Read Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s changed the way I write. With stand-up, my writing has rarely translated to the stage. When I don’t have time to write, my ideas are often funnier off the top of my head, talking it out in front of people. Other times, I would write so much, I couldn’t remember all of the sequences of words I’d put together, and I’d lose connection with the audience while trying to recall my precious composition. Here’s the new plan:
1. Write 10 notebook pages a day. I’ve only been able to do this a little more than half the time since I first talked about it, but it’s getting more habitual. On a good day I’ll write seven pages early, and the rest in between sets at night.
1 a. Live my life. Lots of great writers and performers have a wife, kids, multiple jobs, etc. There’s time. I just have to stay off the damn internet. Technically this should be rule number one, but getting that writing done early helps me live my life, and having experiences outside stand up help inspire the writing.
3. Go to open mics WITH ONLY NEW IDEAS FROM PREVIOUS DAYS. Nothing I’ve written that morning, unless it’s a tag for something I’ve been working on, or it’s one of those rare ideas that’s immediately and clearly funny. Forgetting about the joke and coming back to it helps me look at it with fresh eyes, judge whether it’s actually funny, and help minimize wordiness.
4. “Kill your darlings.” This is King quoting another author, but its so true. Too often I try to force jokes into longer bits, where I start off strong and end up puttering out. I love a lot of the extra tags, but they’re often an unnecessary repetition of an idea the audience already understood. I’m not sure how to explain this well yet, but a joke is often a slight of perception. A tag, is usually a repetition of that, in a heightened way. More than one tag, should really lead to another slight of perception. Magic analogy: Pull rabbit out of a hat, pull two rabbits out of a hat, doves fly out of the hat. The rabbit out of the hat is a slight of perception, two rabbits is the tag. After that, more rabbits is predictable, but doves flying out becomes the new slight. Cut things even if you like them. Edit edit edit. See how predictable that last sentence was? But it’s advice, not a joke.