Friday, May 31, 2013

The hackiest ways to get laffs at a comedy club

Nothing hacky here. Move along. 

By now, everyone knows about my completely rational war on the word "unique" in ads.

It's not just that the word is lame, it's that it's "hack" - the word people "in the know" use to describe writing that's dull, unoriginal, done to death, or stupid.

If you really want to get into hacky hunting ground, though, advertising has nothing on stand-up comedy, where comedians pepper their speech with hack phrases like "hacky hunting ground" when they see other comedians perform hack material onstage, hack-on-hack style.

Here, then, is a collection of the hackiest ways to make an audience laugh at a comedy club:

1. "In other news..."

"California had more power blackouts yesterday. In other news, Roseanne microwaved some nachos."

Stand up isn't the fake news, and even if it was: this structure is hack hack hacky sack.

2. "I'm here all night."

Said after you realize a joke bombed, it will take the awkward silence and magnify it a zillionfold. Or, the audience will laugh, at which point you'll realize the joke that originally didn't get a laugh actually might've been a keeper.

3. Birthdays/anniversaries/out-of-town guests

What better way to tell the crowd, "I have no more material" than by going to it for "found" material, which may remain missing in action. "You're from Saskatchewan? Watch out, folks, if the Coco Puffs turn brown, he'll burn you for witchcraft."

I once said, "Would anyone here like to tell a joke?" which is worse. But, seriously, would you like to tell a joke?

4. The 50/50 rule

Here's another one I did myself, ad nauseam. Sorry. "I'm half (blank) and half (blank), which means (blank)."

5. "That's my time."

You have no ending to your act, so you cry, "That's my time" and run off to a smattering of applause. Instead, try ending with a hilarious joke and run off to laughter.

6. The differences between men and women

"The toilet seat. Am I right, ladies?"

7. Penis/masturbation material

Every year, I get two or three male students in comedy-writing class who think they have incredibly original material on their penis and how they like to masturbate. They don't.

8. Car jokes

"I drive a (blank), which is (country of origin) for crap." e.g. Toyota, Japanese. Mix and match for best results.

9. Local material

"What are you guys from Transcona? That's six bus transfers!"

Reminds me of the time a young Russell Peters came to Rumors and did material about Etobicoke. Ahhh...those were the days!

10. References more than five years old

"You went to med school? Who are you - Dr. Kildare?"

11. "I get paid for this, people."

Positioning yourself as a professional comedian and creative genius to the unwashed masses in the audience means you're neither.

12. "I remember my first drink too."

And any of the million stock lines designed to deal with drunk folk.

13. Mimicking sign language.

Because it's great to tell your audience that it must be deaf and/or stupid to not love your comedy.

14. "Jaws of life"

Put in the punchline of any medical joke, "jaws of life" shows the crowd that you're not just a great comedian, but that you also might know a thing or two about medicine.

15. Mawkish applause appeals

Encouraging the audience to applaud at the end of your set because a) you have or have had an illness b) you have a relative with an illness c) we're all stuck on this crazy rock together, and it's good we can get together to have a laugh d) at your last show, the crowd gave you a standing ovation.

16. Racial jokes

Making fun of your own race: hilarious. Making fun of other races: racist.

17. Impressions

"Thank you. That was Sean Connery, everyone."

18. Stealing material. 

It's not sharing, it's copyright infringement and plagiarism. Oh, sorry: that's my time!

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