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Define Your Premise-Exercise [43025]

By September 5, 1996October 26th, 2023Articles

By Gene Perret

It’s helpful in doing any kind of comedy monologue, or even in writing humorous articles, to begin by defining your premise. Tell the audience right up front exactly what you’re talking about.

            And, of course, since you are doing comedy, the more laughs you can get, the better off you are. Therefore, it pays to make your definition funny.

This month, I’m offering an exercise that will give you some practice in definitions.

            We’ll take some abstract ideas and try to write some one-liners that define them. I’ll suggest a few, but you might try to come up with more of your own.

            Let’s begin with words like: fear, heaven, hell, heroism, dedication, politeness. Now take each of these (or selected ones) along with those of your own, and write some one-liners that give a good, solid, funny definition of that particular word.

            For example:

  • Fear is that little voice inside you that says, “I don’t know how I got into this situation, but you can bet the farm I’m never going to get into it again.”
  • Fear is when little butterflies form in your stomach and try to get out. Often times your lunch goes with them.
  • Fear is when your courage goes AWOL, and you’d like to go with it.

This is a valuable exercise because your topic is very specific. That forces you to focus on just one thought. The more you can learn to focus in comedy writing, the stronger your material will be.

            Also, these are topics that are unique. They haven’t been overdone by comedians. That will force you to be original and to investigate the topic thoroughly in your own mind.

            To get the most benefit from this exercise, do several jokes on each topic. Again, that forces you to analyze your premise thoroughly. The first gag might be great, but there are other areas within that premise that can be explored.

            I recommend that you do at least 7 to 10 gags on each topic that you select. As a variation on this exercise (after you’ve explored this one fully), you might try opening a dictionary to a random page, finding an intriguing word there, and writing several gags, or even a routine on that word.

            This one will really force you to think.

With both of these exercises, Have Fun!