Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How To Throw a Punchline

Throwing a punchline for a joke is quite analogous to throwing a punch in a fight. Throwing physical punches require:

A few well placed punchlines have more of an impact than a many soft, random ones. Imagine a boxer hitting you once in the gut versus a little kid punching you a lot in the arm. One has you rolling on the floor gasping for breath; the other is just annoying. The similar is true of something really funny.

Just as a fighter should always strive for balance, so should an improvisor always strive to balance their jokes with other elements of good storytelling: intelligence, emotions, story arc, timing, etc. A fighter and comedian with poor balance are both weak.

Don't waste the audience's time WAITING for them to laugh! Unless it's the final punch that ends everything, you have one of two choices after you deliver a punch: deliver another immediately (adding more wit in some kind of comedy punchline combo), or regain your balance by immediately refocusing on other elements of good storytelling.

In combat, a punch should come from the whole body. Martial arts teach us that the energy of a punch begins in the feet & legs, and the intended force is channeled through the body until it flows to the intended target. Similarly, the force of a punchline should be channeled from the energy that surrounds and feeds it, regardless if it an emotional, physical, or intellectual energy.

How do you recognize a bad punchline? How do you know if your punchline lacks commitment? It's when you-- yourself--throw it away... by adding an apology. Was the joke followed by an actual apology, or explanation or an "anyway" or "whatever" or a "nevermind."
The audience unconsciously thinks: "If we're not supposed to care about it, why did you bring it up?"

Remember: Strength without good form is wasted energy--in both comedy and martial arts.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I think Swithun (and I'm guessing that you wrote this post) should still do your Improv-Kung Fu. And we should get belts or keychains and have to do a demonstration where we crack a wooden board with a good scene or something. That would be awesome.