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Mon, Aug. 21st, 2006, 05:37 pm
The Comedy Lodge


The Comedy Lodge

If you have trouble silencing the voices of criticism and procrastination, you may want to start or join a Comedy Lodge. The Comedy Lodge is based on the "immersion music method" of songwriting explained in the book The Frustrated Songwriter's Handbook and adapted here for comedy. The Comedy Lodge is a group of people writing humor independently all day long and gathering at the end of the day in an event free of consequences and expectations.

Bring snacks.

The goal is to create comedy, but also to teach each other to break individual inhibitions and procrastination. You can't get hurt, nothing counts, and you're just messing around. You're just being persistent about messing around. There's pressure, but it's pretend play game pressure. You can't be too critical to write, because the demands of the game require you to work too fast to judge.

Preparing for the Lodge Meeting

Designate a date, a time (in the evening) and a place where everyone will show up, on time, with snacks. Snacks are important.

From the moment you wake up until you leave for the lodge meeting, YOU WILL WRITE TWENTY (20) ORIGINAL JOKES FROM SCRATCH.

The goal isn't to write something funny, the goal is to write something DEVELOPABLE. You're not writing jokes, you're writing "lodge jokes." Write dumb jokes and trainwreck punchlines on purpose. Focus on making your lodge buddies laugh at the end of the day.

At the lodge meeting, all feedback is positive and in the context of developing the joke, rewarding each other's bravery for opening up and taking a chance, what you like about the joke, and how to move the joke forward. THIS IS NOT TO BE NICE. This is to keep the focus on developability.

Write with no fear of the listener, because the listener is the lodge members who focus on the positive and how to move it forward.

Fun lodge joke exercises:

  • Write a line, then write a line beneath it, then write a line about lines 1 and 2, then "forget" line 1 and write a line about lines 2 and 3, etc.
  • Write jokes about the nouns in an existing joke that don't serve as the main topic or punch word of the original joke.
  • Take the ending line of one of your jokes as the first line of a new joke.
  • Write down the last thing you'd ever want to admit on a comedy stage. Write a joke about it. Edit out the incriminating evidence later. LATER.
  • Picture a funny visual scene and describe it.
  • Pick a topic you'd like to write a joke about and just start writing words, phrases and sentences with that topic.
  • Say what you're thinking, what you normally wouldn't say out loud, the exact, unfiltered, unedited truth.
  • Take two existing jokes at random (hereto named "A" & "B"). Write a segue that connects A to B. Use the segue as the first line of an original joke. Then switch the two existing jokes and write a segue from B to A and write a joke for this second segue.
  • Talk to yourself on paper. Write down some topics you think are weird, stupid, hard or scary. For each topic, write down "(topic) is weird/stupid/hard/scary because (explanation)." Write the question "What's weird, stupid, hard or scary about (explanation)?" Write down "(explanation) is weird/stupid/hard/scary because (another explanation)." Keep chaining these explanations.

    Running the lodge meeting

    Go to the lodge meeting. BRING SNACKS. The lodge meeting has a pre-arranged beginning and wrap-up time.

    Once you're at the lodge meeting, you take turns. Make room at the end of the circle for latecomers. Latecomers take their turn at the end of the circle and lose their first turn.

    Go in order by who showed up first. The first member (let's call her Alice) performs ONE JOKE. The other members write ideas as the joke is being performed on ways to take the joke forward.

    Then another member (let's call him Bob) reads one of their ideas from their notes. This is when everyone starts talking. Everyone riffs off Bob's first idea and Alice writes down everyone's riffs as fast as possible until everyone's done riffing off of Bob's first idea. The point of this is to riff off the riffs, because this second-level creativity is where you get material that's developable.

    Then Bob reads his second idea and everyone riffs again and Alice takes notes until Bob's out of ideas and it's Ted's turn to read his ideas about Alice's joke one at a time so the lodge can riff on each idea. Then it's Bob's turn to perform ONE JOKE.

    Loop around the members until you reach the wrap-up time, then keep going until everyone gets an equal amount of performances (except the latecomers who lose a turn). Then everyone picks the best joke each person did and they are honor-bound to perform some version of that joke the next time they're on stage.

    The snacks are important. You'll be starving by the time the lodge meeting starts.

  • Tue, Aug. 22nd, 2006 02:40 am (UTC)

    I've always wanted to try my hand at comedy, but had no idea how to begin. This sounds great. I've done some improv, and I may see if some of my group would like to try this out. May not work with that group, because they come from more of an acting perspective than a joke perspective. I like the process you describe--it works much better for my own form of developing material.

    I've been jonesing about stand-up again after seeing your show Friday. It got my juices flowing. It a creative way, not a "get a towel" way.

    Wed, Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:48 am (UTC)
    basilwhite: Could work for sketch comedy.

    Could work for sketch comedy. Just write 20 scripts. Maybe after I run our standup lodge meeting I could come in and talk to your group about how it would work for your group.

    I would do this for free.

    For you.

    For you rock.

    Fri, Aug. 25th, 2006 08:43 pm (UTC)
    dancetomato: Re: Could work for sketch comedy.

    You are supremely cool to offer. I'll let you know if we get it off the ground.

    I hope you'll post about your standup lodge meeting. I'd love to know how it goes.

    Sat, Aug. 26th, 2006 02:08 am (UTC)
    basilwhite: Re: Could work for sketch comedy.

    Will do. I've had a couple of conversations with some comics. Gonna take my time to do it right. We can do it, baby. Do it tonight! Help me before I disco again!

    Thu, Aug. 24th, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC)
    thedora: Nice.

    Anyone else want to try it out here in Detroit? I'll BRING SNACKS. -d

    Fri, Aug. 25th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC)
    basilwhite: Re: Nice.

    The author repeatedly stressed the importance of stocking your house with ready-to-eat food and bringing snacks to the lodge meeting.