Guestpost #48: Sally Smallwood – Ten things I’ve learned from studying comedy

Sally Smallwood is a gifted comedian, a talented improviser, a writer, and a very smart and funny woman. Here is her website:
Here is her blog:
  1. Laughter truly is the best medicine. It’s a physical and emotional release, like crying. Laughing every day helped my husband overcome chronic anxiety, and become the Sexiest Goddamn Man on the Planet. (Just ask him.)
  2. A sense of humour is very individual. My ex-art director swore that Family Guy was the unfunniest show ever written. I said the same about South Park. Put another way, one man’s Bill Hicks is another man’s Carrot Top.
  3. Comedy is a lot like jazz: it’s as much about the gaps between jokes as it is the jokes themselves.
  4. Sometimes a single word can be funny. Like “ointment.”
  5. Comedians are some of the smartest people around. Look at Jon Stewart, Garry Shandling, Gervais and Merchant, Conan, Colbert, Michael Ian Black, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross… the list goes on. Think back to the funniest kid in your class. Chances are he or she was an A-student…or a dropout. That’s because comedians are usually outsiders, too.
  6. A lot of comedians are named Stephen: Steve Allen, Steve Martin, Stephen Colbert, Steve Coogan, Stephen Merchant, Steven Wright, and of course, Stephen Harper.
  7. No matter how smart you are, your brain is never as funny as the comedy gods. Take this Dick Cavett anecdote, from the wonderful book And Here’s The Kicker by Mike Sacks: “Once, at the end of [The Tonight Show] – there were four of us on the couch by then – Johnny asked what we were doing. Everybody had a movie or a play or a TV series to plug. I had nothing. He had brought me out first, so I was farthest down the couch, next to Ed. I hoped he wouldn’t get to me. I was praying to the gods of comedy, when I heard, ‘And you Richard?’ I heard myself say, ‘I’m working on a new sitcom. It’s a humorous version of Gilligan’s Island.’ The laugh was cyclonic. Johnny did his ‘off the chair thing’ he did when genuinely convulsed.” A gifted comic can write something funny, but brilliance comes from the ether. And the best way to tap divine inspiration is to play. The comedy gods love to fuck around.
  8. Nothing is sacred. Nothing. Don’t believe me? Two words: Anthony Jeselnik.
  9. Even the wittiest material can fall flat in the wrong hands. Just ask The Situation, who crashed and burned reading someone else’s words at a roast for Donald Trump.
  10. Hank Kingsley is the funniest character ever committed to film. Hey now.

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