How to Create Hilarious Anecdotes Like a Stand-up Comic
3 ways to spice up your writing or storytelling
3 ways to spice up your storytelling
When you’re at a party, out for dinner or conversing with a neighbor, you naturally rattle off 1 of the same 5 stories you’ve been telling for years. Then comes the punchline… “So I said to the guy. That was my coffee.” Everyone laughs.
Without noticing it, you’ve built a stand-up comedy ‘bit’ that’s taken years to refine. The truth is we all have those funny anecdotes.
If you don’t think you have any, just think about the stories you tell your friends over dinner or a few drinks. It’s those.
Today I’m going to teach you how to write, form and tailor your anecdotes for greater conversational or written impact.
The garden path
Have you ever been to Toronto? I did a few years back. It’s an amazing city but when I got there I couldn’t believe how healthy everyone was.
Walking their dogs, rollerblading, I saw a raccoon eating an avocado salad… seriously. I swear on my kid's life. Everyone is the pinnacle of health.
It’s really disconcerting. I know this sounds weird and I’m not proud of this, but I was so amazed by the lifestyle there, I decided to start counting all the fat people I could see. They were few and far between.
6 days in Toronto, walking around, shopping, coffee shops, book stores and riding public transport. I only saw 14 fat people total — and I was 2 of them.
I tell that anecdote at least twice per year. Whenever someone mentions how much they love Canada or if I meet a Canadian. It’s locked and loaded and never fails to get a laugh… Let’s break down why that works.
The who, what, why, when, where and how are all covered. You know all of that information and it’s the basis of all good storytelling. When you tell it, you’re looking to flesh out your anecdote with all of those elements.
Start writing a few funny things that have happened to you
Remember that great story of when you got drunk in Thailand. Inject a what, where, when, why and who before you reveal suddenly that you ended up on a boat to Malaysia at 3 am, wearing a Sombrero.
The time you ended up walking into the wrong funeral? Don’t ruin the punchline. Tell all the details before you tell them this… “So there I was, 45 mins in, crying and I look over at my Grandmother’s flowers as the priest lays her to rest and see… ‘FRANK’, spelt out in foliage. Her name was Mary. Now I know why no-one clapped at that poem I read.”
How about that time you were ordering dinner for your ex-girlfriends entire family — but decided to show off and order the Chicken entirely in Spanish. They insisted on you paying with their credit card and what turned up, 45 minutes after you ordered it — was 12 boxes of popcorn.
I’ll let you write down your own stories and decide where the funny moments are.
The power of the pause
By taking a pause before you give the punchline, you’ll be adding a new layer to your comedy. There’s a lot of power in silence. You’re making your audience fill in a blank that you put there.
The laugh comes when they assume something (incorrectly) in the gap that you’ve left. They assume it’s going to be offensive, harsh or disgusting and you’ll get a laugh if you say what they expected or if you do a full 180 and say something normal or unexpected.
It’s tension and release.
The comedy comes from the surprise reveal, just like a magic trick.
Ricky Gervais always says “You can joke about anything… but don’t confuse the subject of a joke with the target of a joke.”
Often, the best subject is yourself. Anecdotes you have written about times where you’ve come out of a situation less than stellar are some of the funniest places to start.
Don’t forget that details matter. If nobody laughs at your story and it’s meant to be funny, it’s because you didn’t give them everything they needed to find it funny. From this moment on, take the stories that your closest friends laugh at and start developing them. Add structure, add details and build in pauses.
Each time you write it down or tell it, you’re exercising that muscle, respond to what works and what doesn't — make tiny adjustments.
We have an untapped well of stories waiting to be told. Once established, those stories will act as social currency forever.