Use Lists as a Springboard for Great Ideas
When you're writing about a specific topic, be it a monologue on dating or an essay about spending the holidays with your family, making a list of everything you can think of associated with that topic can really help you come up with jokes or ideas that you might have otherwise overlooked. You already worked with lists in Chapter 2 and Chapter 4, but now you'll take it a bit further.
Brainstorm a List
Try this experiment: Pick a general topic that you would like to talk about. It could be anything — going on vacation, a holiday, or even something a lot less exciting like going to the dentist, buying shoes, or grocery shopping. Let's try a topic that everyone has had some experience with: a birthday. Now write down every basic fact that you can think of on the topic of birthdays. They don't have to be funny; you just want to get all your thoughts down on paper. Don't be afraid of including the most obvious things; just write it down. Write down everything you can to cover as much of the topic as possible. Set a goal — make your list at least thirty items long. It might really be difficult coming up with those last few items on the list, but that's the point. You want to bring all the thoughts in the back of your mind to the front. Okay, what comes to mind when you think of birthdays? Your list might include the following:
Every year you have a birthday party.
People give you cards and presents on your birthday.
They sing “Happy Birthday to You.”
If you go to a restaurant and say it's your birthday, they might give you a free dessert and the staff might sing to you as well.
The song “Happy Birthday to You” is copyrighted. Chain restaurants usually have their own birthday song to avoid paying royalties.
People try to embarrass you on your birthday.
When you are a kid, birthdays are lots of fun.
As an adult, they are more reminders of getting older.
People who are born on February 29 during a leap year only have birthdays every four years.
In some cultures, your birthday is based upon your conception date.
There are fun presents, practical presents, and “gag” presents.
Sometimes people throw you a surprise party.
You usually have a birthday cake.
They put a candle on the cake for every year you've lived.
You blow out the candles and make a wish. If you don't blow out all the candles, or if you tell anybody what you wished for, your wish won't come true.
At kids' parties they have piñatas, sometimes based on different characters.
Birthday parties sometimes have themes.
Balloons are used to celebrate birthdays.
Sometimes you have a “friend” party and a “family” party.
Certain birthday milestones are celebrated more than others.
If you live to be 100, you might get your picture in the newspaper or be mentioned on TV.
At some parties you play “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”
On your first birthday, people make a big fuss, but you are oblivious to everything that happens.
Sometimes, especially when you are a kid, you might have entertainment at your party: a magician, a clown, or a face painter.
Some people really go overboard with expensive kids' parties.
A bar or bat mitzvah, quinceañera, or “sweet 16” party is a big deal.
On your twenty-first birthday, you finally can legally drink; on your eighteenth birthday you legally become an adult.
As you age, you enter phases: teens, twenties, thirties, forties, etc.
At age sixty-five, you become a senior citizen and get special discounts.
When you are younger, you want to be older. When you are older, you want to be younger.
Is that everything? Not by a long shot. But it's a good beginning at least. Now it's time to analyze the list and see if you can come up with some jokes, sketch ideas, or funny stories.