10 rules of comedy by cass bugge

Comedienne and writer Cass Bugge explains her ten rules for funnies.

Comedy. It's a very hard thing to get if you aren't funny. When people tell jokes do you often say things like “I don't get it?” or “Why is that funny?” Do people at work call you “The Living Frown Emoji,” “Depression Face” or “Sir Anthony Hopkins” behind your back? Do you have difficulty explaining the difference between a clown and Grace Coddington? When asked to explain the difference between “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and the Academy Award nominated film “Room” do you say things like “One is half an hour the other is three times half an hour but other than that they're pretty much the same unless you think it's a big deal that one girl escaped a room while the other escaped a bunker” ? If any of the above apply, then this top ten list is for you.

This could be looked at “Rules of Comedy” or just a top ten list of  “Things That Are Automatically Funny” or “What Makes Something Funny”


There are no rules for comedy


But really, there are some.

Certain subjects, not many, are better left un-laughed at, just use your head. But since we live in a world where “use of one's head” seems to be relegated to literally heading a football, I'll go ahead and point out a specific: that guy who thought the movie “Spotlight” was great source material for 60 minutes of standup isn't exactly getting asked out on tour or Tinder (and I say “guy” because women know better).


It's all about context.

A woman wearing a meat dress to her college graduation is comedy, a woman wearing a meat dress in front of a hungry bear is a tragedy, a woman wearing a meat dress at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles is Lady Gaga.


Opposites/ Things That Just Shouldn't Be.

A baby holding a beer is funny (cause that's a baby and beer is for people over 18 or 21!), a dog sitting at a table holding a knife and fork is funny (they're supposed to eat on the floor and also, paws), a a very old rapping grandma is funny (very old grandmas shouldn't be rapping, they should be napping)


Someone being there.

You know the age old philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, you can apply the same thing to comedy. If YOU fall in a forest and no one is around, it's not funny. Whereas if you fall in a forest and you're with a friend who sees you fall, it’s automatically funny, and then becomes an inside joke between the two of you forever.


The Intersection between Remarkable Confidence and Unremarkable Skill When It Comes To Trivial Things.

Do you think you are "A Great Flamenco Dancer" but your training consists of watching a Gypsy Kings video once and just winging it? Do you consider yourself an "Epic Mixologist" but make your drinks by swirling unmeasured amounts of alcohol in a water pitcher? Is your "Conversational Spanish" really just you speaking mostly in English but with a weirdly concocted, sweeping "foreign" accent? Congratulations! You are hilarious.


Something truthful.

People often laugh when you bring up something that they recognize as truthful. Now before you go saying something like, “But I often speak about my very real yearlong struggle to give up red meat after discovering the calories of fossil fuel needed to produce one calorie of protein in beef versus the calories of fossil fuel needed to produce one calorie of protein in soybeans, and still every time I go to a party people still tell me my spirit animal is an East German statue” let's just get specific here. People laugh at truthful things that are not often talked about, like  after years of trying to crane your neck around so you could take a look at your own butt, you finally realized it's super easy to bend over and snap a pic with your iphone. We've all done that, but who ever talks about it, right? I just talked about it for the first time and we all relate to that truth, therefore it is funny.


Age plays a great role in what people think is funny.

When I was in high school, my friends and I thought it was very funny to stand in front of the pharmacists and ask people where the pharmacists was. Three out of five people would say, “I'm sorry I don't know” and then me and my friends would laugh and laugh. Back then we thought that was very funny. Looking back at those times, I think it's funny that we were such idiots and that that was what we thought was funny. So it's still funny, but a more meta kind of funny.



The passage of time often plays a great role in what is considered laugh worthy, aka funny. There is a famous quote that six girls in my graduating high school class of 90 people used as their yearbook quote in a quest to be original, it's a special “quote” which I put in quotes because no one is actually quoted as having said it, and yet not enough people have actually said it enough for it to be a saying. It goes: I always knew I'd look back on the times I cried and laugh, but I never thought I'd look back on the times I laughed and cry. I guess it is true, because I laughed a lot with those six girls from high school, but when I look back on those times I laughed I want to cry because I think of how I used to dress in high school. One of my favorite outfits was platform black boots, satin flared pants with an oversized, ironic “baby t” that said “Spam.”


You Can't Teach Someone To Be Funny.

Comedy isn't a teachable thing like nuclear physics or neurosurgery or electromagnetic field theory. I wish it were that simple, but it isn't. If you're surrounded by people who are funnier than you, and you feel left out because you want so much to be that funny, there are other ways to stand out, like by being really good at parallel parking or having that really dewy kind of glowy, “I just came back from a week at the spa” skin. One of my really good friends isn't funny at all, but I love her because she looks so much like Alexa Chung. Just remember, there is more than one way to stand out while still fitting in.

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