Friday, April 22, 2011

The Key To Unleashing Your Humor--Thinking Crooked

Bill Cosby has an old comedy album called To My Brother Russell Whom I Slept With. It’s about Bill and his brother, Russell, who not only shared a room when they were small, they shared a bed. Growing up, my brother and I loved this album, because the antics between the brothers sounded so much like us. For a short time, while we were waiting for new beds to arrive, we shared a bed—the pullout sofa. So the album had special meaning.

There’s a section in the album where the boys are jumping on the bed and break it. CRASH! Their father comes into the room and asks what happened, and Bill begins to lie. He tells a preposterous story of a man who came in through the window, jumped up and down on their bed, laughed at them and left.

Bill’s father asks “Do you know what happens to little boys who lie?” He tells a horrible, graphic tale of going to hell and burning. He again asks a now crying Bill to tell the truth, and through teary eyes Bill says: “A man came in the window…”

Bill Cosby understood that children lie. They lie even when it is apparent they are lying. They tell preposterous lies with straight faces that have us often wondering: “Where did I go wrong?” The idea of children lying to their parents isn’t funny. We want our children to tell the truth. Lying isn’t funny until Bill Cosby took the truth and bent it. He was doing what my early comedy teachers called thinking crooked.

Crooked thinking is looking at what is common place and relatable, and coming up with a funny angle. It’s funny to the reader because we recognize it.

So, how do we do this? How do we teach ourselves to think crooked? You need to become an observer. Like a poet, you must begin to notice the small things. Then you must find an odd angle. Crooked.

Small thing: as my father got older he made sounds like hmm when he was eating or reading the paper. Lots of older people do this. Sadly, I am starting to do it. It’s an observation. But it’s a relatable observation because our parents and grandparents do it, which means when I talk about it my audience can relate. How do I make it funny? I have a few ideas, but I’m not going to tell you. What are yours?

Another exercise is to look at photos around the house and mentally add captions—funny captions. At first these exercises will be hard to do. Your mind isn’t used to thinking crooked. But keep trying. Add these two exercises to your daily life, and before you know it you will have unleashed your humor and be thinking crooked just like Bill Cosby.

Next Week: POV

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