Stand Up, Sit Down

Fight, fight, fight?

Okay, it’s not a fight. But doing stand-up requires writing, of course, and just like other writing, the writing requires revision. I even have a few jokes about writing. They’re not great, but I did write them myself.

You may not know this, but query is an old Sanskrit term that means, roughly, “Throw it down a deep well.”

Okay, not that funny. That’s because I used it once, in my first stand-up class, and never used it again. It’s never been revised. But anything I do on stage certainly has. For instance, here’s a revision sequence for a joke I’m probably going to include with my next performance.

1. My cousin got a ticket the other day. Used his turn signal.

Not a bad idea, but is it funny enough? Who the hell knows? But could it be funnier? Well, almost anything could.

2. Traffic in Vegas is sort of weird. My cousin got a ticket last week for not using his turn signal. He caused a six-car pile-up.

More detail, probably be funnier when delivered. Is it funny enough, though? (See above.)

3. Traffic in Vegas is so weird, a friend of mine got a ticket for not using his turn signal. They’re sending him to traffic school to learn to be an asshole like the rest of us!

#3 is the funniest of those, and the most revised. I prefer it because it flows more smoothly, it includes more people in the punchline, and it’s a lot more unexpected at the end. That’s one joke that takes maybe fifteen seconds to deliver, and you can see what a bit of revision has done for it. I did a lot of that revision aloud, and I’m not saying that it will remain as you see it here, just that it got better at each revision. And now, I come to my point about writing and revision, to wit:

When I revise out loud, I stand up. Then when I type it into my file of material, I sit down. (See how I cleverly worked in the title of this post here?) Revising out loud helps me see where things hit snags, where I can make something stronger, and which parts maybe I should just toss and forget. (What? Forgettable jokes? Say it ain’t so!) And this technique works not just for comedy, gentle readers, but for any writing.

Right now I’m metaphorically bleeding as I slowly revise a YA romance I drafted during the last Nanowrimo. The revision will take a lot longer than the first draft, I can tell you. Sometimes I find that reciting a passageĀ aloud provides a lot of insight into what’s right and wrong about it, which makes the process a lot easier. How about that? A perfectly serious book can be helped by a technique from stand-up comedy? Who knew?

You may not know this, but “First Draft” is an old Farsi phrase meaning “Five-Hundred Hours on Facebook!”

That last one is true, of course. šŸ˜‰