Become a Comedy Sponge (Squarepants Optional)
Let's get started. You know a lot more about comedy and comedy writing than you think you do. As a consumer of comedy, just think about how much comedy you have experienced in your lifetime. You've seen it all, from Bugs Bunny cartoons to late-night talk shows. How many times have you seen Lucy pitching Vitavitavegimin on reruns of I Love Lucy? How many of Gary Larson's Far Side cartoons have you laughed at? How many times have you seen Homer Simpson try to jump over Springfield Gorge? Sitcoms, movies, newspaper articles, books, stand-up, talk shows, cartoons, the list goes on and on. You've seen what works and what doesn't, and you know what you like and don't like. You've seen countless examples that others have presented to the world as their comedic point of view. Now it's time to show the world yours.
Are You the Life of the Party?
On a personal level, you've been funny with your family, friends, and coworkers. You've probably made people you don't even know laugh. You've done it all — just not professionally. Your comic voice and timing will come from everything that has made you laugh, all the funny things that have happened to you, and all the funny thoughts you've had. Your comedy point of view will be shaped by all the comedy you have consumed. So if good stuff has been coming into your mind during your life, good stuff will come out. But even though you've been influenced by others (who were, in turn, influenced by those who came before them), your comedy voice will be uniquely yours. You have a wealth of material just waiting to get out. And believe it or not, you also know all the techniques needed to make it happen.
Are You a Good Listener?
When people see a great performer they always say, “What a great sense of timing she has.” Timing comes from having a good ear, from watching so much comedy that you know the patterns and the beats that make people laugh. It comes from listening. Listening is also important in order to get a sense of how people talk, in order to create believable dialogue and interesting characters. Everyone's timing is unique. Two comedians telling that same joke would tell it in two completely different ways. A good comedian doesn't have to think about the timing of a joke; she instinctively knows the timing.