6-Steps to Becoming a More Creative Comedian: How to Write Comedy From a Totally New Perspective
In this video blog I will discuss the 6 steps of generating highly original, novel ideas. These 6-steps are instrumental in your ability to write comedy that’s original and stands out from your peers. The difference between using these 6 steps and what’s taught in stand-up comedy classes and comedy schools is that stand-up comedy classes teach you the end result that you’re after while the 6 steps teach you how to achieve that end-goal. Both are necessary in order to maximize your creative abilities. Learning how to write comedy is more than simply discovering what the end-goal of your writing should look like. The 6 steps teach you how to write comedy using a new, yet complementary set of skills that remain widely untaught in comedy schools.
What I’ve found when talking to a lot of new comedians that have taken these stand-up comedy classes is that they’re left without and understanding of how to bridge the gap between where they are regarding their current skill-set and how to actually achieve that outcome- that creative idea or joke. In short, they understand exactly what the end result should look like, but they don’t know how to write comedy in a way that achieves the end result.
What the 6 steps really do is that they give you actionable goals all the way through creating a creative idea, whether you’re a veteran comedian or just learning how to write comedy, the 6-steps create actionable goals that are both actionable and able to be improved upon. It’s no longer waiting for a creative idea to come to you. It gives you the tools to pursue creative ideas yourself. These are tools that have been left absent from stand-up comedy classes and comedy schools. The skills apply equally to writing comedy as they do to performing and marketing… or for that matter, to any creative industry in the world.
What science has shown is that creativity can be increased. The amount of creativity that you have is not necessarily that amount that you’re always going to have. Once you learn these 6 steps and start applying them more and more you will generate more novel, original, and effect idea more consistently. What the 6 steps really do is give you the tools to really bridge that gap between your outcome, whether it’s for a bit, a single joke, or your career, with the ability to actually go about obtaining that outcome.
I talk a lot about these 6 steps in the Creativity For Comedians Program, which builds off of the information in stand-up comedy classes… giving new, complementary skills to comedians that have already done their time at comedy schools and want to add new skills.
This video blog is going to briefly introduce you to those concepts and teach you how to start applying them in your own career right away. The easiest way to begin using these techniques is in your comedy writing. Learning how to write comedy using the 6 steps puts you more in control of your own creative process than simply identifying outcomes and trusting in your creative personality (which is also important). If you’re interested, there’s a free version of the program just for signing up for the newsletter.
Here are the 6 steps of creativity. These 6 steps have all been scientifically verified in many industries. This is something the entire research industry and psychology has agreed on as keys to generating creative ideas.
The first step is observation. While stand-up comedy classes discuss observation, they don’t go nearly in-depth enough on the phenomena. A very important aspect of observation is your threshold. You have to have a very low threshold of observation so that you realize when there are ideas around you that you can use in your stand-up comedy writing and performing.
As comedians, we want to bounce back and forth between having a low threshold and a high threshold. The reason we want to do this because a low threshold means that we observe a lot more. We’re able to see all these ideas that we could end up using, which gives us more material as a result. But we don’t want to just stay there with a low threshold, we want to off-set it with a high threshold. High thresholds filter out everything that’s extraneous, the ideas that don’t matter for what we want to achieve.
Eventually, you’re going to have so many ideas that you’ll have to seclude yourself every once in a while and actually work with the ideas that you have. So we can’t be constantly bombarded by observations all the time. We want to be able to bounce back and forth between having a really low threshold where you can observe many ideas and having a high threshold that excludes new ideas and allows you to work with the ideas that you currently have.
When you’re writing comedy, you’re essentially taking your observations of the world, combining it with your own unique perspective and comedy-related skills to generate your material. Every act of creation, including writing comedy, begins with this first step of observation.
Step 2 of the creative process is abstraction. Abstraction is where we take the observations that we’ve made and abstract them, getting them down to their bare components… the bare essentials of the idea. This allows us to actually work with them in the context that we need them. You’ll be making observations in different fields that don’t directly translate to stand-up comedy. When we abstract ideas we take those bare essentials and attack that component of the idea specifically.
An example of using abstraction is when you observe something in your environment and jot it down into your notepad. You essentially abstract a single idea from the world, which contains countless other objects that could have been chosen, for use in your stand-up comedy writing. But, generally, you don’t just talk about what you saw… you add something new to the abstraction.
We take these multiple observations and abstractions of those observations and we combine them together in the third stage of the creative process: synthesis. In synthesis we’re combining all of these different components of ideas together to form something new. The way the brain works (I don’t have time to go into it in-depth in this blog) is by association. The brain is unable to generate something from nothing. It’s just the way the brain is wired. What observation and abstraction do is gives us these components to start piecing together in the third stage of synthesis to create something new.
You can take any creative product in the world and you can break it down. You’ll see that the creator made observations, abstracted ideas that already existed before them, and synthesized them into something new. It’s the same process in every field.
In stand-up comedy, what we’re really doing is synthesizing all of these ideas together. We’re also taking the knowledge we’ve learned in stand-up comedy classes and comedy schools and combining them with our own, unique observations and material.
Subconscious, you used these three steps when you first started learning how to write comedy. You observed the “mechanics of comedy” by taking stand-up comedy classes, reading books, etc. Then you abstracted principles from these resources that you could then use in different circumstances. Third, you combined those principles with observations and abstractions in your environment to create your actual material. This is essentially how you learned how to write stand-up comedy in the first place. Just like when you originally learned how to write comedy, getting proficient using the 6-step method begins as awkward. But once you obtain proficiency in it (which takes only a short time), the quality of your writing goes well beyond what you could generate in the past.
The fourth stage is the creative insight. As you’re putting these ideas together many of them are going to be low quality. That’s just one of the inescapable things about being creative. Not every idea is going to be genius. No creative person in the world has ever been able to generate perfect ideas. Look at any great creator throughout their entire lifespan and you see great ideas pop up sporadically. But you also see the most ridiculous ideas as well, because creativity is never a sure thing. Creativity, by its very definition, deals with the unknown. Because you’re dealing with the unknown, you’ll never know ahead of time whether the idea is going to be accepted or not.
This stage of the creative process is where we become consciously aware of our idea. Creative insight can be conscious or unconscious. Conscious insight is straight forward. You piece the idea together through synthesis and you become immediately aware of the solution you created. The majority of creative insights happen subconsciously. That’s why you’ll find that many times you have a great creative idea seemingly come out of nowhere. This happens when the subconscious processes information outside of conscious awareness.
There are many great ways of priming your subconscious to give you more ideas. One of my favorites is what’s called “semi-automatic activity.” This is things like running, swimming, or driving. These things take some conscious effort, but aren’t complex activities that require a lot of thought. What happens is that it moves your conscious brain out of the way by giving your conscious brain something to focus on that’s very easy to do. In the meantime, your unconscious brain is better able to communicate with you the ideas that it’s already generated.
The unpredictable nature of creative insights is why comedy schools always suggest having a notepad with you at all times. Great ideas pop into your head when you least expect it because it’s at those times when your conscious brain is doing something else and makes way for unconscious communication. It’s important to write these ideas down as soon as possible because the ideas are often fleeting. Learning how to write comedy ideas down quickly increases the raw number of ideas that you’ll have for the evaluation and elaboration stage