Tuesday, September 06, 2005

BCF set, Take Two

Amid the semi-self-created distractions and difficulties in my life, I have managed to narrow down my set to three "bits" for the upcoming festival. It may still come in a tad too long, so I have to check it with a live audience and get it timed out to a safe distance under six minutes. I believe what I have now (including some painful editing) may still be too close to the limit, not really allowing for laugh breaks at all.

It is the hardest thing I've done... editing, slashing, shortening, re-arranging jokes. Thankfully, my friend Dot gave generously of her time and helped me decide between bits. My plan was to find my favorite punch lines, and jam them all (or as many as I could manage) into the short set. The problem being that these lines are in a multitude of bits that last anywhere from 3 or 4 minutes to 8 or 10 minutes. And there were so many I really liked, i think I started with about fifteen. What made it impossible to structure a decent set from this mess was the length of the individual bits, and the fact that the punch lines don't really stand a lone, they tie in, there are many small punches leading up to them and they lose their teeth when extracted from the original jokes. I guess it's a good problem to have.

I talked to one guy I respect immensely, and he is jamming a ton of jokes into his set. Another guy told me to be myself, and if I want to do one bit for 6 minutes and it's funny, then just do that, at least I'll be at ease, and looking and being comfortable is very important.

My friend Mike helped me out as well.

"Who are you?" he asked, then answered his own question, "you're FROM here."

Good point. So who am I? I'm from Boston, so embrace that. I have a joke that people seem to remember about red lights in Boston, so that goes in the pot.

That line of thinking reminded me that much of my comedy is based in alcholism and recovery type stuff, and that may be a leading reason why I got in, it's something that makes me a little different from the next guy... so that goes in. On top of that, my favorite bits generally stem from those lines of thinking. It just dawned on me, that in my mind, the guy yelling at me in the red light bit is either rushing home for a tall boy or a dry drunk.

This was tough, because I had to scratch what is one of my favorite bits with some really terrific punch lines. But, the bit is too long and doesn't break down well. The later punchlines are so punchy because of all the set up and mini-punches, and the shortest I could get the bit- and that was hacking it to bits, was still about 3 1/2 minutes. So I had to choose between that piece and "drunk chicks", which most people who enjoy my stuff seem to say is their favorite bit. Drunk chicks is about 6 minutes itself, but I got it down to just over three with some tearful slashing.

Okay... so that's two pieces to the puzzle, what's left? Well, I'm from a big family, but more importantly, I'm my father's son. My dad is the seed of many a joke in our family, and quite a few in my stockpile of material. while these jokes are ALWAYS funnier at home, they seem to bring a smile to anonymous audiences as well, so i wanted to put something with dad in it in the set.

This is especially difficult because all of the bits I have ever written about dad are quite long because they are basically stories, re-tellings of events that actually happened, or stories that just wrote themselves based on who my father is. I had hoped to use this piece I call "Insurance Lottery" because it has one of my all-time favorite punch lines, and it also makes my dad laugh so hard tears roll down his cheeks, which I like to see. Lord knows that man made me cry enough over the years. But there was just no possible way to tighten it enough to get it in. It ran two and a half minutes, and that was with some goos lines pulled out for time's sake, so I had to drop it, which really bummed me out. The saving grace was Dot helped me trim down another joke about my dad's propensity to brag about his kids. To be done right, this should really be 2 mins and 10 seconds or so, but I grudgingly slashed a chunk out and got it down to about 1:30.

I'll close on this joke, as it has the most ludicrous punch line I have ever written. I had written the joke based on an experience I had with my dad and one of his navy buddies. As I was brainstorming for the punch, something you hear constantly on the nightly news popped into my head, and the joke finished itself.

All I have to do now is practice a couple of times, test it out at the Vault Thursday, so some minor editing, and show up at the Vault next Thursday for my preliminary.

What could go wrong?


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