Joke writing can be a daunting task. It’s hard to come up with an original premise, and make it work on stage. Sure, your co workers may say you are the funniest person in your office, or you were voted “Class Clown” in your high school. Congratulations. The translation from what works in a group of your peers, to what makes an audience that has no idea who you are laugh, is something that requires meticulous work and hours of dedication. You also need to know how to deal with failure, a lot of failure.
So, how do you make that transition? Some people are just born with a lot of stage presence, storytelling ability, and are great public speakers. For the rest of us, it requires writing and practice! There is a certain “science” of writing a perfect joke. It requires going over and over what to say, and how to say it. It requires practicing in front of a mirror every calculated facial twist and perfect pause. It requires carrying around a notebook and getting awkward glances while waiting in line at the DMV laughing to yourself.
Eric Thorson had the chance to sit down with the winner of the Caste of Killers Battle Royale competition and co-creator of the Writer’s Block writing group, Ryan Lowe to look into some of these questions.
Eric: What exactly is the Writer’ Block writing group?
Ryan: “I would describe Writers Block as the study of the science of comedy writing. It’s important to take writing seriously. It can give you a different perspective on things, and can give you more tools in your toolbox.”
Eric: What do you do personally to overcome writers block?
Ryan: “To be honest, it’s something that I struggle with. That’s why we created Writers Block. Personally, I write about random things, or make lists, just things that are low risk. It doesn’t have to be good; it can be about watermelons, or whatever. It is just an exercise to take the pressure off. It’s easier to turn something bad into something good, than to get something good from nothing.”
For some, writing with a group can be very advantageous. Getting someone else’s opinion is a good way to gauge if what is funny to you is in fact funny to someone else. Bouncing jokes off a friend is also a good way to get an outside opinion, and an alternative angle that you might have overlooked that could add or subtract to the joke. I asked Ryan about the pros and cons of a writing group versus writing alone.
“One of the pros of writing in a group would be the energy. If you throw out an idea, it might just be a passing thought, but then people start riffing on it. It can spark an idea, or go a different direction that you maybe hadn’t thought of.”
“Sometimes it can also be difficult. I know personally I get hesitant to use other people’s ideas. If someone contributes a lot to a joke, then whose joke is it, really? That’s why it’s important to establish guidelines when working in a group. Say, “OK, now we are working on your joke.” I am kind of a control freak about writing my own material, guess.”
Writer’s Block takes place at the Underground Collaborative on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month.
You can catch Ryan Headlining comedy shows all over the Midwest, and you can also check out Ryan’s Puppet rendition of Moby Dick.
Thank you Ryan Lowe for being so awesome, and for taking to time to chat with us about comedy and “the process”!