does the boat leave? I didn’t know Scientology had a Black Panther division! You look like you raided the costumes from Hunt For Red October. Periscope up, man!

Hey, Long John Silvers called, and they want to remind you the uniform has to be returned by tomorrow.

How come nobody in this video has  matching uniforms? Did each go to their parent’s closet and get whatever black clothing they could find.

And the microphone? Orange – what karaoke bar did they steal this mic from? Nothing says ‘serious leader’ like talking into a mic that looks like Elmo’s nose. Why not just wire-attach it to your arm and hop around and be done with it.

Who knew Elmo's nose is a microphone?

So, New Black Party Panther – get it together. You want to intimidate and call people crackers, be my guest, but get your ass to a Men’s Wearhouse, get everyone measured and get proper jackets. Second, go buy some more ball0ons. A clown needs his balloons.

can you tell i’m not into blogging? new house stuff

Since I haven’t posted here in ages, I guess I don’t really have to state that ‘blogging’ isn’t my thing, at least not at the moment.

But this post is to confirm that I have a wordpress account and I still own markwiberg.com, until I change my name.

News: it looks the comedy at the Grange Hall in SLO, CA is done. Too bad, but it’s tough to schedule comedians, no matter where.

I moved to Paso Robles – thank you to the mortgage meltdown for bringing home prices down. I may post soon about buying a house, moving in, cleaning up, etc….but it’s been done, right? Who wants to read about this Home Improvement-type crap?  All I know is that despite all the debate and articles on ‘renting versus buying’, buying/owning) a house adds a different element to one’s life – more responsibility? Tremendous debt? Maybe. But, when I was renting I had debt, so what’s the diff? And repsonsibility? I’ll take that over trying to get your full security deposit back. Anyway, if you’re renting, you still have the responsibility to manage one’s money for the future, so keeping on top of your investments is key. If you buy a house, you have similar responsibility, but in a more ‘present’ or real way – your investment is there, everyday, waiting for you to fix this, or paint that. You are never guaranteed a return, but you know you have a house, and property – actual land, like in that movie Far and Away, without the horse race and phony Irish accents – and except for a few cases (eminent domain or sink hole), that property will be around for years. Depending upon your location, that property may increase in value, for whatever reason. It may decrease in value, but for how long. There is only so much property to be had.

I’m no expert in real estate, finances (believe me, I’m not), but having had the good fortune to pick up a relative bargain in an expensive county, I think the odds are in my favor (unless an earthquake hits, then I’m screwed), and I think pro-rent articles are sometimes too dismissive of home-buying.  We are human. There is something to be said for having your own place. I’m not opposed to renting for sure – I am the least handyman person I know, so I dig being able to call the landlord and say ‘fix it!’. But, too late now for me.  This will be my main investment for now –  I’m too lax on keeping up with 401k/investing stuff. The fact that I call it ‘stuff’ tells you I am. And having rented rooms and apartments for the past 15 years, it’s a very cool feeling (and scary) to know that everything in the house and on the property is mine, good or bad. Besides, if it doesn’t go up in value, I’ll ask the government to cover the loss. j/k.

wiberg's new old house
Wiberg's new old house, built in 1918. Bought as a short sale - priced 30% lower than previous 2005 transaction. He's fortunate because there is a rental unit in back, which will help with the mortgage, and make him a Mr. Furley.

Mark Wiberg Does Stand-Up Comedy

A post (finally) just to keep my account active. And I see WordPress has a new dashboard with this quickpress feature, so let’s try it!

Mark Wiberg (me) did several stand-up comedy shows in the past month or so.
1. early November, crowd about 70 at the Grange Hall in SLO, CA – did well – new jokes, etc.
2. early November, crowd about 80-100 at Level 4, in Paso Robles, CA – did alright – started off great, then proceeded to space out! felt bad about being paid.
3. early Dec – did well, not spectacular (weird crowd) – a couple of new jokes performed at the Grange Hall in SLO, CA.

I have a half dozen new jokes but having difficulty figuring out where to put them in the set. We’ll see.

Things that amuse me lately:
-Summer Heights High, on HBO – this show is hilarious. I would like to see Chris Lilley’s stand-up comedy act.
-Grand Theft Auto IV – what a fun time waster. I finally got my copy and PS3 and have been busy stealing from and/or killing Liberty City residents, and wrecking vehicles.

later!