Consider this blog a combination of suggestions—for Christmas gifts (even for yourself) and for New Year’s resolutions. Let me explain how it came into my head.
At present I’m preparing a new book for publication. It’s already written but has to be prepared for publication. It should be out soon. It’s called How To Do What You Want To Do If What You’re Doing Ain’t What You Want To Do (That’s simple enough to remember, isn’t it?). The subtitle is “A Practical Guide To Creating A New Career.” The basic idea of the book is: If you’re not happy with what you’re doing now, change it. However, it’s different from most self-help volumes in that it advocates a realistic, down-to-earth, nuts and bolts approach to changing careers.
I have nothing against motivational literature. In fact, in the author’s introduction to this book, I list and recommend several such books. One was a major factor in my building a career in comedy writing. Another was a book that Phyllis Diller claimed was responsible for changing her life and helping her to become the great comedy icon that was. There are several other book suggestions listed in my upcoming publication. I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t believe in their precepts and their value.
Nevertheless, no positive thinking or meditation is worth anything unless you begin taking steps to act on your beliefs. That’s why I’m preparing this volume.
For the purposes of this blog, I’m concentrating on just two chapters of the book. Chapter 5 is entitled “Read and Research.” Chapter 6 is called “Study.”
Chapter 5 advises, as one of the practical steps, that you should learn as much as you can about the new career that you want to begin. You do that by reading about it.
I can almost hear some of you saying, “Oh sure, this is a ploy to help you sell the books that you’ve written, including this one.” Well, if you think that way, you’re absolutely right. Of course, I want you to read my books. That’s why I write them. It would be terribly depressing to write a book that no one wants to read. And I heartily recommend my books because . . . well . . . because I’m prejudiced. But also, I agree with everything that’s in my book. Obviously—if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have put it in the book in the first place. And once you read my books, you might even send a review in to amazon.com. Good, bad, or mediocre—it’s just nice to hear what the readers think of the books. And again, I’m prejudiced . . . it also can help sales.
There are other books out there, though. There’re books on any profession you might consider. Some are good; some not so good. In a sense, though, that doesn’t matter. Even a not-so-good book will have one or two concepts that may benefit you. Though you may have to struggle through the not-so-good ones, those few ideas that you gather may be worth the effort in the long run.
If you gather a workable idea or two from one book and you combine that with the few ideas you get from another book, you’ll soon have lots of ammunition to help you in your assault on this new career you want to conquer. If there are ideas in the books you read that don’t help you, discard them. You still come out ahead.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, books make worthwhile Christmas gifts . . . especially as gifts to yourself. One value of books is that they begin a sort of chain reaction. One book will recommend another. That book may then suggest a few others. And the progression continues. One book starts the cycle and that can lead to a wealth of useful information in advancing in your new career.
Chapter 6 deals primarily with “Study.” The information you gain from reading about your new profession is interesting and informative, but it can be enhanced by more formal education.
This, of course, is where the suggestions for New Year’s resolutions enters the picture. Make this is a good year to learn about whatever career you want to pursue. You can resolve to take college courses, individual courses, seminars and workshops, join discussion groups . . . perhaps even work with a mentor. No learning will ever go to waste. However no learning is exactly that if you don’t make the effort to seek it out.
Remember, this book I’m working on now is a step-by-step, practical approach to creating a new career. You do have to take the steps.
How To Do What You Want To Do If What You’re Doing Ain’t What You Want To Do is expected to be available by the beginning of February. If you would like to be notified before its release, just sent us an email at email@example.com and will will notify you. There may also be an added perk for anyone who pre-orders!
Comedy Writing Workbook – Reissued
One question invariably pops up whenever I’m speaking on comedy—especially if I’m speaking to comics, writers, or others in the profession. They want to know if comedy has changed over the years. It has in many ways. For comedy to be effective, it must be fresh, innovative, invigorating. That means it has to change.
That doesn’t mean that I’m comparing the legendary comics of past generations to the bright, sparkling comedians of today. Not at all. Yesterday’s comics became legends because their comedy was right for the time. Today’s entertainers are successful because their comedy is incisive, real, and funny. The fact that comedy may change with time doesn’t mean that one era is superior to another. Henny Youngman had a different delivery than Mort Sahl who worked differently from Jerry Seinfeld. They all got big laughs from their respective audiences. Abbott and Costello had a technique that was not similar to Martin and Lewis who performed differently than Sonny and Cher. All were delightfully entertaining.
So yes, comedy changes in several ways, but its impact on the listeners remains the same—it makes them laugh.
In 1990 I published a book for comedy writers called Comedy Writing Workbook. It was a collection of practice sessions on various facets of humor writing. I called these “workouts.” For quite a while, and for whatever reason, the book became difficult to obtain. Either buyers couldn’t get it, or it took a long time for delivery. Recently, ROUND TABLE recovered the rights to this book and we issued a newer version.
Obviously, in going through the pages again for this recent volume, I had to take into account how comedy may have changed from the original publication date until now. We did incorporate many lines from newer comics. Some of them hadn’t yet established their stardom in 1990. Some of them may not even have been born then. But their comedy has now been proven to be excellent and we wanted to include them in this newer volume. We felt compelled to do this for two reasons: to give the artists the credit that they had certainly earned and to make use of many of their lines as examples of current techniques.
Years ago, when I spoke on comedy, people would ask, “Who’s going to replace the legends like Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, George Burns and the like?” My answer was that we had no way of knowing. None of us can predict who’s going to make it, who’s going to drop out of the profession, or who’s going to become a legend. However, I personally did guarantee that someone would. And I was right. We have new legends in the comedy world and they deserve to be there. I will reinforce my reply now. Comedy is in good hands and always will be. Fresh, innovative, creative comedy minds will flourish in every era. Be at ease; someone will always be ready to make us laugh.
However, in re-editing the original volume, I discovered something about comedy that surprised me—although humor may change through the years, the process that creates comedy remains basically the same. And there is a definite process that humor writers utilize—either consciously or subconsciously. There’s a step by step progression that may not write the joke directly, but puts the writer’s mind into “funny” mode.
That’s why in redesigning this book, I retained most of the original workouts. They still applied. The examples connected with them are updated in many cases, but the process is intact. There are 22 separate chapters on different aspects of comedy writing. Within those chapters are a total of 87 separate workouts. They offer various techniques that deal with writing jokes, sketches, or sitcom scripts.
There’s one other aspect of humor that I discovered remains the same through the years—comedy writing is fun. That’s why I ended practically every chapter and every separate workout with the same words—“Have Fun.”
Master Course in
A 12-week email class that covers the basics of comedy writing. Features lessons and feedback.
Master Course in
A 9-step program that takes the writer through the process of developing a monologue. You will work on a topic of your own choosing.