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Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer
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Comedy Writing Secrets

by Mel Helitzer

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As someone with the attention span of a child, it was really hard to distinguish which smiley face denoted what type of bullet point, whether they be anecdote or quote or general tip. Also it didn't really have anything I didn't already know about how to make puns. Not useful for me, maybe for you. ( )
  F.Lee | Jan 15, 2014 |
I took prof. Helitzer's first ever class in humor writing back in 1981, and I still think he proves that the frog doesn't die during the autopsy. The book is filled with good and not-so-good jokes and examples and should be of great help to any aspiring writer/performer, but also to more seasoned tradespeople. The updated version of the book that I have just read also makes room for anything related to the internet and for coarser language. The professor used to warn against using too many puns; still he spends a considerable part of the book on the lamer part of comedy - this is the book's only real drawback. ( )
  petterw | Jun 3, 2009 |
Comedy Writing Secrets, by Mel Helitzer with Mark Shatz

The subtitle of this book is "the best-selling book on how to think funny, write funny, act funny, and get paid for it," which is a mouthful. It's a book on comedy technique, which is different from actual humor. It goes into joke construction and lists various types of humor. I could see this being useful for a funny person who's momentarily dried up, like a sitcom writer desperate to churn out funny stuff, but in general, it drains all the spontaneity out of humor to have rules like "the optimum length for a sketch is three minutes".

Now, I enjoy the Rules of Comedy (threes, k-sounds, always putting the punchline as close to the end of the joke as possible, etc.), but this book didn't really tell me anything I didn't know. I guess I was hoping for more discussion of the theory behind the rules (for example, jokes come in threes because you need the first two instances to establish a pattern, then the third instance breaks the pattern, creating a mental disconnect that leads to yoks).

Also, it seemed like much of the book had been written many years ago (it includes chestnuts like "one of these words is swell and the other is lousy", which stopped being funny around the time "swell" and "lousy" stopped being slang, which was the early sixties), so the chapter of sitcom plots that includes the occasional Arrested Development quote kind of stands out against the references to "Women's Lib" and the praise of Art Buchwald.

The basic philosophy of this book shown by this quote, I think:

Recently, the producers [of the Academy Awards] began to feature such humor "aristocrats" as Chris Rock and Whoopi Goldberg, both of who delight in ribald humor about irreverent subjects. Unfortunately, their lewd digs did a disservice to the art. They encouraged neophytes to believe that comedy is not truly style and construction but a torrent of verbal farts into souped-up microphones. Those who think obscenities are a basic humor building block are all fucked up.

Okay. The "joke" at the end feels like it was just added to try to soften the blow, and I shall ignore it. Doesn't it sound like you're basically listening to a cranky old guy at the Friar's Club complaining about these new kids (note: Whoopi first hosted the Oscars twelve years ago) working "blue" and ignoring the bedrock principles of comedy? I don't even know what "souped-up microphones" is supposed to mean, although I want one. For that matter, I'd greatly enjoy sitting at the Friar's Club listening to old comedians complain about these damn kids today.

The book really only teaches you how to be a hack, how to turn the crank and apply some basic rules and generate something that will count as "comedy" even if it's not really that funny. But I think that's important, because some days, the natural comedy isn't flowing and it's important to have the technique there. ( )
  montykins | Jan 15, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0898795109, Paperback)

A comprehensive guide to writing, selling and performing all types of comedy. Includes comments, advice, gags and routines from top comics.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:14 -0400)

"Become the funniest person in the room! With Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, you can master the fundamentals of humor writing and turn your comedic talent into a well-paying pursuit." "For more than a decade, Comedy writing Secrets has been giving aspiring comedians a leg up on the competition. In this expanded new edition, Mel Helitzer, named the "funniest professor in the country" by Rolling Stone magazine, and funnyman Mark Shatz pack in even more insight and instruction, including: Humor writing exercises to punch up your jokes, Extra information on writing for sitcoms and stand-up, Comedic brainstorming techniques using associations and listings, Exclusive tips for writing humor for specific markets like editorials, columns, speeches, advertising, greeting cards, t-shirts, and more." "Tap into your comedic genius with Comedy Writing Secrets, 2nd edition, and you'll always leave'em laughing! Book jacket."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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