Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Explanation

By John  Beuhler

The first laugh I ever got was at age three, and we were sitting around the campfire.

My father was a voracious reader, and I was jealous of the attention my sister could demand just by talking about Nancy Drew. I took a shot, and gave a voice to the silliness and sugar of the day.

“Spaceship, woodpecker!” I did an impression of a German scientist I saw in a Woody Woodpecker cartoon.

That was the first time I’d made my dad laugh. My sister was not amused; her story was cut short.

I had discovered a way to connect with my dad—and I would spend my formative years persistently trying to make him laugh.

I gravitated towards all things funny: movies, TV, joke books, etc. I made MAD magazine my subversive bible, and became the class clown and the mouthpiece on my sports teams. I landed in the principal’s office many times, but it was worth it. For me, making people laugh was a higher calling than learning to spell.

When I found my dad’s copy of Let’s Get Small (Steve Martin) I discovered that what had been getting me into so much trouble in school, could actually be rewarding. Until that point, I had no idea that other adults actually enjoyed jokes.

As I approached legal drinking age, there was a general consensus among my friends that I was to try stand-up. On a couple of occasions, I was asked when I was going to do my first show—long before the thought of performing had even occurred to me.

Soon after my 19th birthday, I took a crudely constructed five-minute set to a local comedy club's open-mic night, and I performed onstage for the first time.

I was a bad student, athlete, employee, and boyfriend—but with comedy, my life suddenly made sense. Something inside of me had suddenly been turned on.

Needless to say, that set went very well...and I am still chasing that first rush.

I began performing as much as possible, and in my first three years would win the local Just For Laughs contest, sending me to Montreal—where my performance led to me signing with a Hollywood manager. I would star in a television comedy about snowboarding, and I made it to the finals of the Seattle International Comedy Competition, which led to a flight to LA and interest from a major network.

Over the next few years, I performed to rave reviews at the Just For Laughs gala, and had a big-time manager. At just twenty-five years of age, it seemed that my career in comedy was really going somewhere.

On a frigid Montreal morning, I received a phone call from my mother. Very calmly, she told me that my dad had done something stupid. On 27th of January 2004, she told me that my father had taken his own life.

I was numb. It didn't feel real...and the shock would last for a very, very long time.

My dad and I had always been close; even if we didn’t speak for long stretches of time, we had a connection through the wickedness of our senses of humor. Although he wasn’t much of a provider, I was able to have him in my life as a friend, rather than as a parent.

A few days after I heard the news, I received a check from my dad for a small claims action he'd filed on my behalf, against a club owner who had stiffed me on a couple of gigs. It was a good bit of money for a struggling artist; my dad had finally offered me some form of financial support.

A note in the accompanying letter said that it had been a hard year financially, and all I can do is assume that it was the money problems that led to the marriage problems, that led to him doing the unthinkable. I have to assume that, because his wife wouldn’t share any info, much less a note or a phone call. She was probably too busy with the entirety of his life insurance payout. My father left nothing to me or either of my two sisters—which wasn’t really a big deal, as he never really supported us before—to this day, I really couldn’t care less.

Anyway, stiff upper lip and all that. 

So your dad is dead...in the weirdest way possible, there’s no time for moping around; you have shows to do.

But there was a problem—something was different. For a long time afterward, I thought that it was normal to “fake it” on stage, especially after such a traumatic event. But after a year...and then two...and then three...I was still faking it up there. Still performing and working, but faking it.

I guess the effort I put into trying to impress my dad went a lot deeper than I ever thought possible, because the part of my being that switched on the night of my very first stand-up show...had switched off when I heard that my dad had killed himself.

Whether I liked it or not, my ambition toward a career in comedy had been with the hopes of someday being able to lay the spoils at his feet. Suddenly, however, there was no need to even try. If you create yourself based on the wishes and esteem of someone who then proves themselves to be unfit mentally, you begin to question everything. What do you think about the ship, when you see the captain jumping overboard? 

Nothing made sense. Was I going to meet the same fate? Following in your father’s footsteps is often default option for a lot of people.

I suddenly became deathly afraid of having intimate relationships; like my father’s, I assumed they might possibly end in death. It seems funny to think of love as fatal, but if your father is your biggest role model—well. I thought if he had that capacity...maybe I did, too.

Serious relationships were out. And then I started to see stand-up as a sickness. It had been my dad’s favorite thing—and therefore, forever tarnished by his decision.

"Who else needs the validation of a room full of strangers to fill the hole in their soul, but the sick and the damaged?" I thought. I was a natural comedian; it wasn’t just a job, so it was I who was sick. I wasn’t a plumber who hated plumbing; I was a fish that hated the water, and everything in it.

I was still a comic, and I could still do the job, but I got by on being merely a joke technician. Write, test, perform, catalog, but never connect with the crowd. Never have fun. Just fake it.

I didn’t want to be there; I would scold the audience for being stupid if they didn’t like me, and for being sycophants when they did.

The whole atmosphere of comedy began to irritate me. I began to see other comics as sick, like me. How was I to get better, surrounded by so much mental illness? Shows with other comics became holidays with the relatives- you drink to get through it.

Ask any performer or athlete about why they do something so intense and full of pressure, and the answer will invariably be for the love of the craft or the game. Love cuts through the nerves.

I had all of the nerves and none of the love. I would drink to get through the nerves and to cut the boredom. Throw in a heaping helping of competitive social misfits whom I resented, and you have the perfect storm of acting out, and generally being a perfect asshole.

I’m sorry I was miserable...but...I was miserable.

My greatest hits from that point would include showing up unprepared for a Just For Laughs show, dropping out after making the second round of an international comedy competition, getting drunk before the final show of a $20,000 contest—up to which point I was way ahead in the score. I was the Picasso of self-sabotage.

I didn’t want to win, because if I succeeded in comedy, I would have to do more comedy in other places. No, thank you.

So here I sit, twelve years later: Unable to have a sober relationship. Still not having properly dealt with my dad’s death. A road pig comedian in a tiny market. So why am I writing this? Why the sob story?

Because a couple of weeks into 2016, something happened.

Several things may have triggered it. Perhaps it was realizing that movie stars have to shoot in the desert and snow for insanely long hours, or that musicians have to keep time to songs they have long wanted to leave behind, or that most people do a job they are tired of or never even liked in the first place. I realized that being paid to hang out and tell jokes for an hour a night and getting paid to travel was actually a pretty sweet deal.

I saw the Don Rickles documentary—and saw the way Don and Johnny just had fun. I am in the same line of work; I shared the same dream and I used to have so much fun. A wave of realization broke over me that regardless why I was, I was a comic, like it or not. And it isn’t sick; it’s really fucking cool.

I wasn’t my father, and I had no intentions of following in his footsteps. Regardless of who I had built myself for, I had built myself the way I wanted.

And with those seemingly mundane realizations, it happened: that part of me that switched off in 2004 turned back on. I felt like my kid who had been missing for twelve years had suddenly turned up, alive and well. Twelve years older, but smiling and happy, as if he had never left.

So I am writing this to explain why I have been so dark and stormy for those who have never known me as any different, and for those who can’t remember me any differently. If you’re wondering how long it takes to get over a parent’s suicide—it’s about twelve years (if you are an idiot who feels the need to do everything yourself).

I hope that I can begin to change my reputation from that of a drunk, bitter, self-sabotaging asshole, to something closer to who I really am: a drunken funny guy with asshole-ish tendencies.

Also, I hope that if you are ever entertaining the thoughts that you are all alone, or that the world will not miss you, or that you’re becoming too weak to hang on any longer...you must get help.

The ripples that your life creates radiate farther and more powerfully than you will ever know. With some new perspectives and realizations, you could switch right back on.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Dangers and Roots of Victim-worship by John Beuhler

In the past few years, I have noticed a trend that I believe to be dangerous to free expression and society, but more importantly—to me professionally.
I’m a standup comedian, and I’m talking about the explosion of hypersensitivity, fake outrage, and the renaissance of political correctness.
People are claiming to be offended more and more by less and less; even seeming to seek out being offended.
Being offended is not the same as having your feelings hurt. Having your feelings hurt is an involuntary emotional response to a perceived insult or offense.
Being offended is different. It is the defensive posture one assumes after having our feelings hurt. We do this in order to take some power back by drawing attention to the offense, and often returning fire.
The sneaky part of emotional offenses is that people can claim to have suffered from them even when their feelings weren’t actually hurt. They may do this as a kind of social power play.
This strategy is nothing new. It’s a common practice in sports to embellish an infraction by the opposition in order to be awarded a game advantage; sometimes actually called a power play.
If someone can feign being a victim without incurring any actual injury, the experience can be wholly positive—for them.
The victim often receives sympathy and attention, even praise for their courage. If the outrage is on behalf of someone else, they can even be considered selfless; thereby garnering even more sympathy, attention, and praise.
The problem with this empowerment of the victim is that people have begun to fake being a victim in order to gain power. We’ve made such an effort to comfort the victim that we’ve made being a victim a comfortable place.
This victimhood movement has adversely affected the heroism paradigm. A person used to become a hero by having a positive effect on the world—but is now considered a hero when the world has had a negative effect on them.
People choose fake outrage as the easiest route to victimhood because it costs nothing, and no injury need have taken place—only the appearance of one.
People also use fake outrage as a way of elevating their own station from that of the group.
You can even see this posturing in how inmates treat rapists and child molesters; as a last ditch attempt by murderers to raise their station from dead last and gain some social dominance.
These are just a few of the motivations for people to “game” the system of political correctness.
Political correctness began as a way to socialize people into being more sensitive, but it has devolved into a point system where the victim wins.
Sharing one’s fake outrage online offers the same sympathy and praise, but from a vastly larger, interconnected community.
Social media gives people a place to share their fake outrage in the same way it gives them a place to share their digital photography.
The media quickly created a demand for content, and people began to be offended by anything—in much the same way they began taking pictures of anything; so they could have something to share.
Fake outrage goes viral very easily because it contains the controversy and emotional triggers that content needs in order to compel readers to share it. It’s perfect fodder for a community starved for the controversy that’s missing from their own mundane lives.
The brass ring of fake outrage is when a celebrity breaks the rules of political correctness—because a celebrity-obsessed media will spread those indiscretions even more quickly.
In a culture that has replaced piety with celebrity, the public likes to see famous people falter. When celebrities stumble from their pedestals, regular people then feel as if they’re on an equal level with them; in turn, elevating themselves to the level of what we’ve put in the place of gods.
Being a direct victim of a celebrity’s indiscretions offers much attention, and—unlike a sexual assault or paternity suit—a claim of emotional offence can be launched from the safety of one’s own computer.
The really sad thing is that instead of using social media for information sharing, many have used it to join a culture of tattletales and fake victims.
This new culture of victimhood is not a result of more emotional offenses, but of a progression of time, technology, and perceived humanitarianism. Political correctness was simply inevitable.
A decadent society eventually runs out of real challenges, and therefore problems must be invented. People train their sights on the perceived evils of their own culture in their search for yet another realm to conquer.
Like an idle immune system takes the form of an autoimmune disease, people attack the very culture that has evolved to support their way of life. Hypersensitivity becomes less the right thing to do, and more just something to do.
The problem is that political correctness doesn’t work—for several reasons.
                                                         
It is designed under the false logic that removing negative speech will somehow force people to act positively towards one another. As if removing the weapons will end the war—but that doesn’t work.
When a “negative” word is eliminated, its negative connotation is migrated to the replacement word, and in time, the new word must then be eliminated.
The only lasting result is the hyper-sensitizing of a culture which begins to turn out more sensitive people—who in turn become offended by less and less. Society must then be re-sensitized, and the cycle self-perpetuates.
The cultural movement accomplishes nothing but to give work and entertainment to the sanctimonious; busybodies created by the same movement.
Political correctness now has the exact opposite result of what was originally intended; removing negative speech causes people to function worse as a society.
With the elimination of negative speech, we lose the ability to hold others accountable for their actions, including those in power. This is because negative speech is an integral part of criticism and shame.
Shame felt for oneself and from others is what civilizes a society. No length of legal code or force of military can control a culture that is, at its core, shameless.
Shame isn’t pleasant, but anyone who conducts themselves without caring what others think is in essence, acting antisocially.
In the effort to end bad feelings, society begins to dismantle.
Bad feelings will always persist because classifying new “bad words” actually causes more hurt feelings because of the brain’s ability to contextualize pain.
Certain systems of the brain conspire to create a picture of the pain in order to assign it a level of seriousness. Think about the difference in pain levels between getting a tattoo, and getting a tattoo against your will. The terror that our emotions assign to the latter will cause a measurable somatic difference.
Soldiers will often require more pain-killing medications in the hospital than they did on the battlefield. Some will run miles before realizing that they’ve been shot—and only then, will they fall to the ground.
A child who falls off of his bike when he is alone will pick himself up and dust himself off, but will burst into tears if his mother is watching. Both reactions are genuine, but with the mother’s presence creating a different context.
A hypersensitive culture acts as your mother watching.
When we legitimize words as being damaging, they become damaging. When we overly sensitize society, we cause its members to be hurt by less and less.
“What worries me is the acceptance of the importance of feelings without any effort to understand their complex biological and sociocultural machinery. …to explain bruised feelings by appealing to surface social causes…”
—Dr. Antonio Damasio
University Professor, David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience, Director, Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California
Eliminating words should only be done after very close examination, because language is the brain of a society. As with brain cells, when you remove words, you simplify the entire organism.
Political correctness removes words while technology limits the size of the message—to the length of tweets, or the brevity of texts. This leads to an erosion of discourse and art as a whole.
Which brings me to my problem.
Standup relies on profane speech and exaggeration for the benefit of shock and emphasis. The line of good taste is danced upon and often crossed because-- it’s fun and that’s what people pay for.
Comedy crowds are beginning to shut down and stay silent if any joke so much as mentions members of the ever-growing ‘protected humans’ list; as if being gay, or black, or female is a birth defect that must not have any attention drawn to it.
Calling a comedian sexist, racist, homophobic—or worse—has become an adult game of cooties where you point your fingers to draw attention away from yourself.
Standup comedy is something that allows us to put the rules of office behind us, to let our hair down, and to laugh at each other. A good comedian will seem like a funny friend, and when friends converse they don’t do it by using a political rule book.
It’s called a comedy ‘club’ because a club is a group of people who have a common interest. In this case, it’s to laugh, to have fun, and to be entertained.
If you are someone who just wants to groan, complain, or clam up in order to prove that you are of a higher class than the rest of the crowd—or if you want to pull out a phone in order to tattle on the performer—you’re betraying the nature of my art form.
So. I would like to invite those people to leave, and to go find something else to do that won’t offend their delicate sensibilities. If that’s you—you are not a good fit with standup comedy—and you’re out of the club.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why Rape Jokes Can Be Funny By John Beuhler

When did we all become such emotional hypochondriacs?
 
The recent turn of PC sanctimony and faux-outrage towards the medium of stand up comedy is cause for concern. Several comedians have made headlines for parts of their shows that, although told in a private settling, have been made public through the wonder of social media and used as fodder for the 24-hour news cycle.
 
Here’s an explanation of why the best comics tend to tackle the more touchy and controversial subjects.
 
Laughter developed as an autonomic reaction to the relief of short-term stress. Its physical component serves to burn off a build-up of stress hormones (epinephrine) and its auditory component (laughing) lets the rest of your group know that the stress is over. Stress makes you want to run or fight and if you remove the stress before the fight, the animal is physically wound up; laughter transforms that potential energy to a kinetic and releases the pressure.
 
A joke example from man’s beginnings: “Turns out it wasn’t a saber-toothed tiger; it was just a rock.” Funny because a saber-toothed tiger is stressful and a rock is not. The laughter travels from the front of the hunting party to the back, so that those who didn't see the rock can have their stress relieved as well. Laughter is autonomic communication.
 
The Saber Toothed Rock story will then be related around the fire that night to silence. This was the origin of, “I guess you had to be there.”
 
Brief moments of stress and relief are followed by a rush of dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter. Scary movies, roller coasters, and infidelity are some of the ways we achieve brain rewards. Comedy is no different; it brings us joy and that is why we can charge people for it while they eat things that can only very liberally be called appetizers. Laughter is a natural drug, unlike that stuff I make in my garage.
 
This is also the reason people hate a bad comedian. If they don’t get the joke, they haven’t had their tension relieved or received any reward dopamine. The tension sits there like a failed sneeze and the person is unhappy. Long-term exposure to cortisol, the stress hormone, can inhibit protein synthesis and the creation of immunity tissues. So, if you hear too many bad jokes you could end up looking as bad as the comedian.
 
The amount and intensity of laughter is inversely proportionate to the tension created, like pulling back a bow to shoot an arrow. The more tension created, the more tension will be relieved at the punch line; the more relief experienced, the bigger the laugh; the bigger the laugh, the bigger the chance of sex after the show. The pay from the club, however, will never change until you get some TV credits, you lazy asshole.
 
This explains why the greatest comics deal with such risqué subjects, such as racism, homophobia, rape, and hot pockets. Controversial subjects get bigger laughs, but there is more inherent risk involved. A swan-dive from the high platform is more spectacular because of the risk, just as racist jokes are risky (but more interesting than observations about your cat, Colonel Pudding Tummy)
 
When you’re at a comedy club and you hear something that you don’t agree with or are offended by, it’s not permissible to voice your objection. The comedian has worked for 10 plus years honing his craft, being broke, sacrificing a normal life to follow a dream that very rarely leads to happiness. He does this because he has a sickness that puts your happiness before his own. He is holding a microphone and you’re holding a Zima for a reason.
 
As I stated before, controversial subjects have the potential to be the funniest, so, no, rape isn't funny, but jokes about rape can be very funny. Rape is terrible and therefore needs jokes so we don’t feel the entire brunt of stress that accompanies it.
 
The hyper-sensitivity of contemporary society has led to people pursuing heroism and notoriety in the laziest way possible, through victimhood. The laziest way to pursue victim status is to pretend that your feelings or sensibilities have been offended and what better place to be offended than in a place where offensive things are said all the time; at a comedy club?
 
The fact is that the comedy club is a called a club for a reason. There is an understanding among the initiated of what is going to go on. You might not agree with everything the performer is saying, but it is to be taken with a grain of salt.
 
I would encourage comedians to only apologize to actual complaints which are made to the club and not to Internet blogs or other public media. Responding in the mainstream media to complaints that begin on the Internet will encourage more and more people to tape and report on our shows with the goal of getting a reaction.
 
Please do not reply to complaints about your show unless they are from the people who pay you. Internet complaints are not worth the paper they’re not written on. This mode of thinking is wrong and reacting to it, gives it validation and makes it dangerous to our livelihoods and rights to free speech.
 
Lenny Bruce died so that the government couldn’t stop up from saying what we wanted. What no one foresaw is that the government could step aside and let us all tattle on each other; so uneasy in our smallness that we looking to chastise those on a higher stage; even if it is only a foot and a half.

@johnbeuhler
www.johnebuhler.com
johnbeuhler.blogspot.ca

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Technician’s Guide to Writing Stand up Comedy By John Beuhler

The following is a system of writing that I have established after 13 years of writing and performing standup comedy. This system takes advantage of current technology and has helped me write material more prolifically than any other process I have tried. It takes your routine (for lack of a better term) out of the beat up coil note book into the computer where you will find that editing and grouping your material will happen much more easily.
 
The note book process may seem satisfactory for people performing shorter sets, but if you’re planning on progressing to 45 minutes to an hour and beyond then this system will be invaluable. It will also make sure that you never lose or forget any jokes again as they will all be documented in a single Word file.
 
What is basically a filtering process of multiple Word files, my process makes sure that once saturated you will always have material and bits to develop and writing to do as well as material to perform; no more going months without any new jokes.
 
STEP (1) Recording New Ideas.
In this age of smart phones and large memory storage there is no reason to ever bother a waitress for a pen, fumble with several loose pieces of scribbled paper and cocktail napkins or fate worse than death, forget an idea you thought was great. Think it’s too funny to forget? It’s not.
 
Almost every model of present cell phone has a voice/ memo recorder. Why not use the device that is never more than arms reach away as the center for your new jokes ideas. With the memory size of some phones they can also be used to record your set so that you can examine what parts of the joke worked and which didn’t. Recording your voice instead of scribbling also allows you to hear a funny voice, inflection or cadence that would otherwise not translate if read off of note. 
 
You can also use the text message or notes feature to record ideas in situations that you may not be able to talk in such as movie theatres in classrooms or when making love to someone who is unaware you are making love to them.
 
STEP (2) Filling the First Filter
So it’s been a busy week and you have been diligent about putting every idea in your phone; from punchy provocative never fail gold material all the way to the jokes that Dane Cook might like. These ideas are ready to be transcribed into the first catch-all filter which I have titled NEWSHIT (I named this document when I was 19 and a black hip- hop artist) The name however is moot as long as it is identifiable as the first document in our process where we can empty all of the contents from our memo device.
 
The document name is apt as a lot of these ideas are going to be terrible. If one out of ten ideas has potential you’re doing great. If you only get one out of 15 do everyone a favor and put a shotgun in your mouth – that was harsh; put a hand gun in your mouth.
 
No one, no matter how talented is funny all the time. We all have crappy ideas; we just have to get through them. Your comedy writing career should resemble the sewer scene from Shawshank Redemption, actually comedy is like the whole movie without the interracial homosexual over tones.
 
After you’ve transcribed the ideas into NEWSHIT you can continue on or if you are feeling lazy just let the ideas pile up. No one is going to judge you; you don’t have time; you have to put your uniform on and get to Orange Julius. Besides there are worse things than having tons to ideas all in one file; half baked or not. Remember this process works best when it’s saturated so record everything that strikes you funny.
 
If you’re feeling saucy go over the long list of short joke ideas eliminating the ones that aren’t funny, unoriginal or just plain drunken nonsense. Sell the rejects to Carlos Mencia.
 
Move the jokes that stand up to the first elimination process to a new document called WORKYARD
 
STEP (3) WORKYARD Time
Now to reiterate this process is about collecting many different jokes in one place before writing them all the way through to where you would be able to test them; that step comes later.
 
Give every idea a couple of word description, so later you won’t have to read the whole joke to know what it’s about. You will find that when singles jokes gather in one WORKYARD document that you start to see common subject matters develop.
 
As you collect ideas that in this file, begin to group similar ideas under general headings. I.E. DRINKING, MASTURBATING, NUCLEAR PHYSICS. Make these headings in uppercase and bold for easy reference later.
 
This gives you a job that will come about through out the entire process; GROUPING. Grouping is joining jokes and stories of a common subject together. If you don’t feel funny or like writing on a certain day you can always go through your WORKYARD files and do some grouping. Over time you will begin have subject heading with several funny jokes that you can then turn into a bit; a bit being a group of jokes or stories.
 
When you are confident that you have several jokes on the same subject and you want to develop it into a bit simply cut and paste to a blank document. This will give you more room to move, write and edit.
 
STEP (4) Putting a Bit Together
After creating the new document, write the joke the way you will mostly likely say it on stage and try to organize the jokes so that the strongest one is last if at all possible. At  every opportunity try to eliminate details and words that don’t add funny or any useful information to the joke. Cut the fat!!
 
For example let’s take what the previous paragraph would look like after editing.
 
Write the bit like you’d say it with the strongest joke last and no extraneous words.
 
That’s a lean sentence. That’s editing and it’s the biggest challenge I’ve seen facing new comics. To their defense it’s very hard to do in written form. Don’t tell me a long winded story about your breakfast routine just to get to a weak joke about eggs or bacon. Give them product, people laugh at funny not story.
 
However, this process will allow you to form jokes in succession into something that sounds like a story, but is much funnier and has much more fire power.
 
When you have a bit that is ready to be tested it moves into the ONDECK file. As you might have guessed, this file is full of bits that are in line to be tried on stage.
 
STEP (5) Creating a Queue
After a few months of writing you should find more and more bits collecting in this file. You can use lazy days to open your ONDECK file and do more grouping. This brings together larger groups of jokes and will making testing them easier because your topics aren’t jumping all over the place; this can lose the crowd and make your show seem disjointed.
 
Again this is for building longer sets which should be the goal of anyone doing stand up; unless you’re a recent divorcee who just wants to get some shit off of her chest.
 
Now you have a document full of filtered bits that are written exactly as you are to say them on stage with very little fat. You don’t have to flip back and forth in your notebook looking for that bit you were going to try; just print off this document and call a cab to your local Chuckle Pavilion.
 
STEP (6) Testing your “Funny” Jokes
The only major draw back to this system is that it takes the jokes out of your head and puts them more into the computer. You have to take steps to memorize more so than if you were adding a new joke every month or so. If you write more you will develop more and better material, but you will also have more to remember more and will have to be more diligent about testing. It’s a good problem to have however like that mole I have on my back. Sure it’s cancerous, but it looks like Whoopi Goldberg, the beautiful actress.
 
This is the point where you can write on paper if you want. If you are in the habit writing out your jokes on a crib sheet you can do the same here and because of the previous steps you have a subject heading for all of the jokes you are to try.
 
Use your personal recording device to record your set to get an accurate idea of how each new joke went. Some ideas will shoot up the ranks to the front of the queue and get tested before others and some will stick around your ONDECK file for months. This is almost always an indication that they aren’t very strong and should be deleted.
 
The hardest part of writing is deleting your weak ideas, but it has to be done. Do not keep trying material that is clearly not working, delete, delete, delete!! Your show will get tighter and tighter as you write more and more to fill the holes left by your slashing and burning. If you want to be a pro you have to tighten up.
 
Tightening up doesn’t mean polishing your personality off of your jokes. It isn’t about talking faster or losing the quirks that make you, you. Tightening and editing are about knowing where you’re going with a joke and not wasting people’s time.
 
STEP (7) Review
So the joke went great!! Aren’t you the treat of the week? I usually try the jokes a few times as not all crowds are created equal and a cakewalk room as well as a hell gig will not give you an accurate read on whether a joke is going to make the team. Give it a reasonable trial in a few rooms making subtle changes depending on crowd reaction. Be conscious of where in your set you put the joke as a crowd that is warm to you will let more slide and tend to want to like your stuff. Because of this fact try to always open strong and slip the new stuff in here and there.
 
Do not open with new jokes! This is a rookie mistake and it can sink your whole show. Veterans do this sometimes too because we get excited about a new bit, but it’s never worth the risk. Also don’t get drunk and do ten minutes of straight new stuff, bomb horribly and then strike out with the wait staff; that’s my shit!
 
STEP (8) PROPER JOKE STORAGE
After the joke has been adequately tested and has gone over well on stage a few times then it’s time to add it to your arsenal. Make a new document; I call mine TESTED for obvious reasons and I bet you can guess what the one job there is to do in hear? That’s right GROUPING. Joining bits together in this document is the most important because this will become your long set.
 
Grouping in this document can be difficult when it gets more and more full and it will get full because the jokes are written in long form so take the headings of these tested jokes and bits and add them to another file that will be your MASTER LIST. Break into columns to save space.
Drinking
Smoking
Nuclear Physics
Joke
Joke
Joke
Joke
Joke
Joke
Joke
Joke
Joke
Joke
Joke
Joke
Joke

You now have a page of tested jokes that you can reference at anytime and within the document you can drag and drop into any order you want. When you get all of these bits and jokes into an order that compliments them and makes sense in terms of a conversational progression then you have your long show; along with all the documents to check if you forget wording or references. It may sound complicated, but if you get into the process it will make sure you never lose jokes, always have stand up writing or grouping to do and it will ramp up your writing production considerably.
 
Create the following documents:
 
NEWSHIT
Ideas transcribed from recording device
 
WORKYARD
Ideas and jokes that have past the first filter of scrutiny. Group together like subjects and move to-
 
NEW DOCUMENT
Create and edit with plenty of room. If the bit is ready for testing move it to ONDECK. If not delete it or move it back to WORKYARD.
 
ONDECK
If the bit made it here it should have a hope. Group it with other like bits, print and memorize. Try to record when you test and the put the bits that work in-
 
TESTED
Now you have a document full of tested material written the way it was tested and always there for easy reference.
 
MASTER LIST
This is a list of every good joke you have. Take this to shows and cherry pick the bits you want to do. Group them together for longer shows, record an album and make hundreds of dollars.  
Get writing and let me know if you have any questions.
 
@johnbeuhler