There’s going to be a part 2 to last week’s discussion about comedic storytelling as genre. This isn’t it. I’m still working on pulling together all of the ideas and thoughts people had from the first post. There are ideas shared in some groups that didn’t make it over to other groups. I want to take just a little longer to put it all together to share with everyone. 

In the meantime, I thought I would share something I learned about storytelling from the world of comedy. One of the books I am currently reading is “The Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if You’re Not” by John Vorhaus. Two chapters in the book, “Types of Comic Stories” and “The Comic Throughline” give comics a way of structuring a story in the pursuit of comedy. 

This book is referenced quite a bit in the comedy world not just for stand-up, but also TV shows, movies, writing scripts, etc. Vorhaus covers storytelling in these areas as well as it’s possible use in standup. The exercises included help with practice and understanding.  It been pretty cool to read these chapters with the ideas on arranging stories. I’ve taken about 5 or so storytelling workshops and read about as many books on storytelling structure. So far, I think the structure Vorhaus uses holds up to anyone else’s I’ve learned.

What stood out for me

There are 2 quotes in those chapters that stand out to me the most as I look to infuse my stand-up comedy with stories:

  • “Whether your story is comic or serious it has to work first as a story”
  • “A well-structured story gives jokes a place to happen.”

These lines in the book reenforce something I have been thinking about since I began doing comedy, stand-up comedy and oral storytelling are two different art forms that can successfully be fused together.

But Why?

Simply because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. So why try this at all. If you are a comic, stories are a supper way of connecting and engaging with the crowd. You’ll need laughs in the story to make is useful in the standup setting

If you are a storyteller, using humor is just one of the ways to release tension at points in the story. Using well crafted, purposeful jokes can serve as a way to do that.

To be clear, I don’t know that I am talking about any new concepts in comedy or storytelling. “The Comic Toolbox” has been around since 1994. And humor in storytelling had been around far longer than that. For me, a person who has been a storyteller for about 6 yrs., and a comic stand-up comic for less than 2, it’s new and interesting for me. Talking about it with comics and storytellers I know is just a way to see what is known that I don’t know yet. So far, I love the different perspective that have come up in the different groups. To see the full picture, I’ll see how much of that I can put together. We’ll see how that goes next week as I take a second try at it. Looking forward to have all of you along for the journey of telling stories on purpose!


The Comic Toolbox: How To Be Funny Even If You Are Not

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