Writing Comedy Is Hard, and Here’s Why:Insight from a Stand-Up Comedian

November 14, 2018

There are few things that can cure the blues like great comedy, but the process of actually writing that comedy is nowhere near as easy as a good stand-up comedian makes it look. It’s very hard work to come up with a joke that sounds effortless, especially when you consider how much goes into making and testing a joke in the first place.

Here’s some insight from a stand-up comedian about exactly what makes writing comedy so difficult:

  • Nobody is naturally funny:
    Sure, there are some people who are funnier than other people, but nobody is born with the gift of humor. That is a talent that always has to be developed and honed over time. People who do stand-up or comedic acting weren’t born funnier than anyone else—they put a whole lot of time and effort into practicing their craft, just like anyone else has to put a lot of effort into developing any type of skill they have if they want to do it professionally.
  • Originality is hard to come by:
    Writing comedy is extremely difficult because there needs to be an element of uniqueness or originality for a joke to work. If it’s expected, or if it resembles other existing jokes or comedies, that’s going to take a whole lot away from the humor. It’s extremely tempting to recycle jokes—even jokes that you made up yourself. But it’s so much more worthwhile and fulfilling to come up with original material. Plus, taking material from other people is very likely to get you blacklisted in the comedy world.
  • Finding a niche can be hard:
    Comedy is so much deeper than slapstick and crude humor. That’s not to say that these types of humor are not worthwhile—it’s just that if you’re going to use them, you need to know when and how so you can make sure you’re not needlessly offending anyone or being entirely cheap with your jokes.
  • Timing is hard:
    If you’re writing a comedic screenplay, then the timing of jokes becomes even more crucial than it is in standup. How much comedy is right, and when do you add it in? Just the right amount will generate laughter. Too much will tire out the audience and result in some jokes getting missed. Too little, meanwhile, will likely result in the audience not being prepared to laugh when the time comes.
  • Inspiration is hard:
    Creative people of all types suffer from creative blocks. Writer’s block is especially hard on comedians, for many of the reasons already listed above. Inspiration can also be difficult, because it can become extremely easy to lift jokes from other comics or your own past routines.

These are just a few of the reasons why it can be very difficult to write good stand-up. Fortunately, there are exercises you can use to get yourself out of a creative funk. For more information, contact a stand-up comedian, or strike up a conversation with a comic next time you’re at a show!

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