Story – Robert McKee's Creative Storytelling Magazine Issue 005 – Drew Carey - Page 65

MCKEE INTERVIEWS DREW CAREY subjects. That’s the hardest part. If you’re going to be a professional comedy writer, that’s the toughest thing. I have a writing exercise that I tell people about if they’re doing stand-up: Try to write 10 jokes a day to try to get one good joke, because that was my percentage— one out of 10. I’d think of 10 things, but only one was even kind of funny. So I just write 10 jokes and try to get one funny joke a day, five days a week. One funny joke a day, five days a week. It’s tough to do. You get about 45 minutes a year out of it that way for stand-up. The tough part is coming up with subjects, because my rule was they had to be clean enough to do on network TV, like a talk show, such as The Tonight Show or Letterman. They couldn’t be topical, so I didn’t allow myself to do topical jokes. I could write topical jokes and dirty jokes, but I couldn’t include them in my 10. I had to come up with 10 things that weren’t topical—I couldn’t talk about the Oscars, I couldn’t do a joke about the sports game. I couldn’t do a joke about what Obama just said. I could, but I don’t count them in my 10, and that’s really hard. RM: Finding universal human… DC: You run out of things. Like, you know, the wife, the husband, sex. Then you get dirty; you can’t do the sex things. You want to, but you’ve got to keep it clean enough to do on TV. Half my time is spent going through Yellow Pages for different jobs, going through thesauruses, dictionaries—any kind of collections of books. I spent a lot of time just poring through those things. I had computer programs that would help, and that would help make word associations for me so I wouldn’t do the same old stuff. In the 60s and 70s, for a while everybody was doing airplane jokes; everybody had an airplane bit. DC: All this stuff about giving a character a flaw and a blind ambition and all that stuff—it makes it so much easier if you just lay that groundwork. Then you’re building your house on brick, and the wolf will never blow it down. RM: Yeah. DC: I was just watching it the other night. It just happened to be on TV and I watched the whole episode. We did a show called Newscasters, and Colin or somebody would be the anchor, and he would give himself a funny name but he didn’t have to do a character, and then everybody else had to do a character. We would assign them the character. DC: Even Cosby had an airplane bit, but his was really funny. RM: The little kid on the airplane. DC: Yeah, “Hope the plane don’t crash.” RM: It seems to me that a lot of people who are struggling to write comedy do it the other way around. They’ve actually got what they think is a punchline, but they have no setup for it and they go looking for setups to match their punch. That will drive you crazy. DC: You can’t do anything with that. How are you going to have a punchline unless you know what you’re throwing a punchline about? RM: Exactly. Story Magazine // Issue 005 RM: And yet, in the great eightyear television series, Whose Line Is it Anyway? the structure there was they sort of had to create the setup. They didn’t know what they had to do, but the producers would think it up. For example, Wayne Brady is a really good dancer, so we made him a background dancer in a rap video. “You’re a female background dancer in a rap video,” and he was doing the sports. We know he’s going to go crazy, and as soon as we said it, the audience is laughing because they know something good is going to come out of it. All that Wayne has to do, then, is that acting thing where you have to let go of fear. The fear is the worst