6 Comedy Rules That Seem Random (But Aren’t)


Zucker’s advice lives on in comedy circles as “hat on a hat.” Imagine McLovin trying to buy liquor with his bad fake ID in Superbad. Wouldn’t it be even funnier if McLovin were wearing some kind of crazy fake goatee? There… no. That would be stupid. Instead of laughing at the pain of this very real situation, we’re distracted by the “funny” facial hair. It’s a joke on a joke. Or a hat on a hat. Still doesn’t make sense? Here’s Seth Meyers explaining it to Bill Hader.

Any comedy with a number in the name probably isn’t funny
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A rule from Comedy Central: The Essential Guide to Comedy states that any comedy movie with a number at the end of its name is likely terrible.

The Hangover Part III.

Scary Movie V.

Police Academy 6: City Under Siege.

We’ve explored why it’s so difficult to make good comedy sequels — the mindless catchphrase repetition, the ramping up of explosions and special effects, the been-there-done-that reprising what worked in the original. So consider this your warning — never see a comedy with a number at the end of the title.

Well, except Paddington 2. You’ll love it.

Writing a comedy movie, like swimming in the ocean, is safer with a buddy.

Pick a random hit comedy on IMBD. As an example, we’ll choose… Step Brothers. Who wrote it? Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, with a story assist from John C. Reilly. How about Bridesmaids? Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. 21 Jump Street? Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill. See where we’re going here?

Comedies, unlike epic poems or terrible novels, are almost always written by multiple writers. It’s not hard to understand why–ever sit around in a room and try to make yourself laugh? Multiple writers’ give and take provokes funny repartee that is hard to produce inside of one’s own head. Plus, you get instant feedback.

It worked for Monty Python. Getting six guys to agree on what’s funny is easy,” Eric Idle says. “We read it all the time. If we laugh, it’s in; if we don’t, it’s out. If four guys think something’s funny and two guys think it’s not, we solve that very simply: We take the two guys out and kill ’em.”

The comedian is funnier than you, the audience member.

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This should be intuitive, folks.

This is a rule for all you comedy lovers out there. If you go to a show, just remember: Even if your friends think you’re hilarious and should really try an open mic, the comedian is funnier than you. So let the professionals do the jokes. you? shhh. be quiet.

A corollary: No one at the club paid to see you. They paid to see the comedian. shhh. be quiet.

Related: Heckling is not part of the show. No one wants to hear it. shhh. be quiet.

And also: Yes, the comic can “handle it.” But they shouldn’t have to. shhh. be quiet.

And while we’re at it: Tell the people at your table how hilarious you think the comic is after the show, not during it. It’s rude to the comic and it’s rude to the people sitting around you. shhh. be quiet.

Do we have to say anything about turning off your phone?

Look, you paid for the show too. Laugh! enjoy yourself! And when in doubt, shhh. be quiet.

For more ComedyNerd, be sure to check out:

SNL Mount Rushmore: Four Cast Members We’re Carving In Stone

Are Insult Comedians Gone Forever?

20 Key & Peele Jokes For The Hall Of Fame

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