Thank you all sooooo much for participating in yesterday’s exercise. You had some GREAT jokes. Mine is posted at the very bottom.
What I want to do today is use this as a teaching exercise. I’m listing some of the jokes I thought really scored along with a bunch that I felt didn’t hit the mark (and I will briefly explain why). I want to stress that these are just SOME of the jokes that worked. There were a lot more.
I don’t list anyone’s name. Again, the point of this is to illustrate how specific joke writing is and how tough comedy writers are on the construction of a joke.
For Johnny to sense his girlfriend was seeing someone else either something about her behavior changed, which specifically led him to the conclusion she was cheating, or he discovered something. And there had to be some comic spin. For example: He found out she was getting married to someone else. That satisfies the requirement but there’s no spin. If he goes to his wedding but discovers there’s someone else at the altar that has more of a spin. Do you see the difference?
What’s a little tricky with this particular joke is the reader has to connect the dots. Without explicitly saying why “Kanye West dedicated his new album to her” the reader has to know the significance of Kanye West. A good joke generally requires three things:
Information, set up, punchline.
So that information has to be there. But it has to be clear and quick for the reader to make a direct connection. If the information is ambiguous – if it can be interpreted in different ways – the reader won’t instantly get the reference.
Sometimes in trying to give a joke some spin the writer will go overboard, giving the punchline twist after twist. If the joke gets too convoluted, if the reader has to connect too many dots you will lose him. So two big problems are “no spin” and “too much spin.”
Anyway, here we go. First some submissions I thought worked well. Again, the set up:
JOHNNY KNEW HIS GIRLFRIEND WAS SEEING SOMEONE ELSE WHEN__________ .
...he saw a new name under his on her list of back tattoos.
When she wrote "Have a good life" on his Valentine's card.
...when his toothbrush was always wet when he got home on Wednesdays.
when she shaved her legs before having lunch with her "mother".
...when Kanye West dedicated his new album to her.
...when her parrot suddenly starting saying "Oh Bridget, make me come!"
… when she said her hero was Tiger Woods. She didn't play golf.
...he felt three hands on his butt during sex.
when the bell hop at the hotel complimented him on his weight loss and new haircut.
when the cop told him, "Sir, I'm not telling you again. You don't live here anymore; you have to leave."
When they walked in to the Swingers Club for the first time, all the guys saw her and yelled, "Norma!"
When she accidentally sent Johnny a text saying "You are so good in bed."
Her phone automatically connected to his best friend's wifi.
... she became a Republican.
...she started buying condoms at Costco. (I have a joke just like this in A OR B?)
when he met the postman leaving the apartment....twice a day
"their" new baby was black and he's not. (That actually happened to a certain Major League ballplayer years ago.)
... when he took her out to dinner on Valentine's Day and the maitre d handed her the scarf she'd left behind at lunch.
Her Facebook status changed to "It's Complicated".
when he didn't see her on payday.
-When he called her and said "it's your boy friend", she asked him to be more specific.
... she went to couples counseling without him.
When a 2nd "His" towel appeared on the towel rack.
she asked him to be the godfather of her next child
when, upon meeting his girlfriend's mom, she said "Nice to meet you, Harry!"
...he read a 10th Wedding Anniversary announcement about her in the paper.
she returned from her scrapbooking class in a cocktail dress.
...she said she was going out for a pack of cigarettes -- and she took everything she owned with her.
he noticed notches in her dress belt.
... when he saw an Ashley Madison charge on his credit card.
... everybody kept consoling that other guy at her funeral.
... divorce lawyers began sending him kitchen magnets and notepads.
... she knew what an orgasm was.
... she called to say she'd be home late from work, but didn't have a job.
... she suggested they have date nights - Fridays for her; Saturdays for him.
when the minister at their wedding asked whether anyone had any reason why they shouldn't be wed, and half the men in the church raised their hands.
And now the ones that still aren’t perfect yet.
when her underwear started falling off him. (Funny idea but you have to go through a lot of steps to get there.)
She showed up wearing an "I'm With Stupid" T-Shirt. (that could mean a lot of things. He could be stupid for many reasons.)
When she put him at the kids' table for her wedding... (“kids” throws this off. Why not any other table at their wedding? Kids implies he’s immature.)
Her dog didn't hump his leg when he got there: in fact, it was already smoking its cigarette. (convoluted and huh???)
...the oven repairman needed to fix the faulty gas valve located behind the headboard of her bedroom. On the plus side, the "yes, yes, yes!" he heard clearly showed he was making good progress... (see comment from the last entry.)
... his wife asked him why he was so horny lately. (This suggests that Johnny is not getting sex, but there are many reasons why a wife would withhold sex.)
...she gave him a madlib to fill out: "I'm (Verb) on you with (name) because you never (verb). You bastard." (Also convoluted.)
Johnny knew his girlfriend was seeing someone else when she texted that she felt guilty and wanted to stop seeing him. (Real event that could happen. No spin.)
he heard her ringtone "Secret Lover." (Doesn’t necessarily mean she’s seeing someone else, just that she likes that song.)
he met her at a couples retreat. (He could assume he’d be the other half of the couple. Not clear. If she went to a couples retreat without him that’s a different story.)
Johnny knew his girlfriend was seeing someone else when he noticed her lazy eye. (“Lazy eye” is not a roaming eye. Not totally clear.)
...when she would only make love to him in the fetal position. (She could be in the fetal position for many other reasons.)
when she started referring to him as, 'oh, you again..' (There are many reasons why she might say that. She’s tired of him. He comes around too often, etc.)
-- his stuff was out on the curb when he came home... to his own apartment. (That could just mean a fight.)
when she said she was just kidding about that whole "why aren't we engaged" thing a few months back. (Lots of reasons why she might want to back out of the engagement.)
Johnny knew his girlfriend was seeing someone else when she called out the wrong name as they were making love... then corrected herself with yet another wrong name. (Implies she’s seeing two guys.)
...when her "me" time became "three" time. (She was having a threesome? Not clear.)
when she showed up to get her things in her new habits uniform. (This says she’s going to be a nun not seeing another man.)
...she re-tweeted Tony's podcast announcement. (I don’t get it.)
...he found his car's brake lines had been cut as he careened off a cliff down the Springfield Gorge. (She could have tried to kill him for numerous reasons.)
-- two years passed by without a word from her. He didn't jump to conclusions quickly, but when he did, he was certain. Well, pretty certain. He'd give her just six more months.... (Convoluted and it says that Johnny was incapable of confrontations.)
When the milkman stopped delivering. (Maybe there was a milkman strike. Multiple reasons why the milkman would stop delivering.)
when his mother called him and told him: "Don't worry, they won't last!" (Very straight forward. Not enough of a comic spin.)
bought bacon. (Why would his buying bacon suggest his girlfriend is cheating?)
... as he walked in to her bedroom as she finished getting ready for their date, and asked "What perfume are you wearing?" and a voice from the closet said "L'air du Temps." Nobody heard the voice under the bed mumble, "And it was damn expensive too!" (Let’s see – convoluted, this suggests a threesome, and the logic issue of why would these guys answer?)
...she enthusiastically replied: "Great! Have fun!" when he suggested going backpacking in Asia for three weeks. (That could means she just hates camping.)
she got into the Titanic's life boat and didn't wave good-bye. (Means she was glad to get rid of him, not necessarily that she was cheating. I know it’s a fine distinction, but just that little bit could be the difference between a line getting or not getting a laugh.)
...he caught his boyfriend wearing her panties. (Suggests he’s gay. It’s what we call a “joke on a joke” – the two sort of cancel each other out.)
She was waiting for him at the airport, holding a sign with his name on it. (This suggests she just can’t remember faces. Or he's been gone so long she's forgotten what he looks like. But that still doesn't clearly establish "affair.")
He saw a sex tape of her with another guy on a porn site. (Very straight forward. These are called “Like a Jokes.” They have the rhythm of a joke but the punchline is more of a straight line.)
... when she said, "I'm seeing someone else." (As straight forward as you can get.)
his DVR was filled with episodes of 'The L Word.' (That just says he likes watching hot girl on girl action.)
When I told her I bought a pack of condoms and she asked if I kept the Receipt. (That merely says she doesn’t want to have sex with him.)
Okay. 'Nuff said.
I know in some cases I’m really being a stickler, but that’s what we do. A tremendous amount of scrutiny goes into each and every line. Comics will tell you they sometimes require five or six versions before a joke is just right. Taking out one word, or substituting one word could make all the difference. Oh, and on top of that – it’s truly an inexact science. You may craft the absolutely perfect joke and if the air conditioning isn’t working it dies a horrible death. But it’s sure fun trying, isn’t it? Thanks again to everyone for participating. You’re welcome to keep submitting.
And now, this was my submission in Andy Goldberg’s class:
…she got a Christmas Card from Bill Clinton.