Deconstructing The Raymond Holt Mood Scale Joke

It’s been a while since I’ve done a deconstructing YouTube video, so let’s change that.

The above image was created after seeing an image on Facebook by Dan Meredith (sporter of beards and user of the words “balls” and “deep”).

In fact, here’s the image he posted:

It sparked an idea in my little head, so off I ran with it.

The Raymond Holt mood scale is the finished joke I came up with. Brooklyn 99 fans probably don’t need an explanation. If you’re not a 99 fan, firstly – what the heck is wrong with you? It’s like the best show ever! Secondly, don’t worry, I explain the gag in the video, so you won’t miss out.

How did I get from Dan’s post to the Ray Holt one? Simple, but to learn it you’ll have to watch the video on YouTube (it’s OK – you don’t see my face, I don’t say the word “moist” and I’m remain clothed the entire time).

You can see the video by clicking this link.

It’s a good example of how inspiration can hit when you’re least expecting it and what to do with it when it does strike.

I hope you enjoy the video!

Funny Business – Add Some Attitude

If you saw the previous post, about finding the truths in your business, you’re ready for the next step.

If you didn’t, you’re not, but don’t worry, we’ll wait…

We’ve seen how comedy comes from truth.

Truth isn’t always funny – we need to add something to make it funny.

We need to add some attitude.

Attitude isn’t always communicated via words. It can be, but most comedians communicate attitude with their tone and delivery.

I’m struggling to come up with a better example of this than Gary Coleman delivering, “What ya talkin’ about Willis?”

When you watch a good comedian, you can tell whether they’re angry, suspicious or scared by how they act.

“So, what attitude do we need to add to our truths, and how do we go about it?”

Good question.

First off, there are many attitudes you can add to truths, but the main ones to focus on are:

HARD
WEIRD
SCARY
STUPID

(These are the main attitudes Judy Carter mentions in her book, “The Stand-Up Comedy Bible”.)

No one wants to see a happy comedian, boasting about their awesome life. Comedy is found in weird, hard, scary and stupid things.

Here’s a Bill Burr gag to highlight this point:

“Let’s go to Brunch. What a great idea! Why would you want to sleep in on a Sunday when you can go pay $18 for eggs? Now, you’re thinking.”

Even written down, you can just smell the underlying stench of, “Brunch is stupid…”, can’t you?

Now the Burr gag is a fully written, edited and audience tested joke, so before we start today’s exercise, don’t get ahead of yourself or expect comedy club quality.

We’re just adding attitude here…

The Burr gag may have started off, “Brunch is stupid. It’s just a way for someone to overcharge you for more eggs.”

So, pick one of the truths you highlighted in the previous post and ask yourself:

“Why is this STUPID?”
“What about this is SCARY?”
“This is WEIRD because”
“What is HARD about this?

Some truths won’t tick all of the SCARY, WEIRD, HARD or STUPID boxes, so don’t worry.

Let’s take an example of being a magician (I might as well help myself while I’m here!).

Truth – most people think magicians are all the same.

Let’s see what attitude we can add to this.

What’s weird about thinking that all magicians are the same is that, if we said this about race or gender, we’d be committing a crime.

What’s weird is that people think that all magicians are the same, even though we have never booked one, or likely seen one before.

It’s hard to convince people that you’re not the same as everyone else when they can’t actually see the secrets and techniques you do for a living.

What’s stupid is that magicians often use the exact same words and phrases as other magicians, in order to convince people that they are unique (with “unique” being one of those words!)

What’s scary about thinking all magicians are the same is that they will probably choose one based on an insignificant factor.

Your turn. Pick one of your truths and work it through the “What is SCARY/HARD/STUPID/WEIRD about this…?” questions above.

Go easy on yourself, sometimes these can take a while to come up to the service. If you’re struggling, stop and do something else. Let your subconscious take some of the load.

Post some of your answers, or any questions, in the comments below

Funny Business – Find Your Truth

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.

Women care more than men about the jobs of their partners…
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:

  • work
  • clients
  • product
  • market
  • competition

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:

  1. I know that clients aren’t paying for tricks – they’re paying me to give their guests an awesome experience, so THEY look good.
  2. 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!).
  3. Unless you’ve booked a magician before, you probably have no idea what to ask/expect.
  4. 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.

The Truth Behind Comedy

The Truth Behind Comedy

“I know you think people are going to be interested in this…but they’re not.”

That’s how the video of Jerry Seinfeld, talking about how to write a joke, begins.

Joke writing is not sexy. it’s not fun.

It’s exactly the opposite of what you think it would be.

I won’t waffle on too much because the video explains the idea better than I ever could, especially since it’s one of the greatest comedians on the planet doing the explaining.

There are some things I want to point out though:

COMEDY STARTS WITH TRUTH.

Did you spot the truths in Jerry’s jokes?

“The snack is as nutritious as the box”

“It’s not fresh, because it was never fresh”.

Notice how he takes the truth about Pop Tarts and makes it funny.

it all starts with truth.

SONGWRITING

He talks about shaving syllables and words out of jokes, to get it to flow better, as it’s more like songwriting.

Comedy is spoken, not written. But even written words are read aloud in the heads of the audience.

(That sounds deep and meaningful, but it’s not. It’s just true.)

If you take nothing else from the video, it should reinforce the idea that writing comedy is a craft – it takes work (2 years of work in the case of the Pop-Tart joke!)

The First Rule of Comedy Writing is…

The first rule of comedy is…

… don’t forget your notebook.

In the old days, if a comedian got an idea for a gag, they’d make sure to carve it into a cave wall…

… before testing it out on stage at “Thag’s Comedy And Jazz Night” (Line Dancing every other Thursday).

Even prehistoric comedians knew that ideas are fickle and fleeting beasts.

You need to get used to writing ideas down as soon as you get them.

If you’re not blessed with access to a fresh cave wall and a stone, feel free to use your phone because ideas come at the weirdest times.

You could be sat at a desk for 8 hours, headphones on, incense stick burning… nothing.

Yet, the moment you step out of the room to peg out the washing…

WHAM!

THAT’S when that killer idea you’ve been working so hard to find lands in your brain.

Just as you’re hanging out your wife’s pants (on the washing line), the idea you’ve been working so hard for becomes crystal clear.

“I don’t need to write it down…I’m sure I’ll remember it”.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Oh no, you won’t.

Even if you’re only two minutes away from a pen, that perfect, fully formed idea will be long gone before you get there.

So… before you do anything else, have a system for getting your ideas down.

Use a notepad, your phone or shave the idea into your partners back – just make sure you get into the habit of recording your ideas because there’s nothing more frustrating than struggling to remember that million-dollar idea you had while you were deworming your neighbour’s cat!

(apart from discovering that your neighbour doesn’t actually have a cat…)

When inspiration hits, make sure you’re ready.