When it’s not “Just a joke”

So I’m at an open mic with my dear comedy friends and a flock of douchebros from Staten Island decided to come down and give the room a try. Ok, cool new faces. Then this shithead makes a joke about beating his girlfriend. I can’t remember his name, but we’ll call him Nick because it rhymes with dick because only a dick would think it’s funny to make a joke about beating his girlfriend. So now that my white-hot rage has subsided a bit, let’s talk about this shall we?

Folks, I know I’ve said that in comedy nothing is sacred, however there are certain things that you don’t joke about and domestic violence is one of them. Three woman die in the United States every day as a result of domestic violence (you may fact-check me here). According to the CDC, more than half of female homicide victims are killed by a current or former intimate partner (you my fact-check me here). I don’t know about you, but I think something that in and of itself kills people is not fucking funny. For the record, neither is sexual assault, rape, or any type of violence against any group.

I’m not one of those politically correct bitches that want to ruin your fun. I am however, familiar with the concept of normalization and how it works. The comedian who made the joke was a dick. However, those of you who laughed at it even if it was nervous laughter are no better. Congratulations, assholes! You just normalized domestic violence! By laughing you told that bastard that it’s okay for him and others like him to beat up his girlfriend. You told me and every other woman in that room that it’s okay for men to hurt us because after all, it’s just a joke. Imagine that this guy is dating your daughter or your sister. Is it still funny? Is it still just a joke to you?

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The Joke Writing Process

I’ve been asked how I come up with and write my jokes. The truth is, it’s really hard to explain this process without sounding like I’m being a smartass. Some of my jokes just come to me as I go about my day. That’s why the notebook in the featured image above looks like it’s seen a war. I never know when a joke is going to come to me, so my notebook is with me at all times.

IMG_2427.JPGThen there are the jokes that took a bit of work. For example, after sitting in a business meeting I thought to myself there’s a joke here, yet try as I might the joke didn’t come. So I brainstormed and wrote down reasons why people don’t really like going to business meetings and from that list, the joke was born.

 

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Some of the jokes that have come easy to me only appeared that way. Sometimes it took a bit of trial and error and some were more error. There’s a lot of crossing out and scribbling in my notebook from jokes I started writing before deciding to take them in a completely different direction.

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This joke was mostly error

There are a few that pages where jokes may appear unfinished, but they’re not. While writing the beginning of the joke I may have stopped to Google something, gotten sidetracked, got distracted by a shiny object, or I may have been drunk while writing and fallen asleep. However, I always go back and finish it. I just do so on a different page.

Some comics will tell you that you need to follow a formula to write your jokes.

Premise + Act-out + punchline = joke

I tried following that formula and I just felt like it didn’t work for me. My writing felt forced like I was trying to be funny instead of just being funny. There’s a passage in the Tao Te Ching that tells us the more we sharpen a knife the duller it will become. We get so caught up in the rat race we call life that we forget how to just be. The same applied to me with my joke writing. I got so caught up in a formula that my writing came across as hackneyed and contrived, so I tossed the formula and just allowed myself to be funny. I’m not knocking the formula. If you use it and it works for you, great! The point is to find what works for you and keep writing.