I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (mostly because I don’t have many fresh ideas, so am prone to repetition) – all comedy is born from truth.
When you laugh at a comedian talking about aeroplane food, it’s because you’ve been there, done that and dribbled the sauce down your T-Shirt.
When you see a stand up on stage, acting out a warm up, preparing for the vigorous exercise that is packing the shopping bags at Aldi, you can relate to the hellish nightmare he’s about to endure.
(If you haven’t shopped at Aldi, let me explain. Bag packing at Aldi is like bag packing at any other supermarket…only on 3x speed! It’s like packing to the theme of Benny Hill).
I’m going to use Seinfeld as an example. I’ve used Seinfeld as an example before, but I don’t want you thinking that I’m some kind of weird stalker/fanboy.
I’m only using him for this example because I have a copy of his book, “Seinlanguage”, to hand, which has transcripts of his routines.
He is great, but, let’s be clear – I’m being a bloody lazy sod and saving myself the time it would take to search other comics on YouTube, sift through the material and then type it all out.
Let’s have a look at a few truths/premises behind some Seinfeld jokes:
“Women need to know the job of the guy they’re dating…” – a routine where he examines the difference between men and women (men don’t really care what women do for a living).
“What are lawyers really? To me, they’re just people who know the rules of the country…”
“I’ve just painted my apartment. Every time I paint it, I get a little down. I think, ‘Well, it’s a little bit smaller now…'”
“Sunday papers are the worst. it’s the weekend, you want to relax…’oh by the way, here are 1,000 pages of information you don’t care about..'”
I’ve not included the full scripts for these bits so, annoyingly, you’ll have to guess the punchlines (I’m hinting at a future exercise here…), but you can see the truth behind the jokes.
Lawyers are just people who know the rules…
Adding a layer of paint to each wall technically makes your room smaller.
WHY THE HELL ARE SUNDAY PAPERS SO DAMN THICK???
It all starts with truth.
It’s the same when you’re looking to funny up your website, make your email hilarious, or add some laughs to your presentation.
You’re no different from Seinfeld (apart from not being a gazillionaire and not having Obama on speed-dial)
It all starts from a truth, and that’s where we’ll start today.
What is a truth about YOUR business?
Don’t try to be funny.
Just tell me some truths about your work.
There’s a famous example of this from Jeff Bezos (I think he’s a greengrocer in Shoreditch or something). He’s quoted as saying, “it’s not what is going to change that is important, but what is going to stay the same. In 50 years, people will still want goods as cheaply and quickly as possible – that will always be true”.
And he’s right. Some things about your business will always be the same.
What are the truths about YOUR business? If you need any prompts, think about your:
Don’t make the leap to thinking about truths that are also funny.
Don’t worry, we’ll get there, but not yet.
Focus on the truths.
Are you a software company that needs to be easy to reach, quick to respond and able to integrate with other services and systems?
Is your bookkeeping firm always flooded with enquiries in January, from self-assessment wary freelancers, who all think it just takes 26 minutes to complete a tax return?
You know, what? Balls to hypothetical examples! Let’s use one I’m familiar with – me.
As a magician, there are several truths I know:
- I know that clients aren’t paying for tricks – they’re paying me to give their guests an awesome experience, so THEY look good.
- Corporate clients want the process to be as easy and painless as possible, as they have 1,287 other jobs on their to-do list (you can see the beginnings of a bit of humour here – once you started doing this, you can’t help yourself!).
- Unless you’ve booked a magician before, you probably have no idea what to ask/expect.
- All magicians look pretty much the same.
That’s enough to get started with, and I’m sure you can already see the potential angles for some humour. That’s good, but don’t get ahead of yourself.
Just like a stand up comic needs a rock-solid truth as the basis of a joke, you need a rock-solid truth to form the basis of your humour.
Spend some time with this; think about your work from the angles listed above and see how many truths you can come up with. Later on, we’ll use these are avenues for humour.