Many new comedians are under the false impression that if they can just learn and understand joke formulas that they will somehow be better able to “write” a stand-up comedy act that gets laughs.
The reality is that joke formulas as they are perceived and taught in stand-up comedy books, classes and workshops are largely a big waste of time and here’s why I can say that:
Any so-called joke formula that you can find represents an after-the-fact description of similar “techniques” comedians used in their stand-up comedy material to get laughs.
Furthermore, joke formulas ignore the sitcom structure and utilize of screen composition used in movies and television shows to create humor, as well as the omitted elements of timing, delivery, and other performance elements that are integral to the overall comedic effect of a stand-up comedy act.
The problem is that joke formulas only account for similarities in word or sentence structure as they are read as transcribed on paper, ignoring the comedy mechanics involved as the comedy material or punchlines were delivered by the comedian.
In other words, joke formulas exclude the majority of the attributes of what any comedian says that gets laughs and focus only on identification of the similar attributes as they apply to the literal words and sentences any particular comedian used.
At best, any kind of joke formula is limited to merely providing examples of existing humor that can be studied, but it cannot be re-created without the proper delivery and other elements that make up the art of stand-up comedy.
Additionally, joke formulas can be used as a starting point to understand the general structure of some types of jokes, but they do not provide any insight into the individual stand-up comedian’s performance style.
It would be no different if I gave you the definitions of different radio controlled vehicles. Then I showed you example after example of different variety of radio controlled vehicles.
All of that information about radio controlled vehicles is purely academic and would not help you in any way to know how to skillfully build a radio controlled car, boat or aircraft that would actually work.
The exact same condition exists with joke formulas.
Here is what you need to know about developing a stand-up comedy act that is a bit more functional (and certainly more realistic):
1. The comedy mechanics that you use in everyday life are exactly the same as those you will use on the stand-up comedy stage to be big laughs. Think about it…
You developed your sense of humor and comedy talent by talking, not as a result of writing anything or exchanging written notes.
2. You already use “joke formulas” so to speak that are specific to you, your sense of humor and how you physically express your sense of humor when you generate a laugh anywhere and incorporate much more than the literal words and sentences you use when you speak.
3. You don’t have to know a single so-called joke formula in order to be able to develop and deliver a stand-up act that works for you and your unique sense of humor.
If you think you need to be a great writer in order to produce a powerful stand-up comedy act — please let me inform you that you really don’t have a clue as to what comedy is from a live and in person perspective.
Bottom Line: Trying to learn and apply predefined joke formulas in order to somehow develop a stand-up comedy act is much like trying to paint a house with a toothpick.
Reference Lesson: Why Joke Formulas Don’t Work