The Bintel Brief

A Lesson in Finding Your Funny Bone

By Rob Kutner

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Dear Bintel Brief,

I aspire to be a comedy writer, but I am told that my work is just not funny enough. I have taken classes, watch comedy television and attend improv shows, and I can recite certain “Simpsons” episodes by heart. But something is missing.

I know humor can be subtle, and that figuring out what works and what doesn’t isn’t a science. But I’m looking for some tips on how to have a better barometer for what’s funny. Any advice?

COULD USE A FUNNIER BONE

Rob Kutner responds:

Dear ‘Could Bone,’

I’m intrigued by your phrase “I am told.” Who are your critics/readers? Fortunately, you haven’t staked your hopes, as some fledgling comics do, to the solid rationale: “Well, my mother thinks I’m hilarious!” Sounds like you have some good honest critics in your life. See if you can get them to be more specific with why they find something less funny than it could be, whether your humor falls into some patterns in need of improvement, etc.**

And likewise, don’t just watch TV and live comedy — study it. What’s working and not working, and why? Make categories of humor and notes on style and joke construction. Don’t be embarrassed to watch either with a notepad. Based on most comedians I know, it’s not like any of them are anyone to call you “nerd!”

Good luck!

Rob


Emmy-winning writer Rob Kutner has written for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” and “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien,” He is the author of “Apocalypse How: Turn the End Times into the Best of Times” (Running Press 2008).

If you have a question for the Bintel Brief, e-mail bintelbrief@forward.com. Questions selected for publication will be printed anonymously.


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