Anyone else finding it’s hard to come up with new material for yourself?
If you find yourself still doing references to Monica Lewinsky's stained blue dress, MC Hammer's bankruptcy, and Bob Dole doing E.D. ads, you might want to add some new life into your old act.
I too have blocks coming up with new comedy material. It’s weird how I can dish out punch lines for my students, yet I don’t seem to find the time to work on my own act. I’m considering myself lucky that Newt Gingrich is back in the news so my 1992 Speaker of the House jokes can have a second life. (Now if only Dan Quayle would join the Republican primaries, I’d look prolific.)
I’m not sure why I get stuck. Maybe it’s just laziness -- or maybe it’s that I put my commitment to others ahead of my own writing needs. I know that whenever I’m hired to write material for someone else, I make time-specific dates, hold laser-like focus on them for hours, and show up stone cold sober.
I’m guessing I’m not the only person with this issue, so I want to ask all the co-dependent writers out there -- is it possible to have this same level of commitment to our OWN work? Why can’t we create the same level of focus and urgency for ourselves - and use that concentration to break through the mental logjams?
I’ve pondered that question -- and I’ve come up with five quick tips for speakers and comics to get past your writer’s block and infuse your presentation with shiny new bits:
1. Get yourself a comedy or a speaking buddy to jam material with. Your ideas need to be run by someone else before they go public. Writing new material for ourselves is next to impossible without involving others. I wouldn’t be able to write this blog once a week if I didn’t have an assistant who zaps me with a cattle prod every Monday to deliver it. I couldn’t write a book without an editor -- and a deadline. Writing might look solitary, but most of us work in teams. So -- go post on social.comedyworkshops.com to find a buddy.
2. Get yourself a gig. A gig or a speech looming on your calendar will be the motivation you need to get yourself in gear.
3. Commit to doing at least three new minutes every time you perform. Feeling insecure about that? Then “hammock” your new material in between two proven bits to give you confidence -- and something you can compare the audience response for the new material against.
4. Write 10 minutes every morning without judging or editing. Just write, and don’t look at it at all until you get together with your comedy buddy. If you judge what you write as you’re trying to create, it will inhibit you. You can circumvent that my covering up your computer screen while you type. Once you’re with your comedy buddy, find the gems among the raw material, and use some of the formulas in “The Comedy Bible” to polish it or create more new content based on your ideas.
5. If you’re really stuck, just write a joke right now using the “List of Three” formula. (1. Subtle thing, 2. Subtle thing, 3. HUGE and OBVIOUS thing.)
Example: There are three subtle clues that your relationship is over:
1. You’re not communicating...
2. You’re not getting love notes anymore... and
3. WRITE THE JOKE HERE.
Let me read your jokes. Post them in the blog comments.
Author of The Comedy Bible, Motivational-Humorist, and Comedy Coach