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Writing Alternative Comedy

Updated on November 9, 2012

Call Yourself A Real Comedy Writer?

Being a good stand up comedian or comedy writer - not just any comedy writer can easily work for Jon Stewart and the like - means that you may well have to take lessons in writing comedy for alternative situations.

Alternative comedy, as the name implies, is comedy for a different audience than a mainstream one; as a result, this type of comedy is actually harder than comedy meant for a mainstream audience.

If you want to call yourself a real comedy writer - not just a writer who happens to be working for Conan O'Brien - then you have got to learn to master alternative comedy.

In A Nutshell: Alternative comedy is a philosophy and an approach to comedy that rejects the traditional notions of comedy, such as the predictable and boring setup and punchline routine that you can hear every old comedian attempt

Kevin Froleiks
Kevin Froleiks

According to Kevin Froleiks, a budding comedian, alternative comedy can be defined as comedy that attempts to break the mold of the same old, same old one liner comedy routines that we are all used to.

More specifically, it is a kind of comedy that brings something new to the proverbial table and does not just blindly obey a bunch of so-called comedy rules (most of which are non-existent anyway!).

Eugene Mirman presents his definition/manifesto of alternative comedy

Eugene Mirman presents his definition/manifesto of alternative comedy at AltCom 2009 in Somerville, MA - and he gets a hand from a special guest.

George Carlin
George Carlin

Do you want some examples of comics from the past who were great at putting the "alternative" into comedy. Think of the late George Carlin, who was just funny based on the fact that he did not strive to adhere to any apparent comedy "rules" and instead tried and succeeded in being very original by breaking the proverbial mold.

Just think about his infamous "7 Dirty Words": Can you even conjure up an image of Carlin doing something as utterly lame as airport jokes instead of his groundbreaking "7 Dirty Words?!"

Of course you can't because, according to the website of Froleiks, Carlin was one of the finest alternative comics of all time. In fact, a lot of the great comedians can be termed as ambassadors of being alternative.

Somewhat oddly enough, though, the stand up comic Bill Burr has a sort of different definition for alternative comedy. In his mind, those doing this kind of comedy are simply not funny; they are basically doing anything weird or insane in place of what would be considered funny comedy, just to stand out or to draw attention to themselves.

However, keep in mind that that may not be the fairest or the most accurate definition of what constitutes failed comedy. Old greats such as the late Andy Kaufman did a lot of those performance art stunts to stand out, and they were certainly effective at being funny in their own right.

Alternative Comedy on Amazon

Writing Alternative Comedy
Writing Alternative Comedy

Writing Comedy

So back to what makes a good comedy writer, now. Being a comedy writer is a job that takes a lot of creativity and thought, which is where alternative comedy comes into the picture.

Instead of simply being just another ordinary writer of comedy who falls beneath the radar and does not get noticed or even acclaimed, a writer who uses alternative elements in his comedy will increase his chances of success because he is not playing it safe one bit! He follows his own agenda and boldly goes where the audience is not expecting him to go!

How to be an "Alternative" Comedian

Comedy Store
Comedy Store

In the end, composing comedy with an alternative flavor is not for everybody. That much is beyond clear at this stage. Good comedy will always be funny, whether it is based on alternative styling or not. Any good writer of comedy should learn to take risks and stand out from the rest of the pack by marching to the beat of his own comedy drum.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I saw your lens posted and had to drop by. By nature I am a very warped minded gal and my favorite comedian was Carlin. I miss him so much. Anyhow great lens.