Here you will find Youtube videos recommended books, and other resources that are referred to in The New Comedy Bible.
My Comedy Buddy
Go to the The Comedy Bible Fan Page and post a description of the kind of buddy you’d like to work with. Best to post not just what you’re looking for, but what you can contribute to someone else. You’ll find a match faster than a virgin on a dating app.
Prologue – Jobs for Funny People
Take the Funny Test!
Click Here to Download the Full Test
Setting Up Your Own Comedy Workbook
Chapter 12 Exercise 7 Finding Your Comedy Buddy
Post here what you can GIVE as a Comedy Buddy rather than what you NEED.
Chapter 13 Your Life is a Joke: Finding Authentic Topics
For instance, what’s so funny about a brain tumor? Nothing… unless you’re Jim Gaffigan. Gaffigan opens his Noble Ape comedy special with material about how his wife, Jeannie, underwent surgery for, and recovered from, a brain tumor. Certainly not a funny topic. When asked why he used this material, he said:
“We all have tragedy we’ve dealt with in our lives. It’s familiar to people because we’ve all been in those moments of panic or sadness, so that stuff works pretty much anywhere.”
Here’s a quote from his show:
“It’s been hard, but the tumor is gone along with my ability to ever win another argument. It’s not like I was winning a lot before, but now I’m retired. And luckily my wife’s not the type to bring it up. Well, once she did. She was like, ‘You know, I did have brain surgery.’ And I couldn’t be like, ‘Yeah, that was like a month ago. It’s time to move on, you know?
What about my seasonal allergies? We all have our cross to bear.’”
Divorce is usually a very painful life event, and Chris Rock devoted a chunk of his Netflix show, “Tambourine,” to it:
“I’m going extra hard to compete with my ex to impress my kids. ‘I don’t know what you’re doing at your mother’s house but I’m gonna
top that shit.’ Sometimes I bring guest stars home. I make sure the kids go back to her with a story. ‘Mama! Mama! Drake helped me with my homework! Lady Gaga made me a grilled cheese sandwich!’”
Chapter 14 Exercise 8: Finding Your Authentic Topics
Hey, there’s funny in boring. Having a college major in art history doesn’t seem like a laugh-a-minute topic. But Australian comic and former student of mine, Hannah Gadsby, does a twenty-minute routine on art history for her Netflix special that is not only hilarious, but won an Emmy for Best Writing for a Variety Show. “Art history taught me, historically, women didn’t have time for the think-thoughts. They were too busy napping, naked, alone, in the forest.
Even biologically…I don’t feel like I’m the same species. For a start, I’ve got a functioning skeletal system. If you go into the galleries, you see, if a woman’s not sporting a corset and/or a hymen…she just loses all structure. Just sort of like…just flopping about all over the place, going,
“Oh, what is furniture?” Sidesaddle, tits akimbo. No wonder we can’t reverse park, ladies! Dumb history women couldn’t even reverse park their arse onto a chair!”
(Married) My wife won’t tell me when she’s mad. I have to guess. I knew she was mad at me last time because she made me a sandwich with the last two pieces of bread... Well, it wasn’t even the last two pieces. She had to dig inside the bag, reach to the very bottom of the bag, and grab the other end piece. I didn’t notice at first because she made the sandwich inside out.
—Mike E Winfield
(Being Single) Reality doesn’t hit you about how bad the single life is until you call your friends to go out… none of your friends are available because they’re out with their women. ‘Yo, what up boy? Whatcha trying to do tonight?’ ‘Oh, man, I ain’t doing nothing. It’s cupcake Tuesdays. Me and my lady, we make cupcakes. Red velvet. I get to lick the bowl and everything.’ ‘Lick the bowl? Man, get off my phone.’ ‘Hey! don’t be mad at me ‘cause you ain’t got no bowl to lick.’
(Being single is hard…) It’s like looking for a job. Because when you’re first looking for a job, you’re real picky. Then you start breaking down. You ask your friends if they know anybody hiring. Then you’ll take a part-time job doing anything. You just want something with benefits.
(It’s weird being mixed-race because…) it looks like a ghost and a shadow made love and I was the result. Our Sears family photo was always a little tricky for us. The first few takes, my father would come out just eyes and teeth. Then they’d adjust the lighting and he’d be beautifully lit, but my mom looked like an apparition.
(Being Middle Eastern) A lot of times in Hollywood, when casting directors find out you’re of Middle Eastern descent, they go, ‘Oh, you’re Iranian? Great. Can you say, ‘I will kill you in the name of Allah?’ I could say that, but what if I were to say, ‘Hello, I’m your doctor.’
On America’s Got Talent, Samuel J. Comroe joked about havingTourette’s syndrome:
(Having a disability) “It’s weird how people want to bully a disabled guy with Tourette’s, because there’s no winning for them. This dude wanted to fight me. I said, ’Bring it! I’m not scared! I was bullied when I was younger, so you’re not gonna bully me as an adult. And if you fight me, you’re at a disadvantage. Because if you beat me up, you’re a dude that beats up a dude with a disability. And if I beat you up, you just got your ass kicked by a dude with a disability.’”
(Being an immigrant) The police pulled me over and asked me if I have anything illegal in my car. I looked at my cousin and I ran.
(Siblings) Having a twin brother is strange because you grow up with people asking you: ‘Hey is it true that you’re connected? Like when he cries, you cry, and you feel the same thing?’ No! Imagine if that were true. Imagine if I could feel every time my brother masturbated. Like if I’m doing a show and all of a sudden...*groan* ‘Oh…OH…’
—Sofia Nino de Rivera
It’s hard being Italian because we have a lot of stupid myths and beliefs that don’t make any sense. In my house, no one will kill a moth because they say it’s one of your dead relatives. If you die and come back as a moth, you should probably die again. Every time I come home there’s five moths flying around the light outside my house. The only people I know in my life that died are my aunt and my grandma, who are these other three jerks?
Paula Poundstone jokes about being an atheist:
(Religion) “Weird thing about being an atheist is we don’t have a mandate to convert anybody. You’re not gonna wake up on a Saturday morning and see me at the door like, ‘Hey, I brought this blank book for you to look at.’”
Here, comic Paul Elia jokes about how hard it is being from a background nobody knows:
“Chaldean is my ethnicity—we’re Catholic Middle Eastern people from Iraq. Not a lot of people know what that is. It gets frustrating when I text ‘Chaldean’ to my friends and the iPhone auto-corrects it to ‘Calzone.’ The iPhone is like, ‘You must mean pizza’…Nope—just my race.”
Chapter 16 Exercise 10: Mind-Mapping Your Best Three Topics
Mind Map Samples:
Chapter 17 Exercise 11: Ranting and Raving to Laughs
The attitude words are: hard, weird, scary, and stupid. So, let’s say one of your authentic topics is how hard it is being an African-American. And filling out your mind-map, drugs come up as a subtopic. So, when ranting, perhaps your attitude shifts from hard to stupid and your topic shifts to stupid stereotypes that all African-Americans take drugs. Next thing, you go… “That’s stupid because…” And you end up with Wanda Sykes’s brilliant joke:
“…Black people, we don’t even get our hands on opioids. They don’t even give ’em to us. White people get opioids like they’re Tic Tacs. It amazes me how many opioids you motherf**kers have. I’m sitting in a writer’s room with a bunch of white people, right? And I’m like, ‘Damn, I got a headache.’ White people start pulling out all kind of pills and shit. Just f**king loose pills in Ziploc bags. ‘Would you like an oxycodone? I got oxycodone.’ ‘No, she should take a Percocet. Give her a Percocet.’ Another girl’s over there preparing a needle. ‘Give me your arm.’”
Chapter 18 Payoffs: The Act-Out
Listen to Pryor here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_mh7hOov2A
“(It’s weird…) Black funerals are different than white funerals, right. You know, white people have funerals. They’re weird because, you don’t give it up at the funeral. You do love your dearly departed as much as we do, but at the funeral you don’t really show it (act-out of someone softly crying). And then sometimes they faint (act-out of someone sighing).
And see, black people let it hang out at the funeral. They don’t care, they’re (act-out of screaming)! Lord have mercy, Jesus, help me, Lord…And then they jump right on the coffin. Take me God, take me, take me, take me!” -- RICHARD PRYOR
Robin Williams adjusted comedy to the cocaine-paced ’80s with extremely short setups, and wild act-outs. Can you identify all the act-outs in this joke?
Listen Here: https://youtu.be/Vv0FNBdLTdI
“It’s weird that baseball players have to go in front of a grand jury and say, ‘Yeah, I did cocaine. Can you blame me? It’s a slow goddamn game! Come on Jack! Standing out in left field for seven innings, and there’s a long white line going down to home plate! I see the guy putting it out going, ‘Heh heh heh heh!’ And that damn organ music too, the whole (does intro to ‘Charge!’)! Third base coach is always doing this...
(wiping nose, fidgeting around). When he’s doing that, I don’t know whether to slide or do a line! People sliding into home plate headfirst, umpire goes, ‘You’re out!’ ‘No, baby, I’m up now! Ha ha ha!’”
Here’s another Williams joke that depends on act-outs:
“(It’s weird how…) beer commercials usually show big men, manly men, doing manly things: (act-out) ‘You’ve just killed a small animal. It’s time for a light beer.’ Why not have a realistic beer commercial, with a realistic thing about beer, where someone goes, (act-out mix) ‘It’s five o’clock in the morning. You’ve just pissed on a dumpster. It’s Miller time.’”
Act-outs are more effective in present tense. Rather than, “This girl said to me…” say, “This girl says to me…” and then act out the scene as if she’s speaking directly to you.
Check out the act-outs in Michelle Wolf ’s joke:
LISTEN HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM8mEz7c_D4
“The environment is in terrible shape, and it’s weird because most people pretend that they care about it. I don’t believe anyone actually does. Because, if anyone actually cared about the environment, there’s no way fountains would still exist. Fountains are a real big ‘f**k you’ to thirsty people. Imagine bringing a little kid from a third-world country to see a fountain. He’d be like, (act-out) ‘Look at all the water! Can I have a sip?’ And you’d have to be like, ‘Oh, no, no! That’s for decoration.’ ‘Well, can I at least grab the money out of it?’ ‘No, those are for wishes and were thrown there by people that can afford to throw money. And you know what they didn’t wish for? Water. Now, come on, I’m gonna show you a water park. That’s where the water’s for peeing in.”
Slay then gets many more laughs off the topic “Two-Weeks’ Notice.”
Act-Out Practice Session 1
Say these bits out loud to get the feel of doing an act-out:
It’s weird how you can tell a lot about a guy by the way they play tennis. I played with this one guy and he couldn’t say ‘thirty-love.’ He keeps saying [actout] ‘Thirty-I really like you, but I still have to see other people.’
My father’s been on my ass my entire life, constantly questioning me. I was an altar boy, he asks me, [actout] ‘Do they pay you for this shit at the church? You making any money?’ I then ask the priest for a raise, [act-out] ‘Listen, we know what’s going on here, you’re collecting a lot of money during the mass, and no one’s getting a cut.’ The priest is like, [act-out] ‘We don’t pay for mass, we only pay for funerals.’ I say, ‘Put me on the funeral circuit, I’ll start working funerals!
You ever walked into a plate-glass window? What’s weird is—two things are happening there. Pain and embarrassment, but pain takes a back seat to embarrassment, doesn’t it? Because, no matter how much pain you’re in, people are laughing. You just laugh along with them. [act-out] ‘Oh, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Bam! I just slammed right into that, didn’t I? Isn’t that funny? It’s so clean and shiny. Someone should put a sticker or a happy face or something. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Isn’t that funny? Oh my, is that blood? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I’m bleeding. Isn’t that funny I’m bleeding? Oh my! Can you help me find my eye?’
Act-Out Practice Session 2
Now that you’ve got the feeling of going into an act-out, below are some setups for you to do your own. Remember, act-outs always include speaking words, not just making sound effects. Try finishing these setups with your own thoughts:
“Mothers are hard on their daughters. My mother is overly critical about my weight. I could win the Nobel Peace Prize and she would be saying…” Do an act-out of your mother telling you she’s happy you won the prize while also criticizing your appearance.
“Politicians lie. When they say, ‘I’m going to create new jobs and prosperity,’ what they’re really saying is …” Do an act-out of a politician saying what’s really going to happen. “Some days are just so hard. I had such a horrible day. It was as if when God was making plans for my day, he was going …” Do an act-out of God planning your bad day.
“Last night I got sick after eating at a sketchy restaurant. It was as if my stomach was going …” Do an act-out of your stomach criticizing your choice of restaurants.
Chapter 26 Payoffs: Mixes –“It’s just like…”
Say the jokes below out loud to get a feel for mixes starting with, “It’s like…”
Speaking other people’s material aloud provides the feeling of doing mixes/act-outs.
Chris Rock on divorce:
“Weird thing about divorce is that after the custody battle, you gotta divide the money. Whoever makes the most money has to pay the legal fees for the other person. So, I had to pay for a lawyer to divorce me. That’s like hiring a hitman, to kill you. (Mix/act-out) ‘Okay, here’s a picture of me. I’m gonna be at Burger King at 10:38 p.m. Shoot me in the head and give me a call.’”
Below, comic Paul Elia takes his topic, “Being Chaldean,” and mixes in the subtopic Airbnb:
“Chaldeans live in Iraq. Unfortunately, we don’t have our own country. It’s like we’re using Iraq as an AirBnb. (Mix/act-out) ‘Great place to vacation! They’re very flexible with the checkout time. The wi-fi password is SADDAM1—all caps!’”
Jerry Seinfeld illustrates how horrible buffets are by using a mix:
“The buffet is basically the answer to the question, ‘Okay, things are bad, how can we make them worse?’ How can we design a foodhuman-interactive environment? That’s like driving your dog up to Petco, giving him money, and saying, (mix/act-out) ‘Why don’t you go in and get whatever you think you should have?’”
Comic Fahim Anwar ‘s scary topic is “Bees.” Notice how he mixes in “Guns.”
“No one cares about flies. You can just swat them. But we don’t do that with bees because they have the ability to sting you. So, there’s a level of respect. A bee is basically like a fly with a gun. People act the same way, too, ‘Oh shit! It’s a bee; let him do whatever he wants…We don’t have any honey, okay? Here’s an empty Coke can, just leave!’”
Chapter 31 Using Stand-up Structure to Polish Your Jokes
“Judy, I want to be like Chris Rock and just rant and be wild onstage and say what’s on my mind! Formulas are hack!”
Well, take that joint out of your mouth, sober up, and listen! Because guess what—Rock’s jokes are in perfect stand-up structure.
“It’s weird that whenever the cops gun down an innocent black man they always say the same things, man. They always say the same thing. It’s like, ‘Well, it’s not most cops. It’s just a few bad apples.’ Bad apple? That’s a lovely name for a murderer…That almost sounds nice. I mean, I’ve had a bad apple. It was tart. But it didn’t choke me out.
“It’s hard being a cop. I know it’s hard because that shit’s dangerous. I know it is, ok? But some jobs can’t have bad apples. Because…some jobs, everybody gotta be good. Like…(mix) pilots. You know? American Airlines can’t be like, ‘Most of our pilots like to land. We just got a few bad apples that like to crash into mountains. Please bear with us.’”
Rock starts with the attitude “It’s hard being a cop.” He goes into his premise that starts with because: “Because, that’s shit’s dangerous, but some jobs can’t have bad apples…” Then he goes into a mix/act-out. ‘Most of our pilots like to land. We just got a few bad apples that like to crash into mountains. Please bear with us.’”
Chapter 33: Maximizing Laughs
Check out Chris Rock’s take on why heavyset black women are sexy. Watch how he goes into jokes about women’s fat ankles. He not only gets away with it, the audience goes wild because of the way he sets it up with an original, intriguing premise:
“We got a lot of women here tonight. Love the women. You know who my favorite women are? Big, fat, black women. Give me a sister about 350 pounds. The best people in the whole world. You know why?
(Premise) ’Cause we live in a society where nobody likes who the f**k they are. Everybody’s on Prozac, or some shit. Everybody’s getting cosmetic surgery. Nobody likes who the f**k they are except fat, black women. Fat, black women don’t give a f**k what you think. She’s going out on Friday night. She got an outfit on. That shit match. She got the pumps on, and the pump fat coming out the pump. That’s right. It looks like they baking bread in her shoe.
(Act-outs) ‘Baby, your foot ready yet? I’ll just sprinkle some cinnamon on it.’
That’s right. She got an anklet on, and that anklet’s holding on for dear life.
(Tag) Love the women.”
The premise tells the audience the reason your topic is hard, weird, scary, or stupid. It’s usually preceded by the word “because…”
A (topic) is hard because…? How you answer this question creates the premise. “It’s weird how popular Jesus is…Jesus is so popular, because he died at the peak of his career, okay? He was young, he was hot. It would have been different had he lived longer…”
Maron’s topic is “How popular Jesus is.” Attitude is weird.
Then he gives his opinion which is that he’s popular because “he died at the peak of his career.”
This is a great premise because it’s certainly a unique point of view. And now that he has set up this premise, he flows into a mix/act-out by using this phrase, “What if…”
“…What if he got old enough to get bitter. What if there’s a third testament to the Bible right at this point—Jesus is in his fifties. He’s got one apostle left. And the book opens with him knee deep in water saying…”
Now Maron goes into an act-out of Jesus as an old guy.
“‘I used to be able to do this.’ The apostles are saying, ‘Come on, don’t yell at the water. Jesus. Come on in. It’s not your day, buddy. Come
- People are gathering for the wrong reason. Can we just go, please?
Please, let’s go to the deli—we’ll have a sandwich. We’ll try again tomorrow. Come on, come on. But yes, you are God.’”
Chapter 53: Crushing Hecklers Without Ruining the Show
Slow down and torment the heckler. When a heckler interrupts the show, you don’t have to go for a zinger right away. British comic Jimmy Carr turns destroying hecklers into a work of art as he plays with them like a fish on the line. For example:
Male Heckler: When does the comedy start?
Carr: It’s a classic heckler, right? What’s your name, sir?
Male Heckler: Rack.
Carr: Like shoe rack? You’re called Rack? Where are you, Rack? Up there or down there? If you don’t think the comedy has started, you’re right. ’Cause it’s a very individual thing. Isn’t it? And if the show’s not for you, it’s not for you. But I suppose, Rack, you have learned a valuable lesson. You’ve learned life’s not fair. You pay your money; you take your chance. Sometimes it’s a good show, sometimes it’s not for you. But I’ll give you another example, Rack, so you haven’t had a wasted evening.
At least you’ve learned something. Another example, Rack, of how unfair our society is. Let’s say, if a man, you or I, sir, let’s say, if a man sleeps with loads and loads of women. What is he? He’s a stud, he’s a player, and he’s admired in our society. That isn’t an opinion, that’s fact. If a man sleeps with loads and loads of women, he’s a stud, he’s a player, he’s admired. But, if a woman sleeps with loads and loads of men, she’s called Rack’s mum.
Chapter 73: Doing Impressions Without Sounding hack
“When I used to watch vaudevillian impressionists, people like Rich Little or Frank Gorshin, I always felt like the voice was the only point. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be of the Robin Williams or Jonathan Winters model, where observation and storytelling was important.”
“I love (NFL Analyst) John Madden because he makes me feel smart. (It’s weird) how he explains things during a football game you already know. He gives you no new information, just sits there drawing doodles on guys’ asses, saying things like, (act-out impression) ‘If the quarterback fakes running the ball…and the receiver…catches it in the end zone… that’s gonna…that’s gonna…that’s gonna…that’s gonna…be a touchdown.’
Dropping in Impressions
Your impressions can sound cheesy if you introduce them instead of dropping them into your jokes. Saying, “Imagine if Kanye West worked at a supermarket” or, “Here’s a conversation between Lady Gaga and the President” announces you’re going to do an impression, and it’s not very imaginative. Instead, set up the joke with a strong premise, then drop in your impression as an act-out. You’ll get laughs from the element of surprise, as the audience realizes who you’re portraying. Jim Carrey started his comedy career by doing spot-on impressions, and how he wove them into his material was brilliant.
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0syLFyuiHE
“Luckily most of us have that voice inside of our head that goes, ‘Turning the car into oncoming traffic is counterproductive.’ If we could learn to control our impulses we could be like Jimmy Stewart because no matter what happens, Jimmy Stewart could look at it in a positive way. (Deadon Stewart impersonation) ‘Well I guess we’re going to have ourselves a nuclear holocaust…Hey, everyone, come on over to the window. Oh, look at that mushroom cloud, it’s beautiful! Amazing thing to me how something so magnificent, so colorful could just melt your face right off!’ That’s positive energy.”
Click any of the book covers below to purchase
EXERCISE 21: Researching Pro Comics
Comedy Bible Workbook > Exercises > Exercise 21: Researching Pro Comics for Joke Structure