How to write jokes: use our patented set of comedy “wrenches”

As you know, the punchline of a joke is the surprise. The switch, the twist. But what KIND of surprise? What direction is the twist?

 

Or, if you think of the shift from setup to punch as where the comedian throws a wrench into the joke, this is about what KIND Of wrench it is.

 

Let’s look at the most common wrenches that comedians have in their toolkits. I’m using one-liners for the clearest examples, but wrenches are at work in almost any type of joke.

 

OPPOSITE wrench.

  • Emika: “I love to inspire people [SETUP]. I also love to see them fail [PUNCH].”
  • “I believe that each person can make a difference [SETUP], but it’s so slight that there’s basically no point [PUNCH].” —Lauren Lapkus
    • These jokes go in the exact OPPOSITE direction from what you expected. (Inspirational/cynical; positive/negative)

 

WORDPLAY wrench.

  • “I got my hair highlighted [SETUP], because I felt some strands were more important than others [PUNCH].” — Mitch Hedberg
      • Hedberg takes a wrench to the word HIGHLIGHTED. Highlighting hair turns into highlighting like you do with a book. So it’s a good old fashioned wordplay wrench.
      • You could also call it an ABSURD wrench.

 

ABSURD wrench.

  • “I’m a lousy cook. I burn sushi.” —Joan Rivers
    • Rivers uses an ABSURD wrench to how just how bad a cook she is, because you don’t cook sushi in the first place.
  • You could also call this an EXAGGERATION wrench.
  • “So I met my boyfriend’s parents recently, which stressed me out. Because he’s white, so his parents are white. Hate when that happens. Why can’t it just skip a generation?” —Phoebe Robinson
    • Phoebe Robinson uses an ABSURD wrench — race can’t skip a generation — to underscore how un-psyched she is to meet her boyfriend’s white parents, and generally how stressful situations like that are. “Hate when that happens” is also absurd. He’s white because his parents are. It didn’t just “happen.”

 

EXAGGERATION wrench.

  • Sasheer Zamata, hating that women are expected to be un-hairy: “I found out that Native Americans would keep all their hair long because it helped them with battle and hunting. It made them more aware of your surrounding, and if something was coming to attack you you would feel it and sense it quicker. So if that’s the case, women—of all people—should have ALL OF THE HAIR. We’re at risk of being attacked just for walking out of our house. For safety purposes, I want to be Chewbacca-level hairy.”
    • Chewbacca is as hairy as you can get. (Also a funny word.) Women will not actually get that hairy if they don’t shave, so, exaggeration.
  • Here’s GOLD student Romaissaa on her obsession with YouTube: “I  can’t breathe air without knowing my favorite YouTuber’s opinion on breathing air.”
    • Do we think that’s actually true? No. But the exaggeration effectively illustrates her obsession.

 

UNDERSTATEMENT wrench.

  • “I broke up with my girlfriend. She moved in with another guy, and I draw the line at that.” —Garry Shandling
    • He’s using an UNDERSTATEMENT wrench because for him to “draw the line” at her OBVIOUSLY breaking up with him is a tiny reaction to a huge move. What’s great here is that he uses that understatement to make fun of himself.
    • “I don’t know if you’ve ever been sad on a roller coaster. It’s doable.” — Ryan Hamilton

 

DOUBLE DOWN wrench.

  • Thea: “I am not just a nerd [SETUP]. I am also a geek [PUNCH].”
    • You thought Thea was going to say I’m more than “just” a nerd. Instead she doubles down.
  • “I get so frustrated when people think I’m trying to look like Ellen Degeneres [SETUP]. It’s so frustrating because I’m trying so hard to look like Nick Carter [PUNCH].” —Emma Willman
    • You expect Emma to to say she’s frustrated because she’s not trying to look like anyone! But she’s like, I AM trying to look like someone. Just someone ELSE. (She’s taking the wrench to “Ellen DeGeneres” rather than “trying to look like.”)
  • “It wasn’t that no one asked me to the prom. No one would tell me where it was.” —Rita Rudner
    • You think she’s going to say…LOTS of people asked me to the prom. But then she doubles down on not being asked. They hid the entire prom from her.

 

So, when you’re writing a joke, you can look at your topic or setup and ask yourself: what kind of wrench could I throw in here? Play with different ones and see what works.

 

1. TOPIC/PREMISE. What you want to talk about…PLUS

2. ATTITUDE/EMOTION. How a person with your persona would feel about it…PLUS

3. TYPE OF JOKE. Which type of joke would best match what I want to say?

4. TYPE OF WRENCH. Which type of wrench will make the joke work best?

 

6 tips for doing YouTube comedy with zero budget

Youtube has launched the careers of many new-wave comedians, i.e. The Lonely Island, Good Neighbor Stuff, and even the hilarious career of Canadian bunny rabbit Justin Bieber.

 

Sydney Heller and Olivia DeLaurentis are two more comedians using the platform to spread their funny. The LA-based performers make up the comedic duo Barely Legal Comedy, WHICH IS SERIOUSLY NOT DIRTY WE PROMISE COME BACK HERE. They run their own YouTube channel, perform improv together, and recently completed their first web series, “Sugar Babies.”  Sydney and Olivia hopped on the horn with GOLD to offer their advice on how to be online funny on a budget.

 

1. Even the randomest bits can become a premise.

 

Sydney: For sketches, ideas usually come from an inside joke we have. Like some sort of bit we’re doing while eating.

 

Olivia: Yes. A disproportionate amount of comedy comes from us going out and getting food and then doing a really stupid bit and then laughing at it in like a restaurant and making other people uncomfortable. That’s a sketch, and then we’d go write it as fast as we can. We came up with “Sugar Babies” in this store in Beverly Hills that had these weird stuffed llamas for like $700, and we were joking and being like, “If I had a sugar daddy, I wouldn’t have them pay for a car, I would want to buy this alpaca.” And then we went, “Well, that’s a webseries now!”

 

Sydney: We drove home and started mapping it out.

 

Olivia: By the time we got to her house, which is like a 20 minute drive, we had all the principal characters planned out.

 

2. Collaborate.

 

Sydney: The thing that’s fun about working within a duo instead of working by yourself is that you come up with ideas faster, especially when you’re on the same page, and can riff off each other.

 

Olivia: When you’re alone you really have the time and ability to doubt your ideas and doubt that you’re funny. You can push past that, and should, but if you’re in a room with someone that you think is really funny and they’re laughing at something you said, then you’re like, “Oh yeah, this is funny!” You can get things done much faster.

 

3. Don’t be afraid to reach out to comedians you don’t know.

 

Olivia: The internet is such a cool thing right now in terms of reaching out to people. YouTube comedians are usually more accessible than you think. If you find someone that you think is funny, then there’s no harm in reaching out. People will at least talk to you and give you advice, or maybe you could collaborate on something. Don’t be intimidated!

 

4. Make production lean and mean.

 

Olivia: Our budget is virtually nothing. I bought my own camera so I’d never have to rely on another camera person or DP [director of photography], and it’s actually been really useful because we’ve been using this camera for the whole series. When filming we try to move fast and just do a couple of takes because we know exactly the kind of takes we want. There’s not a big crew, usually about two people maybe, so there’s not miscommunication between people. Sydney and I edit everything together on Premiere.

 

5. Being DONE is better than being PERFECT.

 

Olivia: It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. It’s so easy to go, “I have this great idea, but it’s not exactly perfect.” If we did that, we would make sketches every now and again. Every five months or so we’d put out a sketch. But we started making stuff faster with the mindset that it’s not going to be perfect because we’re two broke girls who don’t have a giant crew.We’re not funded by anybody. If you’re trying to make the most perfect thing in the world but don’t finish it, you don’t have anything. But if you make ten things that are not perfect, but it was fun and shows your sense of humor, then that is much more practical and useful to your career in comedy because no one, especially if you’re young, expects it to be 100% perfect.

 

Sydney: It’s about making the thing and not about talking about making it.

 

6. Do what makes YOU laugh.

 

Sydney: If you have access to a way to watch comedy, I think you can learn so much from watching. Let’s say you watch three different shows. If you find the common thread in each of those shows that makes you laugh really hard, then you’ve found your style—the thing that makes your voice unique.

 

Olivia: Don’t worry too much about how something will be received. Have confidence in yourself and “do you.” There’s not a single thing you can do that will get 100% positive response, so don’t even worry about any of the response (unless, if course, it’s actually helpful).

 

Sydney: There are a lot of schools for comedy and ways to learn comedy, but at the end of the day, what you find funny is the thing you have to stay true to.

 

Olivia: What you find funny is what you should make, and hopefully you’ll find other people who find it funny. The biggest thing is: when it’s on the internet, just do the thing you think is fun.

 

Youtube Channel: Barely Legal Comedy

Twitter: @BarelyLegalCom

 

Want to read the full interview? Click here!

 

Mini Q&A with Giulia Rozzi

Giulia Rozzi is a writer, comedian, actress and very emotional person that was raised in Boston by two adorable Italian immigrants that let her watch Benny Hill when she was three. She currently performs all over the country and as an active member of the NYC standup scene.

 

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

I don’t even hear them anymore.

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

People coming up to me after shows or emailing me and saying “I really related to you” or “you made me feel better.” That connection is so fulfilling and wonderful.

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Don’t worry about what other people are doing.

 

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

It’s helped add light to tough situations and allowed me to share dark stories and thoughts without taking myself so seriously. I learned this at a very early age- whenever my family fights we always make fun of one another to ease tension, it’s sort of our way of apologizing and saying “you pissed me off but I still love you.”

 

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian?

I can’t pick one, it’s two- my dad and mom, two of the funniest people I know.

 


Giulia Rozzi has been featured as a TEDx speaker, a Moth GrandSLAM champion and one of BUST Magazine’s 10 Funny Ladies You Need To Be Watching Right Now. She’s been seen on Chelsea Lately, Comedy Central’s This Is Not Happening, SeeSo’s Night Train Show and The Guest List. and several talking head shows on Vh1, TruTv, Lifetime and Playboy TV. Her album True Love was released on Comedy Records last winter and was recently named one of SiriusXM Comedy’s top albums of 2016 and one of The Comedy Bureau’s 100 Best Things in Comedy in 2016.

Website: giuliarozzi.com

Twitter: Giulia Rozzi

Stay GOLDen

Sign up for our newsletters


What’s your sense of humor?

 

Just like a fingerprint, no two people have the exact same sense of humor. Humor is a very fluid and flexible personality trait that is constantly changing and adapting to new life experiences. What one person finds hilarious might make someone else incredibly uncomfortable. You know this if you’ve ever seen George W. Bush try to give a neck massage.

 

This quiz is designed to see which of the 6 main styles of humor—we’ll call them observational, satire, deadpan, dark, surreal, and slapstick—tickles your funny bone. It certainly doesn’t mean that this is the only kind of humor that works. (And it also doesn’t mean that there are only 6 styles of humor!) But it might give you a bit of a clue about what your own comedy style might be, which is can be a key element of your comedy persona. At very least,  it might point you in the direction of some awesome new comedians, movies, and shows to check out.

 

1. What’s your favorite punchline?

2. Favorite comedian?

3. What’s the deal with…?

4. Favorite SNL sketch?

5. What do you do to lighten a mood?

20 things to worry about instead of that thing you’re worried about

Hey, I get it. It’s the season for worrying – meaning it’s between January and December, inclusive, of any calendar year. Fretting is a national sport lately, and for women, there’s often lots more to fret about: Will health care cover me, even though I have the preexisting condition of lacking testes? Do I make as much as a man for doing the same work? Are my kids okay? Am I pregnant? Am I infertile? Do I want kids? WHY ARE BOOBS?

 

Put down that chamomile tea! It’s nasty! Instead, peruse this list of alternate things you could worry about to distract yourself from your perfectly reasonable, but possibly obsessive, perturbation.

 

  • What if, one day, you go to pull off your sock and it’s a bag of toes because they all just fell off unexpectedly?

 

  • What if dogs are judging us?

 

  • What if autism causes vaccines?

 

  • Does the cheese want to stand alone?

 

  • Why is the middle finger the troublemaker? Is it proud of this or is it a source of shame? Does the ring finger act all sanctimonious?  

 

  • What if boobs are actually full of snot and every time you blow your nose you’re making them smaller?

 

  • What if your middle name is a lie?

 

  • What if Taylor Swift runs for office?

 

  • What if the astronauts left something important on the moon, like their credit cards or that sandwich they brought for lunch?

 

  • Dust mites!

 

  • Why is it wedge heels, not wedge toes?

 

  • What if Corey Feldman does a whole album?

 

  • Does anybody remember laughter?

 

  • Am I supposed to care if things make my butt look fat?

 

  • Why does Sam care so much whether someone likes Green Eggs and Ham? Like what’s his deal?

 

  • Why do spice bottles have holes too small for the spice to get through?

 

  • At what point do I just give up on my pinky toenail?

 

  • Sidewalk grates!

 

  • If the pointy part of a fork is a tine, and the pointy part of a knife is a blade, what is the spoony part of a spoon?

 

  • How did anyone figure out how to eat artichokes?

 


Amy Keyishian has worked for the entire range of magazine genres, from her start as an editorial assistant at Sesame Street Parents to her four-year stint as a staff writer at Cosmopolitan. She has also written for Maxim, Glamour, Self, Redbook and Men’s Health, and was the sex-advice columnist for the military-focused magazine Drill. Amy has also moonlit as a young-adult fiction author (with three under her own pseudonym, Amy Kaye), a standup/improv/sketch comic, and, in her darkest days, as a marketing copywriter.

 

Stay GOLDen

Sign up for our newsletters


5 ways to discover your comedy persona

They say it takes a comedian ten years to develop their comedy persona. But with the head start we’ll give you here, you can totally nail it in like eight. So what are you waiting for? Let’s go! (My comedy persona is positive, high-energy, impatient.)

 

So first let’s talk about what a comedy persona is. Then we’ll talk about how to identify yours—and what to do once you have.

 

What’s a persona?

First, here’s what it’s not. For our purposes, it’s not a “character.” Some comedians do deliberately develop fictional identities or caricatures that may or may not align with their off-stage personalities—like super-ranty Lewis Black, who is much more of a marshmallow in real life, or María Elena Velasco-Fragoso, early deliberately-dim Sarah Silverman, Maria Bamford, or Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, who do stand-up as their Broad City characters.

 

If that comes naturally to you, great (and consider exploring sketch comedy and/or being YouTube-funny). But generally, that’s an advanced move because it’s actually very challenging to sustain. And what we want to get at here, first, is authenticity.

 

So a persona is not a character, it’s your character. It comes from your personality, your take, your attitude, your bearing, your point of view, your general lens on life.

 

Your persona is what makes your jokes your jokes. Anyone can write a joke about parents or dogs vs. cats or homework or taxes or gentrification or doughnuts. But only you can write a joke about your unique take on those topics.

 

Example: Take this joke from Lauren Lapkus. You can get a sense of her persona without seeing or hearing her—just by reading these 18 words:

 

“I believe that each person can make a difference. But it’s so slight that there’s basically no point.”

 

From this (superb) joke, we can surmise that her persona is perhaps cynical, maybe glass-half-empty—at any rate, not the Pollyanna peppiest.

 

Of course, neither Lauren nor you are just one thing all the time. In real life, you shift somewhat according to context and mood. Your industry-standard five minute comedy set—and your persona in general—will not be all one-note either. Not every joke will be angry, not every joke will be bubbly. You can have one pretty constant persona in one set, but lots of different attitudes and emotions can come from it.

 

Where do you find your persona?

To find your authentic comedy persona, we are going to start with your original factory settings.

 

#SPOILER: Your persona is who you already are. At least that’s where it starts.

 

This is TOTALLY NOT AS BORING AS IT SOUNDS. In fact, it is GREAT NEWS.

 

Why is this not boring? Because, nerds, we get to do some MATH! Because when you do comedy, you are not acting, but you are performing. That means your persona isn’t you just wisecracking at your locker or water cooler or Instagram, it’s you standing on stage with a mic (and, on a good day, a crowd!). So your performance persona is a slightly exaggerated version of you. Here’s the equation:  

 

PERSONA = REAL YOU x 1.3

 

And why is it great news? Well, let’s say you’re reading this thinking: “But I don’t haaaave a ‘persona’! I’m boooooring.” Guess what? Are you ready? THAT’S YOUR PERSONA.

 

I’m not saying you’re boring. I’m just saying you don’t have to work that hard, or go into analysis, to know what the kernel of your persona is. Even if it’s something you think might be negative or unappealing about you, FINE! That’s FUNNY! Don’t apologize for it or try to hide or fix it; instead, double down. Embrace it and take control of it and let that flag FLY. Own it. PWN it. That’s how BORING can become INTERESTING, say, or being a loner can be loveable, or being a downer can crack people UP.

 

OK then! What is your persona?

So let’s see. Are you cynical? Sarcastic? Shy? Super-trusting? Lazy? Nervous about everything? ANGRY ABOUT EVERYTHING? Shy? Puppy-dog positive? Generally just confused? Scornful? Tightly wound? Awkward? A rebel or rule breaker? The eternal teacher’s pet? An insider? An outsider? An outsider who only looks like an insider? A nerd? Also a geek?

 

Your goal here is to find ONE WORD that describes your persona. Maybe two words, maximum three, if one of them is a really short word.

 

If you’re not sure yet, start by answering these questions. Do them sort of quick. Don’t overthink. NOTE: If you can’t help but overthink, then perhaps OVERTHINKER is your persona!

 

1) What would be your high school yearbook superlative? As in “Most likely to…”.

 

2) Which one are you: Winner, or (and I say this with love) loser?

 

3) Fill in the blanks:

1. “Dear Diary, I wish I were less/more [BLANK].”

2. “Dear Diary, The thing I love/hate most about myself is [BLANK].”

 

4) If you were one of these comedians/comic performers, which one would you be? Not which one do you WANT to be, or which one do you most LOOK like—which one’s personality is most like yours? Don’t overthink it!

1. Janeane Garofalo

2. Ellen DeGeneres

3. Leslie Jones

4. Steve Martin

5. Joan Rivers

6. Lucille Ball

7. Margaret Cho

8. Issa Rae

9. George Carlin

10. Chris Rock

11. INSERT YOUR CHOICE HERE

5) Locate yourself on the Axis of Attitude. Are you generally positive in your attitude, calm in your presentation? Highly critical and super spazzy? Literally point to the screen to the spot on this image where you imagine yourself.

 

Top left: Ali Wong. Top right: Leslie Jones. Bottom left: Tig Notaro. Bottom right: Ellen Degeneres

OK! You should start to see some consistency emerge. If you don’t, your persona is “All over the place!” or at least “indecisive.” Voila.

 

HERE’S WHAT YOU DO. Now that you’ve chosen a word or two that capture your persona, you know that as you write and perform material, it should generally come from that place. Not rigidly or across the board, as we said above. Not every joke needs to be crafted as sarcasm, not everything you say has to come out of the mouth of a rebel or teacher’s pet. But do think of it as a lightly tinted lens that colors your jokes, or at least your overall point of view.

 

So, wearing that pretend lens like a spiffy monocle, NOW you’re ready to write some jokes or longer bits —or even to practice refining that persona on stage. Or, if your persona is CAUTIOUS, start with some exercises to get you going.

 

Did you discover your comedy persona? Even if it’s not OVERSHARER, let us know! Tweet @goldcmdy!

Mini Q&A with Corinne Fisher

Corinne Fisher is one half of Sorry About Last Night…, her comedy writing and performance duo with Krystyna Hutchinson. In December 2013, the duo launched Guys We Fucked: The Anti Slut-Shaming Podcast that now boasts a million+ listeners worldwide. the podcast is consistently ranked among the Top 5 comedy podcasts on iTunes (but has reached as high as #1) and has been featured on The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Splitsider, and more. Over the past few years, Corinne has been selected to perform in the prestigious Boston Comedy Festival, the Women in Comedy Festival, The Laughing Devil Comedy Festival, the She-Devil Festival, and the prestigious Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal.

 

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

I don’t acknowledge hecklers or trolls unless absolutely necessary because that’s what they want, they’re there to gaslight. I treat them the same way I would treat a child having a temper tantrum — keep doing what I’m doing.

 

BRIEFLY describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).

It’s comedy so every gig is at the same time the best and worst experience of your life. The worst one in recent history is where someone literally handed me a used hairbrush at a serious sit-down dinner party and told me it was time to “do my thing”. Can you imagine doing that to any other kind of performer? It would just never fucking happen.

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Me. I wanted it. I still want it. You have to keep wanting it.

 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian?

If you’re serious about being a comic, you should be comfortable identifying as a comic before anything else.

 

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

To find out what experiences they’ve had to make them think that. I certainly don’t believe that to be true, but also that notion doesn’t come from nowhere. Instead of sassily telling someone with that belief off, I’d like to truly get to the root of their thinking and nip it in the bud once and for all.

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

“Don’t hate yourself in front of the audience. Go backstage and hate yourself.” -Will Hines, teacher at UCB

 

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“Don’t talk about fucking guys so much.” -old dude club owner who shall remain unnamed

 

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

Being funny has helped me charm my way into jobs and get me out of trouble, but it’s also definitely lost me jobs and gotten me into a ton more trouble…

 

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”?

I’ve been asked this so much and honestly it’s just like being anyone else in comedy — fucking miserable.

 

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian?

There were many, but I was deeply inspired by John Leguizamo’s one man shows. I had never seen anything so real, so raw, and so narcissistic — I thought to myself, “that’s what I need to do.”

 

For standups: what advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

Be out on the scene every night — whether you’re on stage or in the audience supporting your fellow comics. And produce your own show (just make sure you do the work so that audience shows up, creating a Facebook event is only one small part of running a successful show).

 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

It just needn’t exist. It’s reinforcing to the audience that there is indeed some difference between a comic with a penis and a comic without one. A comic is a comic, no matter what’s in your pants.

 


Corinne Fisher is a stand-up comedian, writer & actor originally from Union, NJ. She first made a splash with her debut one-woman show Corinne Fisher: I STALK YOU (Dir. David Crabb) which had a run at The Peoples Improv Theater (The PIT) in the Summer of 2010 and was featured in Time Out New York. Since then, she has been a regular on the stand-up scene playing anything from dive bars to world-famous comedy clubs like New York Comedy Club, The Stand, The Standing Room, Caroline’s, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Broadway Comedy Club, Comix, Laugh Boston, The Stress Factory & Gotham.

Website: http://www.corinnefisher.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhilanthropyGal

Stay GOLDen

Sign up for our newsletters


Wedding Reception Bingo

There’s a certain time in every twentysomething’s life when there are just so … many … weddings. After a while, it may seem like there’s nothing to do but get hammered and make flawed makeout decisions. Fortunately, here’s a printable activity chart for you and your other troublemaker friends, which is why you were all seated together out on the patio in the first place. Happy hunting!

 

 


Amy Keyishian has worked for the entire range of magazine genres, from her start as an editorial assistant at Sesame Street Parents to her four-year stint as a staff writer at Cosmopolitan. She has also written for Maxim, Glamour, Self, Redbook and Men’s Health, and was the sex-advice columnist for the military-focused magazine Drill. Amy has also moonlit as a young-adult fiction author (with three under her own pseudonym, Amy Kaye), a standup/improv/sketch comic, and, in her darkest days, as a marketing copywriter.

Stay GOLDen

Sign up for our newsletters


Mini Q&A with Carole Montgomery

Carole Montgomery is a longtime standup comedian based out of Brooklyn, NY. Since starring in two Las Vegas shows, Carole founded the National Mom Comedy Tour, a series of standup comedy shows that brings laughs to VFW posts, American legions, and military bases.

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

You should have been a blow job.

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

There was nothing else I wanted to be, I had no choice but to stick with it.

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian?

Don’t take anything personal and just keep pushing through the barriers.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Don’t worry about people stealing your jokes, they can’t steal you. Sinbad told me that.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

You shouldn’t be dirty, you’re too pretty for that.

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

It’s helped me in times of grief too many times to count. In tragedy you have to laugh.

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”?

Yawn.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian?

Harpo, Groucho, Freddie Prinze, Richard Pryor & George Carlin all had something to do with why I became a comic. And my dad, he was the one who could walk into a room and light up a crowd.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I was always considered a comedian by my peers, probably cause they knew I’d kick their ass if they called me anything else.


Carole Montgomery, with over 2 dozen television credits to her name, is a respected veteran of the standup comedy scene nationwide. In addition to her numerous TV appearances, she has headlined clubs & colleges across the USA and starred in 2 different Las Vegas production shows. In her ten years as a Las Vegas star, it is estimated that she has been seen by over 5 million audience members. Besides being a comedian and writer, Carole is a wife and mother. She’s been married for 30 years and has a 23 year old son, Layne. She was Vice-President of her son’s school PTA and helped coach his Little League team for 7 years. She is now dealing with an adult son leaving home, her Peter Pan husband and living with her mother-in-law. The jokes write themselves.

Website: http://www.carolemontgomery.com/

Twitter: @nationalmom

Stay GOLDen

Sign up for our newsletters


How to level up from mics to shows

As a stand-up comedy newcomer, it can sometimes feel like a gargantuan task to move from open mics to booked shows. What’s more, mics can feel like a masochistic exercise of, “how much of a beating can my self-esteem take before I pull a KONY 2012 meltdown?” After swimming up stream crafting your material, shows are a sought after reward validating your hard work. There’s no linear path towards getting booked, but there are tangible steps you can take to move in that direction.  

 

1.  Be friendly and ‘find your people.’

When you’re starting out, the people who are going to book you on shows are your friends and mentors.

When you’re at open mics, don’t just do your set and skedaddle; hang around and reach out to people. If you like someone’s joke, tell them. If you think someone is funny and/or enjoy being around them, make an effort to see that comic outside of mics.

Many comedy shows are like hangs and everybody wants to spend time with those they love most. Be someone people want to be around. It sounds political, which sometimes it is, but if you make a genuine effort to surround yourself with comedians/comedy you like and treat everyone with kindness and respect, the give and take is all sincere.  

I think the only thing you shouldn’t do is try to create your comedy in a vacuum. If you try to work alone, or be above it all – and you don’t meet or connect with people, I think a lot of people get lost there. You have to find your people. These are the people you’re going to be with for years, it’s like your graduating class, and there’s a bond and a closeness there with the people you did mics with that, for me, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of comedy. Seeing people grow and growing closer with people over the years.” – Marcia Belsky

2.  Have your own show.

DIY, baby! If you do the work to properly promote it, producing your own show is an excellent way to ensure yourself stage time. What’s more, producing your own show can be used as a credit to promote yourself. Plus, you can use it as leverage for spots on another comedian’s show.

3.  Support your friends’ shows.

It’s all about that quid pro quo. The first time I went to a more established friend’s show, I was given a guest spot. I didn’t realize this was common practice amongst comedians, but if you hang around and support your buddies, they’ll sometimes give you that sweet, sweet stage time.

4. Bark.

If you are an introverted sweet pea who’s exhausted by the idea of all of this “friend-making,” barking may be for you! You don’t need to engage with anyone beyond shouting, “Comedy show inside! Five dollar beers! AC! Please love me!”

When you’re starting, barking is one of the easier paths to stage time in front of a room of non-comedians. It can be an unpleasant experience, but worth it if it’s getting you on a quality show.

5.  Bringers.

Do you have rich alcoholic pals that want nothing more than to see YOU tell jokes? Wow, you do? Please, hook me up because your girl is trying to get on a bringer.

As with barking, there’s a stigma attached to Bringers. Mostly because comics are salty about not having several friends who can shell out $40 dollars to see their comedy, but ALSO because some of them are unethical. The booker may not care about the quality of the showcase so it becomes an exploitation newcomers for money. What’s more, many beginners get stuck doing bringers. They’ll go to an open mic, bomb, and run back to the comfort of an easy laugh (because you’re performing for family and friends), never learning how to properly write a joke.

Nevertheless, if you do your homework, some of them are a doorway into clubs. Plus, If you have a 5-7 minute set you’d really like to record, bringers are a great place to acquire a high quality tape.

6.     Make art.

Are you an ARTEEST? Does Michaelangelo swoon 4 u? Did you attend art school, but when you entered the workforce you were like, “nah,” and have yet to use your degree in any meaningful way? Then poster-making is for you.

Comedians all want a super fly poster for their comedy show. However, we’re all poor lil’ babies working with pennies. Notice a show doesn’t have a poster (or if they have one, it’s trash)? Offer up your poster making services for free in exchange for a spot. They get a dope flyer and you get an opportunity to show off your sillies. Everybody wins!

7.  Get credits.

How do you acquire a credit when you’re struggling to get on bar shows? Get creative!

“There are always other avenues to get credits,” says Brandon Scott Wolf. “I was an SNL Weekend Update freelance contributor before moving to New York. Develop a social media presence that’s undeniable, write for a comedy publication like The Onion or Clickhole, or figure out a way to go viral. It’s all about standing out!”

Also, if you have a video you like of your stand-up (or any type of comedy), submit to comedy festivals. Festivals are a great way for newcomers to be seen, legitimized and receive a credit.

8. Ask.

Heck yeah, it’s uncomfortable! But if you send an unassuming message to the producer of a show along with a video, no one will fault you. Your messages will most certainly be ignored, but some of them won’t. Asking for spots is how a lot of comedians get booked. The person who’s booking a show is more likely giving a spot to a friend who has asked, as opposed to someone who has not.

Owner of the world-famous Comedy Cellar in New York, Noam Dworman, told GOLD this exact same thing during a recording of The Comedy Cellar Radio Show.

9. Put in time and be funny.

If you’re not getting booked, there maaaaay be a valid reason why. Maybe you’re just not quiiiiiiite ready. Keep writing, keep going to mics, and reach out to other comedians. As long as you’re funny and not a creepy or mean magoo, it’ll eventually happen.

10.  There’s no “one size fits all” path.

There are no right or wrong way to do comedy. 

I used to always stress about whether or not I was doing enough mics. I’d do two-three a night, four-five times a week and worry it wasn’t enough until a comic I loved told me she would just do one mic, every other night or so, and only do a second set if she felt she really wanted to try something specific again,” Marcia Belsky says. “Otherwise, she’d go home and write. It made me realize that for some comics, you can get distracted by doing so many mics that it almost becomes counterproductive. So, what works for one person might not work for you.”

Know thyself and push forward accordingly.


Blair Dawson is a New York based standup comedian, improvisor, and writer. Working as an ESL teacher in Thailand, she got her start in comedy performing in expat communities across southeast Asia. Blair has studied sketch and improv with the UCB Theater and is a contributing writer for GOLD Comedy. Additionally, she produces and co-hosts a monthly sex-positive storytelling and stand-up show, sponsored by Babeland, entitled, “U Up?” Blair’s comedy explores dark themes of the human condition through a childlike lens of silliness and curiosity. She’s your new best friend and can’t wait to induct you into her cult!

Stay GOLDen

Sign up for our newsletters