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James Mendrinos is a New York-based writer and comedian and long time comedy writing teacher for the Gotham Writer’s Workshops. He is a former touring stand-up comic, working with Chris Rock, Colin Quinn, and Sam Kinison, and has appeared on Comedy Central. He was the sole writer for USA Network Presents: The Problem Child, starring Gilbert Gottfried, and has written and contributed to numerous other network projects for MTV, NBC, and more. He is also an active writer for film and stage, including many film options and over 60 stage productions in New York City.
Currently, I teach an improvisational comedy class in Arizona and I'm putting together material to teach a stand-up comedy class. In addition to performing stand-up, I've bought and read over a dozen books on stand-up. I've learned that the hardest part is writing funny jokes. If someone found the magic formula and published it, they would make serious money.
I bought this book before anyone reviewed it because it promised to help me write jokes. In addition, Colin Quinn, who is a very funny comedian, wrote the forward to the book. I own a number of Dummies books and I have been satisfied with their content and organization. I assumed that the Idiots people could also deliver. I'm an idiot for assuming so.
Written on the back cover of this book is the promise to give "Foolproof advice for writing scripts, feature films, plays, cartoons, stand-up jokes - even working humor into your presentations at work." If this book could do all that, I would expect it could also go to the bathroom for you.
Here are a few examples of this book's "foolproof advice":
"When you're writing comedy for the theater, keep the stage in mind. Theater writing is all about fitting the story onto the stage where the action will take place (page 9)." Except for about 8 pages later in the book, this is all the foolproof advice you are going to get for writing a play. That's not even enough advice to see a play much less write one.
"The Universal Joke Formula: Premise + Point of View + Twist = Joke (page 46)." Simple formula, but there's no information on how to write the twist, which is the punchline in a joke. The book lists 19 popular twists (e.g.Read more ›
Wow, it's amazing how different people can read the same thing and get different results. I'm a NYC writer (Theatre) and I picked up this book because I wanted to put more comedy into my writing.
I learned and then some!!!
The book layers information in the first part. Basically it is a deconstruction of humor -- what's funny and finding your own individual sense of humor. It's the roll up your sleeves part of comedy writing -- getting useable ideas, and seperating the rich concepts from the common ideas.
Part 2 is an overview on comedy construction -- not genre specific, but the universal components that every writer who uses humor must master in order to write something that's funny.
The "UJF" -- Universal Joke Formula is simple and easy to follow, and amazingly complete. As for the assertion from an earlier reviewer that the writer didn't cover "Twists," there's an entire chapter dedicated to twists. Anybody can understand the concepts and examples the writer used in the twist chapter,and it is simplified as much as possible -- after all, this is an idiot's guide!
Part 3 focuses on the artistic elements of comedy, from basic language to emotional exploration of a joke. This is the one section I wish was longer. I understand that an idiot's guide has to be basic knowledge in an easy reference form, but I do believe that the writer's opinions on art were wonderful and direct. I would have liked to have gone deeper in the artform with him.
The craft of comedy is the next section. The author does a wonderful job pushing the basics of comedy construction. This is basically polishing, editing, and revision before presentation to the buyer. It contains one of the best chapters on comedy editing I've ever read.Read more ›
I've never been compelled to write a review on amazon, but I feel I must warn others from purchasing this book. It is a complete waste of time. It is an exercise on the part of the author to say absolutely nothing in so many words. There is nothing funny in the book. The examples of his writing and of others' writing are horribly not funny. Throughout the book are lame cartoons that are not funny. Save your time and money; there's nothing practical in this book.
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I gotta tell you, I usually hate how to books. The writer usually takes a superior posture and makes it seem like the reader is an idiot. With that said, I want to learn how to write comedy, and Colin Quinn is one of the funniest guys I know, and he did the book blurb, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm glad I did. First of all, it was an easy read - very funny at times, and I could easily understand everything in the book. The next thing is, it works. All the things and exercises worked like a charm. For me the best part was the pages on Sitcoms. I actually feel like I could write one. Everything about the chapter was clear, right down to the way the page should look! Anytime you can have a fun read, and learn, you're ahead of the game.
There is a school of thought that you shouldn't write about comedy because disecting a joke makes it horribly unfunny. This book does something amazing, it details all the basics, quotes some funny stuff, and lets the reader find his own comedy style as a writer.
It covers everything from getting the idea, to editing the piece, and it does it as a broad look at comedy instead of a narrow look at screenplay comedy or comedy for books. This allows you to get the basic knowledge to try out these different styles, and then research further once you know what genre you want to write in.
I got a ton out of it.
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