GOD!... Since Wednesday I've been trying to write this posting - making notes, notes, and more notes - but it has refused to come together. So... Let's make a last stab at it, before I can move on to something else, which I'm dying to do.
It's the BIG question. Where DO jokes come from?... Because if we don't know, we won't know where to look for more new ones.
The problem with the question is the word "joke". It covers such a multitude of humour, long and short, good and bad, simple and sophisticated, that the question has a different answer depending on what kind of "joke" you mean.
I'm dealing with one aspect of this question in my activity as a working comedian. I'm currently on my latest comeback and knocking out new material, which for my latest stand-up incarnation is stuff about REAL experiences, ideas, and feelings. Jokes... but with a point of view or something to say.
And in that version of the question, I'm actually OK. I feel like I know what I'm doing. I've got three journals of notes for new material, and I've got the "Killer Stand-Up Writing Guide"
which is a brilliant guide to writing those kind of funny lines... or "jokes".
BUT... last Tuesday in my latest Comedy Writing class, I wanted to answer the same question for my students. I'd asked them to each bring along a copy of a joke - that they would have liked to have written themselves. Then I was going to try to tell them where their jokes had come from... so we might create more jokes of a similar ilk and quality.
THIS was not a wholely successful exercise. I quickly came to realize that the kind of jokes my students like - AND want to write - do not always support the same kind of analysis as the kind of jokes that I like - and want to write.
When the joke in question is just a long-ish contrived story leading to a surprise ending based on something titillating or even shocking... then there is NO obvious target or point of view... AND if we DO strive to see what is being laughed at in such a joke, it is often a deformed baby, a homosexual, or a penis in some situation. A long "knob gag" or - for any Americans reading - a long "dick joke".
Where do THESE jokes come from? Hard to say. Some say that these jokes are created in prison. But all I can say to help people who want more of these jokes is to advise checking out the the joke books in 'The Works'. I've bought a few joke books in there myself - for inspiration when writing sketches for Belgian TV.
By the way... Subject matter is not the issue. I LIKE shocking humour. I'm NOT adverse to knob gags... but I prefer short ones. Write about what you know!