Increase the humor content (and laughs) of your professional presentations, informal business talks, and every day conversation.
This came up when I was younger, in my youth I used to lecture at colleges, Stanford, a lot of the UC campuses. It was always for college freshmen. College freshmen always wanted definitions. But you know life is the way it is. You don't understand it, you just try to survive it. But the freshman would go, 'What is a joke? What's funny?
I don't know. I write a joke and they buy it or they don't buy it. That's all I care about, if they like it. The comedian has to worry about whether they laugh or not. You know, once you buy the joke, you say it and if they laugh or don't laugh, that's your problem. If the check is good at the bank I'm a happy man.
But I finally thought about it and come up with this. A valid joke is any joke that makes sense whether or not you laugh.
This is important. I took a class with Danny Simon and I noticed one thing. Danny Simon would set up these premises. He'd say write a joke for a particular situation and somebody would say a line and I would think 'that's a really good line' and Danny would go, 'No, no, no, no...' And somebody else would do a line and Danny would go, 'No, no, no, no...'
And I thought, wait a minute. Those are all good lines. Based on the parameters that Danny Simon laid out, those jokes worked. And then I realized what Danny was trying to do was have people come up with the line HE wrote when he was working on the sketch. Now there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. But the problem was what he was doing. He was telling people - that's wrong, that's wrong, that's wrong and there was nothing wrong with their material.
So I came up with the concept of valid. He should have said, 'Yes, that's valid. Not quite what I was looking for but that is valid...' That would have been better. And this is a concept I use a lot. If you say a joke and I say that's valid it means: you understand what I said; you are doing it properly. And it's very important, particularly as a writer because you can't always judge it by laughter.
I write jokes that I don't think are funny. Particularly when I used to write for Joan Rivers. But I'd go, 'that's a valid joke and I can see Joan Rivers saying that joke.' And I would send it off and get a check for it. It's very important as a comedy writer. You have to be able to sit back and write material you don't think is funny. You go, it's valid. It's a joke. I see the point of it.
Let me give you an example. It's not really a joke it's a riddle...
First grade, second grade...
But the point is - is it valid? You go, oh I get it. See, whether you think it's funny or not is a separate issue. But you go, I get it. That's important as a comedy writer. If you write something and I get it that's what's important. That's why two people arguing about comedians is wasted energy. Rodney Dangerfield is a genius. He's a hack. He's funny. He's not funny.
Do you get his jokes? Yeah.
That's as far as it goes. I get his jokes. I like him. You get his jokes, you don't like him. When you say somebody is funny or not funny you are saying something about yourself not about the performer.
We will save ourselves a lot of arguments in here about what's funny or not funny if we remember this concept. And if you ever take another comedy class you may get an instructor with a tendency to say, 'well that's funny or that's not funny.' Baloney.
To yourself you should say, that joke's valid. I get that joke. Then go and find a market for your jokes.
Now, if you want to know if a joke is funny (and philosophers will argue over it for years), I, John Cantu will now tell you what's funny, okay. You have it from on high here...