Ray Romano Reveals how to Construct a Joke
The inspiration for laughs and comedy can come from anywhere, but turning that inspiration into a solid joke take work and structure.
Ray Romano has made some incredible decisions since leaving his longstanding sitcom. He's a tour-de-force in the Netflix movie, Paddelton, and I have a soft spot for his TNT drama, Men of a Certain Age. Now, he joins the Off Camera Show to talk about his process.
As you may know, most jokes have a bit of truth in them. Romano takes you through the entire process from idea to iteration. Even though he says he doesn't want to analyze why it's funny, there's a deeper analysis here of juxtaposition of expectations and reality. Check out this clip via The Off Camera Show to see Ray break down a few jokes about his son.
What fascinates me about this is how much structure goes into telling a joke. There's always a build up. You need to meet the characters and get the world. Then, once you understand the world, the comedy comes from subverting the expectations of that world. And in act three, you pay off everything with a one-liner or a quip.
When you're writing a comedy movie or TV show, the same rules apply.
Think about your favorite sitcom or comedy movie. Chances are, they thrive on taking our ordinary world and flipping it on its head.
So how can this help your writing?
Well, if you're trying your hand at stand-up comedy Ray has put out a specific formula for you to follow. If you're into screenplays, I think it helps to think about our world. We go to the movies and turn on the TV for entertainment and magic. If you want to add laughs to the mix, develop your characters, set up your world building, defy audience expectations, and pay off your punchlines.
You can watch full episodes of the Off Camera Show on Netflix.
Does this approach to comedy make sense to you? How will it affect the way you write?
Let us know in the comments!