Like a Jokes



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  • Like a Jokes

    There’s an expression we have in the writers room — Like a Joke.

    A “Like a joke” has the rhythms of a joke but is not funny. It’s just a straight sentence delivered as a joke line. “I’m so hungry I could eat a meal.”

    It’s the equivalent of playing an air guitar.

    Remember a few years ago there was a Robin Williams series, THE CRAZY ONES? It was near the end of his life. In his prime, Robin would just fire off hilarious jokes like a machine gun. His ad libs were amazing. I knew there was something wrong when in this show he delivered a steady stream of “Like a jokes.”

    For some reason I hear “Like a jokes” on quite a few “dramadies.” Maybe they think that by delivering a line in a comic rhythm it will pass for comedy. But when I hear them I think either they’re not trying, or (more likely) they aren’t really funny. Real comedy writers are always trying to beat jokes. Is there something funnier? Is there a sharper way of phrasing this?

    Now some may argue that they’re not going for a hard laugh. They’re going for irony. Okay, you can convince yourself of that. But you can’t fool the audience. If something is not funny, if something is on the nose, or tepid it will fall flat no matter how dazzling the rhythm is.

    Just something to keep in mind when you’re writing a comedy script. When someone orders an In & Out Burger he knows if you’re trying to slip him tofu.