The technical aspects of comedy can only matter if you have joke ideas. So let's talk about how one can actually find material for jokes. Trust me, it's not that tough.
Where do these ideas come from?
1. Life is a Joke
A joke about jokes; are you proud of us? But seriously, life itself provides a lot of humorous material. Anecdotes are a powerful tool in comedy. Try to think of moments in your life that you found funny then or in hindsight. Chances are, others might too.
2. Read the Newspaper
If you haven't already, start for this reason at least. Topical material can serve as a good reference point between you and the audience. Find material about topics that genuinely interest you, because genuineness is what makes comedy work.
A lot of ordinary things are actually quite funny and strange. These daily absurdities might make no sense, but they can make you a better comedian; at least that's something! As and when you observe something you find interesting, make a note of it. These thoughts hit you unexpectedly, so start getting used to making short notes whenever they do. A lot of others might have had the same thoughts. Relatability works.
Joke Writing Techniques
Now, some tips for practice. These will help you come up with new ideas and work on existing ones.
1. Mind Mapping
When you have an idea but it is somewhat vague, use a whiteboard (an app works too) or a blank page and note down the idea. Then write whatever it reminds you of, no matter how ordinary. With time, you will come up with something funny.
2. What If
Keep an open mind and try to imagine different types of scenarios. Putting together two unlikely things can create comedic situations. For example, put a celebrity in an unlikely situation. Or put your favourite character from one fictional universe into another. You can also put one professional into a vastly different profession. The possibilities are endless as long as you're not afraid of trying.
3. Just Mapping
When you try to fuse two very different things together, you can make a table just like those "match the column" exercises from school. On one side, list the characteristics of the first subject and on the other, the characteristics of the second. Now try to make various matches between the two until you find something potentially funny.
Comedy writing should not be like regular writing. It needs to be more conversational. So, a better way to come up with funny material is to make voice notes or to note down ideas in the way you'd naturally say them aloud.
When you're talking to friends, you actually come up with a lot of funny content (yes, everyone does)! So get together with a few friends and start talking about any subject. Even professional comedians come up with many of their jokes in jamming.
Comedic material should come across as natural but also takes some work to understand and develop. As long as you keep trying, you are bound to ace joke-writing. Observe, note, try, repeat: and don't forget to have fun too!
If you want a more guided approach to these exercises, and a more comprehensive set of tips, check out Biswa's standup comedy lessons only on FrontRow!