"Where do you get your material?" Comics hear this question on a nightly basis. No matter how comics come by their material, the ability to make it look like they're just up on the stage talking is a skill that takes years to perfect. A lot of work goes into looking that natural during your delivery. In fact, every polished minute of material that you see requires about ten hours of preparation writing, refining, honing the material and sharpening the words.
All comics have their own routine for generating material. For me, it's taking an hour every weekday and writing on a topic. I partition off my paper the same way every time. I go through the development process the same way. Regardless of the topic, I know that my routine will allow me to generate new material. Concord comedian Jeffrey Paul says that comedy writing is like mining for gold. To get a really killer nugget of comedy, you've got to generate a ton of material. Writing on a daily basis allows me to get to those nuggets faster and bring a stronger set to the stage.
Some comics are able to produce quality material without such a regimented routine. Boston comic Ellen Moschetto says she doesn't schedule time to write.
"An idea or thought will come up when I least expect it and then I just go with it," she said. "I've forgotten some things in the past that I wish that I wrote down. Lately I send myself texts or memos from my phone so that I don't forget."
For Bow comic Kevin Froleiks, recent winner of the "Laugh Free Or Die" comedy night at The Shaskeen in Manchester, the writing is about being true to what makes him laugh.
"The simplest and most honest answer is that I write about things that I find funny. Any jokes that I've performed, even the ones that didn't end up doing well and never saw the light of day . . . started out as funny ideas," Froleiks said. "I guess that most of my material comes from observations or events that make me think of something completely ridiculous."
Manchester comedian Kevin Cotter has established himself as one of the top comics in New Hampshire during his six year comedy career. For him, it's not about thinking funny as much as it is about living funny.
"I can never sit down and say 'write a joke'. Comics see the world in jokes just like Neo from the Matrix sees the world in numbers. I see something happen and I might just over think it and bend it a little bit and get a joke out of it."
No matter how you arrive there, the goal is to be funny! Take a look at the everyday happenings in your life and you may just find yourself writing a set.
Nationally touring comedian Jay Grove is the host of the free weekly comedy night, Punchlines @ Penuches, at Penuches Ale House in Concord every Monday night at 9 p.m. Contact Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.