It's Like You're Reading My Mind!
Everyone has thoughts or experiences that they never share with others. These are things that people tend to think are unique to them. However, while the exact situations may be exceptional, the overall experiences are commonplace.
These kinds of thoughts can be very useful for comedy writing. It's almost like mind reading. Magicians call it cold-reading. They are the staples of phony psychics, astrologers, and mediums. They are very general statements that can be said about anyone but seem deeply personal to everyone.
It's pure magic when the audience arrives at the joke at the exact moment you deliver the punch line, where they practically complete your sentence. Connections like that are hard to make, but they are worth the work for the effect they have on an audience.
Here is a classic dating scenario: At some point in the date you mention that you like the Simpsons. Your date exclaims: “Oh my God! I love the Simpsons!” Then you proceed to talk about your favorite episodes and memorable moments from the show. Now, this isn't exactly an amazing coincidence. Lots of people love the Simpsons. It's a great show, and it's the longest-running American sitcom. And people who do like it tend to be rabid about it; they know their favorite episodes and moments, and many can practically recite whole episodes from memory.
What makes this scenario seem amazing is the moment. You and your date have made a connection. You've shared something personal about yourselves.
Comedy is a lot like dating. Sometimes you and your audience hit it off well, and sometimes you don't. If you don't, it was nothing personal, just a mismatch. Those connections are what help make comedy work consistently. Making strong connections is like courting the audience and eventually making them fall in love with you.
Be careful not to share too much with the audience. Remember, an air of mystery keeps a romance alive. Don't make the stage your private confessional. Performing and writing can be therapeutic, but don't ask the audience to be your therapist. Making the audience uncomfortable without a strong comedic payoff will create lots of tension between you and the audience — and not the good kind.
If you can make connections and elicit laughs with things that audience members have thought but never told anyone, you own that audience. They are drawn in and will listen to every word you say. They will become your biggest fans, read everything you write, see every show you do, buy every album you record, and be devoted followers for life.