Increase the humor content (and laughs) of your professional presentations, informal business talks, and every day conversation.
Beginning comics and speakers often use joke books early in their careers to find material to extend their act. And even though it's important, psychologically, in the beginning of one's career to try to get proven material to guarantee laughs, beginners are often conflicted and think that using a joke book somehow diminishes them as not being truly funny.
But for years I have told beginners, "If you only have a couple of funny ideas, don't be afraid to get a joke book and pick out some jokes to stretch your stage time (figure five jokes a minute for your set). Make sure the jokes fit your perception of what's funny in the world, put them in a monologue order and then, one by one, replace the joke book lines with your original ones."
I was both pleased and shocked to find that Jaime Masada of the Laugh factory agreed with me.
In "Comic Insights" Masada Is quoted on page 269. "I'm very passionate about the comedian's material. If someone comes in and does someone else's material that is proven, I say Ok the first six months they are trying to learn, but after six months if they aren't writing their own material, I say, "Don't come back in here." (Cantu side note: If you don't have Ajaye's book in your personal library you are not serious about being funny.)
Cantu again: The main reason I also feel this way about joke book material is I started my comedy career by memorizing Bob Newhart monologues and doing them for friends. I have since developed my own ability to be funny in writing and speaking. I don't think my 'borrowing' hurt Newhart or myself.
And Rosie O'Donnell tells about her first time on stage and afterward all the comics said "Hey where did you get your material?" She said, "I heard this guy Seinfeld or Steinfield or something" and they said "You can't do that. You have to do your own stuff!"
"She said I have to write my own jokes? Damn that's hard."
Actually, when she was told that you couldn't steal another comic's work, Rosie thought they were idiots because "When you're an actress, they don't ask you to write the movie."
Like all comics who ultimately become successful, she learned to write her own routines. She had a day job in Long Island in the catalog department at Sears and she spent her nights working as an emcee while she listened to the various acts and learned the ropes.
You would be surprised at the number of successful comics, who 'borrowed' ideas, lines, and concepts from joke books and others in their beginning stages and who have conveniently forgotten that part of their evolution.
And in spite of the fact that so many performers/speakers started with jokes and one-liners and still use them today, I have noticed that jokes and one liners have somewhat of a bad rap with some comics and speakers.
I remember one comedienne who said, "I don't just want to get up and tell a bunch of jokes, I want to do real humor." I asked, "Who is an example of a comic you feel does not do jokes but does real humor?"
"Gary Shandling" was the reply. I was floored. Gary Shandling is 100 percent a joke comic - set up and punchline - - - set up and punchline:
I've also noticed this disdain with jokes and one liners in speakers. My NSA-NC chapter would have a guest speaker and I would often count five, ten, twenty or more one-liners. After the talk, I would be surprised to hear my speaking colleagues comment on how great it was to hear someone who was funny without resorting to a bunch of jokes and one liners.
And I thought to myself, 'What am I missing here?'
It took me months of listening and evaluating to figure it out. Most civilians can't recognize a one-liner out of context. When Dan Gremmer talks about the dark, dingy, clubs we had to play in the beginning of our careers and says:
The audience doesn't hear it as the one liner it is: "This club was so dark, during my set, one of the audience members was developing film."
But rather they simply hear it as a clever way of describing how dark the club was. I finally realized people are not against jokes and one liners per se - they are against badly told jokes and unsupported one-liners.
All of the jokes in Cantu Jokes were originally published as part of my 1970's humor service Comedy/Update. Thus you are seeing examples of jokes that are more twenty years old but have been polished, edited, and revised to sound current and can still be used today. (Now Free Jokes Weekly and still using Comedy/Update as a source as well as John's other joke service publications.)
Consider each of these jokes as mini-lessons in which you will discover how published jokes are like a grain of sand in clam shell. You polish them till you have a valuable pearl. Always review jokes in joke collections with the broadest possible view of the joke(s).
Also as you go through these joke updates, notice that there are three basic ways to switch/update/adapt an 'old' joke.
And notice how they are edited for rhythm, to avoid awkward repetition of a word twice, for more clarity, or to reduce number of words.
This is how Jerry Seinfeld works a joke. "I sometimes will spend an hour trying to get an eight words sentence down to five words."
The example that follows was formatted on the basic premise that a lot of non-comedy people often turn to joke books to cull items. Surprise - many pros also use that method as an idea simulator - especially when they are suffering from severe writers' block or are on a fast approaching deadline.
Original Joke: In Vitro Fertilization, frozen sperm, surrogate mothers, frozen eggs, cloning . . . I got my DNA the old fashion way - from Mere's and Pere's conjugal efforts.
So fasten your set belts. Here's an over the shoulder look at a couple of writers batting around some jokes and updating and editing them for better clarity and bigger laughs. I'm tossing them and Giles is editing them.
And as the pros say, "An old joke is a joke that doesn't get a laugh."