Author Archives: Administrator

About Administrator

Alicia Dattner is a comedian and speaker who jousts with such topics of love, time-management, money, environmentalism, politics, spirituality, and creativity. Her first solo show, The Punchline, recently won Best of the Fringe in the San Francisco Fringe Festival 2008. Her second show, Eat Pray Laugh won Best Storyteller at the NY United Solo Festival. Her company, Making Light, is dedicated to bringing humor and lightness into spirituality, relationship, and every day life.

How to be a Really Funny Comedian, Part 7: Do Your Homework

How to be a Really Funny Comedian, Part 7: Do Your Homework

Steven-wright There are lots of ways to study comedy. How you do it is up to you, but that you do it shouldn't be a question. The most embarrasing thing you could do would be to plagarize a joke (or think you were the first to come up with it) at your first big club gig and as you walk off stage, have someone point out that your three minute dentist bit was already done by Bill Cosby 30 years ago. That's why you gotta study comedy.

Another important part of studying comedy is studying "voice." But what's that mean, right? 

Take Steven Wright's "voice." You might say, "Well, there's a guy who's kinda depressed, and his humor comes out of being sad." Another way to view his voice would involve examining the mechanism of humor that he's using. For example, Wright uses absurdity as his main mode of humor. He is one of the greatest joke writers of all time, and his humor was continually surprising and clever and genius. It's the kind of humor that inspired me to become a comedian. I once wrote a joke about freeze-dried water, and I was telling it to a fellow comedian who said, oh, like that Steven Wright joke about dehydrated water? Good thing I didn't tell it on stage! I like to think that when that happens, it means we're on the right track. And that perhaps I have some similarities with his sense of humor. When I was younger, I was more interested in absurd humor then I am today, but I still appreciate it deeply. 

ACTION: Go to your parents' house and dust off their record player and their old comedy albums. Make sure that you are aquainted with the old comedy as well as the new and that you really have an idea of who wrote what classic bits: Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, etc. 

STAY TUNED: more tantalizing comedy secrets tomorrow! Also check out these series of How To's:

How to be a Comedian Parts OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix and Seven

So You Want to Write a One Person Show Parts OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix and Seven

 

How to be a Really Funny Comedian, Part 6: Culture Jamming

How to be a Really Funny Comedian, Part 6: Culture Jamming

First-date-comedy-club Continuing again from the last two posts on audience and culture, I have been discussing performing my show about traveling in India in other countries and for other audiences than my target demographic. Those who have not traveled, or who have no interest in spirituality/spiritual seeking find the shadow to be mildly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud-roll on the floor-hold-your-belly-because-your cheeks-are-hurting kind of funny. Women tend to enjoy it more than men. Older people sometimes more than younger ones. I also have performed the show in different countries. When I arrived to put it on in England, I realized there were a huge amount of references that I had no idea would be so so difficult to translate until I was on stage, telling the story. 

So not only are there differences in audiences' senses of humor with time, culture, and language, there are also differences in values and perspective. Audiences want to relate to the person on stage. And they want to be challenged at the same time. For example, people who go to see Dennis Miller are generally wanting to hear someone who is angry about things and politically conservative. People who watch Jon Stewart are generally wanting to hear the truth. Of course I'm not biased.

ACTION: Go out and do a set in a totally different venue with a totally different audience than you normally do. Figure out how to adjust your set for their sensibilities without compromising what you have to say.  Is it possible?

STAY TUNED: more tantalizing comedy secrets tomorrow! Also check out these series of How To's:

How to be a Comedian Parts OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix and Seven

So You Want to Write a One Person Show Parts OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix and Seven 

 

How to be a Really Funny Comedian, Part 5: Wranglin’ Up Your Audience

How to be a Really Funny Comedian, Part 5: Wranglin’ Up Your Audience

George-carlin1So this is a continuation from yesterday's post on Carlin… (read that first.) Now, imagine George Carlin's Stuff routine in front of a different audience than us. An Indian George Carlin, perhaps. He wouldn't be as funny talking about consumerism in a country where most people don't own homes. His jokes might just be offensive. Yet cross-cultural humor can work sometimes with the right adjustments.

I recently performed a one woman show about my trip to India and it's called Eat, Pray, Laugh! The show is about my travels across India from the perspective of a American female tourist. I talk about all sorts of adventures across in India, and I've found that people who have had similar experiences to mine find the show really funny. Specifically, other foreign women who have traveled in India, or traveled alone for the first time, been hit on, met other foreigners and had romantic interludes. 

ACTION: Imagine performing your act in different countries, different ethnicities, or different ages of people than normal. How would you adjust your act accordingly? What references or phrases need changing or explaining? What jokes don't work all together? Are there swears or blue material that need toning down? Ramping up? What fear comes up about adjusting your act? Are you afraid of "selling out?" Are you afraid of "dumbing things down?" Good! That fear will help you keep your artistic integrity as you consider how to make your humor accessible to more people.

STAY TUNED: more tantalizing comedy secrets tomorrow! Also check out these series of How To's:

How to be a Comedian Parts OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix and Seven

So You Want to Write a One Person Show Parts OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix and Seven 

How to be a Really Funny Comedian, Part 4: Political Humor

How to be a Really Funny Comedian, Part 4: Political Humor

George_carlin Do a little archival comedy research. It's a very interesting historical enterprise. Not only can we observe the public sentiment of the political atmosphere at the time, but we can chuckle at the outdated jargon and references. One of my favorite examples is George Carlin. He started out totally apolitical and then got more and more political as time went on.

My favorite routine of his is the Stuff routine. Pure comedy genius. I believe this will totally stand the test of time simply because we all can still relate to this theme. Having too much stuff in America and feeling overwhelmed by our possessions is pretty darn pervasive. He didn't just jab at current events and politicians of the time, but made broad-reaching, deeply rooted cultural observations. I'm not a giant fan of his later, punny, political stuff, even though I mostly agree with what he had to say. How about you?

ACTION: Go to a cafe every day for a week and read the newspaper. Write for an hour on the headlines. Make associations, references, and observations. Don't even try to be funny–try to notice things and talk about how you feel abou them. And HAVE A POINT OF VIEW. Perhaps you were a stockbroker and now you're just broke. And that's your point of view on politics. I personally tend to be pretty apolitical in terms of talking about what's in the news and what I think about politics. But my comedy is personal, and as we learned from feminism in the 70's, personal is political. So regardless of whether you talk about Jimmy Carter–wait, what year is it?–make sure you talk about how you personally feel about what's happening in the world and not just what you think they think you think is funny.

STAY TUNED: more tantalizing comedy secrets tomorrow! Also check out these series of How To's:

How to be a Comedian Parts OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix and Seven

So You Want to Write a One Person Show Parts OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix and Seven

 

How to be a Really Funny Comedian, Part 3: Your Relevance

How to be a Really Funny Comedian, Part 3: Your Relevance

Twain So: is it more important for you to feel that your comedy will be relevant for a long time or rather that you are totally hip and cutting edge?

Some topics in comedy can go from ripe to rotten. If your act used racist or sexist stereotypes, it was probably pretty funny to people in the 50's and even 60's.  But eventually, those jokes stopped being funny… to people on the West Coast and the East Coast.  I hear that you can take jokes to the heartland that would have you boo'd off stage in San Francisco.  This is the "Men are.. and women are…" comedy.. the "black people are.. whereas white people are.."  It's also a very "You people are.." kind of feel.

Or you can take Tina Fey's stance when she became the youngest person ever (age 40 at the time) to win the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Upon winning she declared, "I hope that, like Mark Twain, people will see my work 100 years from now and say, 'Wow, that is actually pretty racist.' " She came in 39th place for the 100 Most Creative People in Business this year, perhaps because she has a handle on both universally relevant topics and taking risks with potentially ripe to rotten humor. 

But what else is there?  Well, we can use humor to be self-deprecating, to talk about our own feelings… It's likely that it'll continue to be funny for a long time. 

ACTION: Write yourself a list of priorities or do some free writing about what's most important to you to convey so you can know for sure, "Yes, I want to be awesomely hip, and I don't care what people think about how I was in the future." or "No, I want my comedy to be a legacy for all of humanity for the next seven generations and to offend no one."

STAY TUNED: more tantalizing comedy secrets tomorrow! Also check out these series of How To's:

How to be a Comedian Parts OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix and Seven

So You Want to Write a One Person Show Parts OneTwoThreeFourFiveSix and Seven