- Paperback: 444 pages
- Publisher: Twenty Lane Media, LLC; 1 edition (May 5, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0615953891
- ISBN-13: 978-0615953892
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 88 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV: How to Write Monologue Jokes, Desk Pieces, Sketches, Parodies, Audience Pieces, Remotes, and Other Short-Form Comedy Paperback – May 5, 2014
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About the Author
Joe Toplyn began his television career on the writing staff of "Late Night with David Letterman." He went on to become co-head writer of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and head writer of "Late Show with David Letterman." His other writing credits include the sketch show "In Living Color," several situation comedies, and the comedic detective show "Monk." In addition to his four Emmy wins, Toplyn is honored to have received over a dozen Emmy nominations.
Top customer reviews
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I have read 13 books and I have done 2 courses on stand-up comedy and comedy writing. I don’t think this puts me at a disadvantage with doing comedy, as some comedians think. I have worked as a stand-up, an MC, a sketch comedy writer and performer, and a joke writer. And been paid. I think you do what you can to model what has worked before.
But the problem with a lot of books is they try to cover too much ground. They want to show you how to write jokes, monologues, stand-up, sketch, solo shows, sitcoms, and screenplays. There’s no way one 300 page book can cover all those. The best ones just focus on one area. That’s exactly what this book does.
The section on monologue joke writing was the clearest explanation I have ever read. Typically, in other books that cover this, you get lessons on how to pick topics, generate ideas, but then you have figure out how to structure them yourself. You get something like “the punchline is your own reaction”. Huh? I have to make a sarcastic comment on what I’ve written. But not all comedy’s sarcastic, so then what do I do? Other times, the advice you follow allows you to write a joke for a comedian in 1983. But not now. This book explains how to write contemporary comedy.
Also, you won’t learn exercises that exist by themselves as some comedy writing books have you do. These often leave you scratching your head as you try to figure out how to turn them into comedy material. With Joe’s book, you learn how to write usable comedy material from the get go.
Yes, you will learn the formulas regularly used by late night comedy writers. They are used because of the sheer amount of work involved. You may also think, “this guy wrote for Leno? Urgh, Leno’s not funny.” You may substitute Letterman for Leno in that sentence depending on your preference. But you know, whatever you think of those guys and their late night perspectives remember in order to work as a writer on those shows, you have to be able to pump out 70-150 jokes (sometimes more) a day. A day.
Some stand-ups write a couple of jokes a day for a year and have an hour long show at the end of it. And if that’s your goal, then great. But that many jokes will get you fired from your late night position.
While volume may seem like a negative, the more you practice the lessons learned in this book, the more your quality level will increase.
If you want to learn stand-up comedy writing, comedy screenplays, solo shows, or sitcom writing Joe’s book isn’t for you. Sure, the mechanics of laughter are the same, but with those different genres I just mentioned there are other things you need to learn.
You will learn every facet of producing material for late-night, which not only includes monologue jokes, desk pieces, etc but sketch comedy too. So if sketch comedy is your thing, then you can certainly learn a lot about how to write sketch comedy from this masterful book.
I mentioned earlier about being in post-production on my first screenplay. While I wrote that script before I bought Joe’s book, the techniques I have learned so far and will learn once I finish the book will help me on my next screenplay. The skills you learn are absolutely transferable, whether stand-up comedy is your ultimate goal or screenplays. The skills from this book can help you edit and hone your comedy in both stand-up and script writing.
In case you’re wondering, I do not know Joe and I gain nothing from writing this lengthy testimonial. I refer to him by first name, because of the experience I have had in reading this book so far. It has made me feel like I am getting a personal tutorial. So I feel I can refer to him by his first name, even though I have never met him.
Buy this book. More importantly, read and implement its lessons.
Do not let the title make you think that this book is only for writing for Late Night TV, this book is full of universal techniques for crafting and improving jokes. Many comedy writing books are all about self referential comedy, teaching only about how to find the humor in one's own life. This book, coming from a more topical perspective, helps to find humor in the world around you. That unique trait makes this book stand alone in the field of comedy writing instruction. Whether you are a comedy rookie or a more experienced joke teller, Joe has something to offer you.
Plus, I've met Joe a few times and he is a hell of a nice guy which is all the more reason to want to give him your money.