Joke Anatomy: The Scent of a Vampire
As a new comic, I continue to consider how to put my personality into my humor so others can understand me. I think this is a continuing art practiced by all performers, but I don’t have a big (or even small) audience that follows me. I’ll get lucky to get a nerd or two near my level of geek.
I’ve been working on a deodorant bit that of course skews a bit obscure, because this is the type of knowledge that nerd’s love and that binds us in fellowship like the One Ring. If you didn’t get that reference, you understand my issue and are a hermit or should be shunned like one. Let’s dissect this literally (not with a scalpel … but … yeah):
Premise: Know what’s ANNOYING? The LIES commercials use to sell CRAP.
A true observation made with a hostile attitude (power words in bold) that most would agree with. The question posed engages the audience’s curiosity. Crap can be interchanged with shit, which is better for the second S word after sell. So far, so standard.
Axe Body Spray doesn’t drive women crazy. That LIE just drives douche bags to buy Axe
This is joke number one of the bit. I consider this a chuckle-worthy appetizer punch line. It may insult Axe-wearing douches in the audience, but they’ll feel better by the end of this. Showing the nerd flag makes the average person feel superior, and it’s about to get geeky.
I like the Axe knock-off BLADE. It’s cheap. It works.It SLAUGHTERS VAMPIRES!
Surprise exaggerated connection between the deodorant Blade and the Black half-vampire vampire hunter comic book character played by Wesley Snipes in movie of the late 90’s early 2000s. This get’s a strong to moderate guy laugh but loses most girls. Those ladies that do laugh, I make note of for after the show.
It keeps your armpits from BURNING in sunlight
Tag based on one of Blades special vampire powers that gets a smaller laugh bump. Geek laughter guaranteed though. This is where the laughs begin to die off if I continue connecting to the character. So, I go meta.
Blade does NOT drive women crazy … (beat) … but it DOES give them JUNGLE FEVER.
Another surprise exaggeration connection but to the actor this time. Comic geekery to movie nerdery. Snipes starred in the controversial Spike Lee movie Jungle Fever 20 years ago where his character gets in an interracial relationship.
Obscure for many audiences, but I LOVE it so much! The Jungle fever idea ties in so well with the Axe fantasy of women going sexually crazy. That I’m a Black comic makes it work on another level. A decent amount of Black people will get it, so maybe this version should go in the arsenal for that audience.
For the mainstream, I may as well keep referring to the Blade character with his $2 billion movie franchise.
Blade does NOT drive women crazy … but it drives the undead BACK to HELL … where they BELONG!
“Where they belong” needs to be strongly emphasized to push the implied opinion that vampires or undead should exist, which is ridiculous but absurdly follows the bit’s attitude.
This is where the bit concludes right now. I’ll audience test the revisions later this week, but you can give me a preview. Comic readers (comic book lovers or comedians that read) let me know your comments and suggestions.
Posted on July 29, 2011, in Nerdery and tagged comedy, Comic books, Joke Writing, Nerdery, Vampire movies, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.
As much as I love cross pollinating geek/nerd ephemera, I feel like Porkins in ep4 “Stay on target….stay on target….”
Obscure references aren’t necessarily the problem here (just ask Dennis Miller) its that the references require a lot of hard shifting and most brains aren’t set up for the sort of fast paced lateral thinking the rhythm of (this iteration of) the routine requires.
I think you could have gotten away with the current delivery if this had been a you tube where visual aides could have accompanied it, then the audience doesn’t have to visualize something, realize its the wrong thing, change gears then rise/repeat as the joke progresses, they can track just your thinking with the graphics.
Either stay with the theme “commercials lie”, and have the jokes follow that theme or have the transitions feel more intuitive. For example: This body spray wont get me hot girls, it *might* AT BEST get me surly dwarves ” You have my sword/you have my bow/and my AXE!” (pantomime spraying armpits) hey, as long as they’re promising me an unattainable fantasy, how about a product that makes me a vampire hunter? I know — well call it BLADE! (announcer voice) “not only will you smell great slaying the undead, but you’ll be protected form harmful UV rays” (hero voice)”take that you foul-smelling vermin!” (vampire voice)”I cant win against such a manly sent! I’m doooooomed!”(*death throws* vampire dies) and so on.
It’s cheesy (how I roll) so feel free to disregard. Also, following this structure, the audience might get ahead of you tho at worst they are tracking on the same wavelength and at best, you’re creating anticipation for the payoff.
Another way to frame it isn’t to tell the audience “commercials lie” but to tell them “commercials are a CONSPIRACY!” then when you start jumping around from one wild/obscure link to the next, they will have a matrix to process what you’re doing (see what I did there?) if you’ve played Psychonaughts, seen Black Dynamite (or even watched enough Glenn Beck) you know what I’m getting at. With that in mind it might go something like this:
“OH! SUUUURE! Yeah, Axe body spray wants me to THINK I’m gonna get hot blondes, but I see their game — I SEE IT!!! it’s all part of a *subliminal* campaign to boost Spike Lee Blu Ray sales! (you might get a laugh here) “It’s so all so CLEAR to me!”(stare at the audience for a beat in anticipation) “What?! You mean you don’t see it too? Oh wait, I get it. you *know* but you don’t *know* if I *know*. alright then. AXE is a spay named after a bladed weapon, but the MOST COMMON bladed weapon is a SWORD, the deadliest part of which is its BLADE but BLADE was a movie starring WESLEY SNIPES who Starred in Jungle Fever –A SPIKE LEE JOINT!!!” and so on. if you can arrange elements to form an acronym, all the better.
Here, you’d also be spelling it out for the audience so might loose some steam but in that model it more about how you’re connecting the dots than the destination itself.
And with all of this, feel free to edit heavily, or take with enough salt to make a moose happy; I am but a humble cartoonist and not the one sticking his dick on the chopping block of a live audience.
You’re first idea require a much bigger leap than mine that the audience will connect that dwarves use axes. Mention Dwarves and LotR, they think Hobbits, cause dwarves are midgets to them. The comparison isn’t wordplay, Blade is a real thing http://bit.ly/oGL7rJ
The first idea does have good act out parts that I could use though.
Your second idea is way confusing and illogical. If you explain something in a bit it’ll get a laugh if it’s surprising true.
There needs to be a twist. The twist is Axe lies about itself, BUT I’m lying even bigger to promote its cheap knock off by ridiculously prioritizing the need for a deodorant to kill vampires over attracting women. This reinforces and is supported by my nerdy character.
First: Holy fuck, I had no idea that Blade Deodorant was a real thing.
Second: You’re right and I consider my bullshit officially called out. 🙂
I like this bit conceptually, but I agree that itshould connect the dots more. Because your a good writer, Digg, I think a lot of your material skews that way: good dots that just need more definition and connection.
I’d love to see this article proofread and promoted so it can get more feedback. You’ve done something really generous here by sharing the anatomy of a gag. I like that.
Did you catch the your/you’re? 😉
It’s a tough one. I know the old saying goes that you should write for yourself and not the audience, but I think the truth lies more in the fact that over time you start to just build up a natural ability to write both. I know I’m at the point where the audience is beyond secondary. They’re almost a liability. I don’t care at all if an audience is going to think what I’ve written is funny. I know it is, because I found it funny to me when I wrote it. I’ve developed a cockiness over the years where if an audience doesn’t laugh at a particular concept, I’ll come out at tell them that they’re wrong. Sometimes I intentionally throw obscure references into my act just for the one or two people who will get it. Because when those people get it, they feel like you’re speaking just to them. I’m a nerd. Nerdy analogies are how I communicate. I’m not going to change that for the stage.
With all of that in mind though, I’ve never been good at writing high concept pieces like this. It’s just never been my strength. I’ve tried over the years, but couldn’t pull it off. Remember too that most times comedy club audiences are drinking so when you’re trying to communicate an idea to them, it might take them a little longer to get it.
My biggest disappointment in comedy is realizing that nerds, for the most part, don’t seem to like to go out to comedy clubs…at least not in Michigan it seems. The shows at Meltdown Comics were my favorite in LA and I really hope either I or one of my peers has the time to pitch a show to Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor because that’s the perfect location to host an open mic. I already pitched Detroit Comics in Ferndale and at most he would do a once in awhile special event. There are already probably too many shows at 9 and Woodward already.
Anyway…you’ve broken this joke down into what and why the audience will find different elements funny. But what do you find funny about it? For me, it’s an “it’s clever the way he’s pulled all these different elements together” joke more so than it’s a “punchy, I didn’t see that coming” joke.
You have made me think about my joke writing in a different way. I am new and just starting out and have yet to analyze my material in such a way. I write for me and try to leave enough for improv because every venue is different. If the audience finds me funny all the better; we can go on a journey together.
I like your “Burning in the sunlight” line because it makes it feel more like a sales pitch for a actual product while at same time referencing the movie. If I were writing this I would aim to have that feel throughout the bit. I do like your ‘Jungle fever” line…mmmm Wesley(sorry, gay moment).
Mike nerds may not go to comedy clubs but we sure as hell get on stage.
OK. I get obscurity. But being an obscure entity, I can only say the following: Huh?
“Confused people don’t laugh.” – Sherwood Schwartz
Noble, your ideas would make a good comic strip. They aren’t bullshit! 🙂
Ron, I could add details to spell it out – Blade comes with a leather jacket and black face make up. Good writer took me an hour to write this whole comment.
Chris, thanks for the kind words. Jim, I’m sorry. Steve, that’s a good point.
Mike, I have no cockiness. They don’t laugh means I’ve failed. I’ve done version 1 once for mostly comics and mid twenty year olds and the kills vampires and sunlight punches were decently received. Above is version 2.
The high concept of the premise it the last thing I write. To me, something’s funny cause its weird cause it violates the norm. The description of that violation is the high concept I think. I’ll state it as simply and as often as it takes the crowd affirm it.
A Tuesday night Ferndale show would be great but I’m not starting one so Joeys will do. 😀
What do I like? I like that I insult douches as a nerd then go so nerdy its amazingly stupid. I love that it touches on one of the pillars of Black nerdom: Blade (the forerunner to all these present comic book epics). I’d love a Deep Space Nine joke. I love that I could pull out my actual can of Blade and punch it hard as hell.
Thanks to everyone’s input – version 3 is writing itself.
Update: Tried it 3 times. Blade reference not salient. I declare Steve Smargon winner of this comment thread.