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An Internet Comedy Writer's Most Common Problems
Internet comedy, for all of it's crudeness, isn't all "dick and fart jokes". There's actually a lot of nuance and at times, sophistication at play. Though, admittedly, "dick and fart jokes" can play very well, if executed right. Still, the problem a lot of would be comedy writers tend to get mired in, isn't the material...it's the construct and execution.
It seems that, despite being funny and the ability to construct jokes, flows naturally to some...when spoken and "live". Writing a joke or something funny, sometimes, does not. Why that is, no one really knows. Though, there are some telltale "wrongs" that slight a lot of work created by writers. Correcting these are simply a matter of taking the time out to do it right and avoiding the frustration of doing it wrong. Some of the more common problems when comedy is put to paper are:
- Getting A Flow
- Losing the audience
I'll take the first one last, because, it leads readily into the other points. Plus, I like to go against the grain...even my own.
Rambling is the art of writing or saying a million words (or what sounds and reads like a million) and taking the longest, wordiest route to eventually, possibly hit your point (or punch line). (<---rambling).
The problem with rambling is that it destroys whatever you're setting up and kills interest in what you're talking about...faster than a fart at a perfume counter.
What leads a lot of writers to ramble is combination of a refusal to edit and inability to write with less wording.
A quick example might be:
"I lived in this place down in Florida when I was growing up. There was this guy that used to come around with an ice cream truck. He was kinda tall, had a beard and talked to all the kids in this real high pitched voice. Anyway, he was selling ice cream one day and we noticed that he only took ice cream out of this one white cooler. So, I asked him why he only used that one cooler and he said something about it being a bathroom. Yeah, something like that."
A less wordy version:
When I was little, we got our ice cream from a guy in an ice cream truck. He'd give us our ice cream from one cooler and totally ignore the other. One day I asked him, "Why don't you ever take ice cream from the other one?" His answer, "It's because I crap in that one.".
Cutting the rambling gets to your punchline quicker. Taking a circuitous route to the punchline just aggravates readers and loses followers. Never be afraid to cut your words out. Well, wait a minute, never be afraid to cut the wrong words out.
Or Pick The Right Words
Getting Your Flow Right
As grand master Seinfeld so eloquently put it, comedy can take a long time. Despite pressure to deliver on a deadline, proper joke writing and insertion into material can take forever. The Internet has no such patience. Everything must be delivered yesterday, if not sooner, so, little time can be wasted on trivialities like "honing skills" and "attention to detail".
The ever present burden of the Internet's ADHD driven deadlines looming, one can't help but feel compelled to cut corners. Corner number one being "editing" or "shutting the hell up a little more". How can anyone cope under all that pressure other than to give in to short cuts, negating quality right?
WRONG! Wow, sorry about the caps. Wrong.
A great way to offset the pressure load is to type (or in Seinfeld's case, write) out the words first and practice them by verbalizing out loud. It goes a long way to concentrating a funny piece to it's blissfully flowing essence by helping eliminate un-needed words.
A piece's flow is directly effected by the quantity and quality of wordage used. Jokes and funny things have to have a certain flow and chain reaction quality to it. It needs to pop.
This guy is worth watching to. So, watch!
Slang, in writing, can be a bad thing. Often, slang is converted into a typed word, in the form of poorly lettered real words. "Because" turns into "Cause" which, in turn becomes "Cuz". As with most ill spelled things, it's often misconstrued as poorly written due to diminished intellect. This often isn't the case, however. It just seems that way.
Slang isn't readily understood by everyone. Sometimes, it's true nature and meaning is misinterpreted and misunderstood. In cases were slang is specific to a region or neighborhood, even more so. The fact of the matter is, slang, if used in great quantity is seen as misspelled words and backward phrasing.
Still, there are times, when used creatively, slang can really pull a joke through. Just ask any performer on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour about "Y'all".
The best way to find out if slang is putting your writing off it's mark is to read it out loud. Even if you're muttering it to yourself, the words should flow naturally. That is to say, that anyone listening to you speak would understand it plainly and not need an interpreter.
Remembering that the Internet is a worldwide community, for the most part, will keep most writers on the track of slang avoidance. Still, the compulsion to include a few off hand slang terms is a hard habit to kick. The best way to get around that is to figure out what the slang saying you want to throw in is actually trying to say, then, use a plain language equivalent to get the job done instead. It's far more rewarding for the reader and in the long term, the writer when a piece is understood in a general sense. It garners a higher readership and is more easily shared.
At times, comedy writing, especially internet comedy, is crude. That being a given, that crudity doesn't readily carry over into the writing portion of the content. Readers, on the whole, like to understand what they're reading with as little effort on their part as possible. This doesn't infer that they're stupid, just prone to recognizing "crap".
When an article, comedy or otherwise, is written in a haphazard, slip shod way, readers pick up on it, pretty quickly. What really sets a reader against a writer is, in fact, the disrespect that comes from a written piece with low "readability".
An easy remedy for this often tread problem can be to simply read what you've written aloud, to yourself. It also helps to run a spell check or two.
Losing your audience
For every audience building technique available, up to and including hostage taking, there are a hundred more...that alienate and lose the audience. I should know...I've done them all.
Rambling, inconsistent writing, poor subject matter and wording are all documented ways to send readers to other, funnier writers. It's safe to say that without those things, reality t.v. might not exist, due to poor quality material as well. It's a cruel world.
The audience response can make or break the building of a fan base. A fan base being the chief propagator of a comedy writer's (internet or otherwise) ambition for money, fame, power and glory. The audience and it's members can be the key to acceptance into higher realms of the internet comedy writing echelon as well (should there be one). There have been many occasions were a comedy writer has gotten paid gigs and built careers based on word of mouth from his or her own fan base.
The best way to build an internet readership is with consistent, concise, funny, well written comedy.
The best way to lose an audience is to do exactly none of those things.