Here it is in a nutshell: almost every time you make someone laugh- you are surprising them. You are causing their mind to make a different association than it normally would. And the reward for playing this trick on their brain, for momentarily confusing their mind, is laughter.
In this article, I’m going to show you some easy ways of making people laugh, while teaching some basic comedy theory.
Remember, when you’re trying to make someone laugh, you’re trying surprise them. Typically, you are looking for the most unlikely thing to do or say.
Let’s imagine that you are hanging out with a few co-workers. One of them is talking about how difficult potty-training her son has been. When someone in the group asks how old the woman’s son is, you say: “Forty eight.”
You will get laughs. Let’s explore why: The minute the woman started talking about potty-training her son, an image was created in everyone’s mind. That image included the assumption that her son is a child. As comedians, we shatter the assumption. In this case, by changing the age of the child, in their minds, at the last minute. When the mind gets tricked this way, the feeling of disorientation results in a laugh. So a good joke usually does two things: It sets up assumptions and it shatters them. This is often referred to as the “set up” and “punchline.” In standup, it is often called the “premise” and the “act out.” [See my other videos to learn how to do this in a standup environment.]
Let’s look at another useful tool for getting someone to laugh. It is called the “list of three.”
Recently, I was describing my lifestyle to someone and I said to her “you know, I’m a pretty healthy guy- I do yoga.. meditation.. methamphetamine.”
She laughed because the pattern that I was setting up for her (yoga… meditation…) lulled her mind into knowing what I was going to say next. Even if she wasn’t consciously filling in the next word in the series, bio-chemically, her brain “knew” the feeling of the next kind of word I was going to say. Her body and mind were ready to “feel” words like “vegan cooking,” “macrobiotic dining,” or “playing the sitar.” But when I said “methamphetamine” the shock to her nervous system resulted in a laugh.
We set up an assumption and shattered it. And the way we did it could not have been easier. In fact, the minute you watch this video or read this article, you will be able to do it. To make a list of three joke, you will set up a pattern by choosing two similar things/people/books/etc. and one that is different from the first two.
“I like to read the classic philosophers: Aristophenes, Moliere, Charlie Sheen..”
“In order for me to be interested in a girl, she has to have intelligence.. depth of soul.. a really hot profile picture.”
So to get started, think of two people at work or at school that you love and one that you hate. Go up to someone who knows you well and say: I think that my favorite teachers would have to be Mr. A, Mr. B, and Mr C. ( (love, love, hate). Think of two activities that you love and one that you hate. Two celebrities that you find talented and one that you despise. As you experiment with your “list-of-threes” you will notice how important the “set up” is as well as the contrast in your “punchlines.” Charlie Sheen and methamphetamine will “shatter” the patterns of “philosopher” and “healthy lifestyle” much more effectively than “Richard Simmons” and “Red Wine.” Learning how to set up patterns and choose explosive “shattering” images for your punchlines is all part of your comedy journey and the experimentation is a lot of fun.
Now that you know the basic secret of comedy (their are a few more hidden in the video at http://MasterTalentTeachers.com and at my site http://standupcomedyclass.com), enjoy the process of panning for comedy gold. Every time you make someone laugh, write it down (cellphones and notebooks are good for this). Begin to notice the unique way that you make people laugh, as well as the patterns that begin to emerge as you notice your own specific methods for shattering people’s mental expectations.
The world will always be in need of good comedy. As you’ll find in my other videos and articles- if you combine the truth of your life with the technique of “shattering the pattern,” you will be on your way to making a difference by educating people, and having a successful career that will entertain millions. All it takes is a little experimentation, some thinking, and the guts to make ‘em laugh. Good luck. -Gerry Katzman