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wrinkles
12-06-2008, 06:24 AM
I have a theory. Writing is all about storytelling. No that’s not the theory, that’s accepted as fact, I believe.. The theory is that good writers would be good aural (or verbal, I’m not sure which to use) story tellers. That is if people still told stories. Since almost no one does anymore, my theory is that good writers are good joke tellers. Jokes being today’s version of stories. I’m a good teller of jokes, always have been. Not bragging, I was just born with the ability. People at parties ask me to tell jokes.

On the other hand, I’ve known many people, some of them the most intelligent people I’ve known, that couldn’t tell a joke if Chris Rock was standing beside them whispering in their ear.

I believe joke telling (as a stand-in for story telling) consists of all the important elements of writing: premise, character development, POV, tense, pacing, timing, word selection, arc, climax (punch-line).

So what how do you test a theory? Why, you conduct an experiment. So here it is. If people laugh when you tell this joke you are a good joke teller, and my hypothesis is that you are therefore a story teller, and going even further, a good writer. If not, then not. What do you think? Plausible? Quite a stretch? Crock of shit?

The Joke: Two brothers work at a pantyhose factory. It goes out of business. They apply at a pantyhose factory just opening up in a nearby town. The human resources guy sent down by the company doesn’t know much about the manufacture of pantyhose.

First brother goes in for his interview. Personnel guy looking at file, says, “I see here that you have experience in pantyhose manufacturing. What did you do?”

First brother says, “I was a diesel fitter. Best one in the whole place.”

The personnel guy doesn’t know what that job is, but doesn’t want to admit it, so he says, “Yeah, I think we can use one of those. You’re hired. We’ll start you at fifteen dollars an hour.”

First brother says, “All right! That’s great. You got a deal.”

Second brother comes in. Personnel guy says, “What did you do at the old pantyhose factory?”

Second brother says, “I was a stuffer. I stuffed the pantyhose in those little plastic eggs. Yes sir, I was the best stuffer that company ever had. I hold the record for stuffing five thousand eggs in one day.”

Personnel guy says, “O.K. I think we can use one of those. We’ll start you out at ten dollars an hour.”

Second brother says, “Ten dollars, ten dollars? Why you just offered my brother fifteen dollars!”

Personnel guy says, “Yes, but he was a diesel fitter.”

Second brother says, “Diesel fitter! Diesel fitter! You know what he did? He would just walk around the factory all day and once in a while, he would pick up a pair of pantyhose and put them on his head and say, ‘Yep, diesel fitter’.”

Cyia
12-06-2008, 07:17 AM
That's an old joke - though it's usually told as three buddies working on an assembly line making underwear.

Mr Flibble
12-06-2008, 12:42 PM
I dislike your theory

Mainly cos I'm crap at telling jokes.

Willowmound
12-06-2008, 01:30 PM
First of all, people tell stories all the time. About their day, about what happened that time six years ago at the festival, about their friends. They repeat stories they've been told by others. Some even make stories up.

Second, verbal storytelling and written storytelling use different sets of skill. Verbal storytelling requires a level of acting, rhythm and voice control that written storytelling doesn't. Written storytelling requires sharper language, better pacing and more original imagery -- this because you can't see your audience and adjust your style based on their feedback.

stephenf
12-06-2008, 02:47 PM
I am a natural comic,but unfortunately, a crap writer .Your theory has made me feel a lot better,thanks

NeuroFizz
12-06-2008, 05:24 PM
You have highlighted a personality trait that probably exists in a subset of successful writers. There have been incredibly talented writers who have been obsessive introverts and others who have been depressed to the point of being suidical (some successful, some not). Some would claim that being emotionally unstable is a positive thing for a writer. That, too would just apply to one subset of writers. What I've seen in the writers I know and have known, and from hanging around this place for a few years, is that writers make up the same cross section of society we see in most other occupations.

wrinkles
12-06-2008, 07:43 PM
Why is my hand like a lemon pie? Because they've both got meringue on them. O.K. never mind, abandoning theory. Except that stephenf and I will always secretly believe it.

wordmonkey
12-06-2008, 07:56 PM
Someone once recounted to me a story of a writer explaining his terrible verbal skills like this...

"Hey, I'm a writer, I'm always better in the second draft."

Many writers like to hide behind their words. If you theory held water, no writer would ever have a problem getting up in front of a crowd and reading a passage. I'd be willing to bet there are plenty of people just here, who wouldn't relish that prospect AND are very good writers.

tehuti88
12-06-2008, 08:01 PM
...my theory is that good writers are good joke tellers. Jokes being today’s version of stories. I’m a good teller of jokes, always have been. Not bragging, I was just born with the ability. People at parties ask me to tell jokes.

...

I believe joke telling (as a stand-in for story telling) consists of all the important elements of writing: premise, character development, POV, tense, pacing, timing, word selection, arc, climax (punch-line).

...

So what how do you test a theory? Why, you conduct an experiment. So here it is. If people laugh when you tell this joke you are a good joke teller, and my hypothesis is that you are therefore a story teller, and going even further, a good writer. If not, then not. What do you think? Plausible? Quite a stretch? Crock of shit?

I think it's backwards. A joke is just a funny story. Good joke tellers have to be able to tell a story well, not the other way around. And even then, just because somebody's good at one technique doesn't mean they'll be good at the other. Some people are good storytellers, but they can't tell a funny story to save their life.

I don't laugh at most jokes I'm told. Not usually because the person telling them is lousy at jokes, but because I just don't find them funny. What's funny is very subjective, and just because I don't laugh at somebody's jokes doesn't mean they'd be a lousy storyteller. That might be the issue, if they tell the jokes poorly, but more likely than not I'm just not amused. *shrug*

One of my favorite jokes is "A man walked into a bar. 'Ouch!'" Great storytelling? Not really, but it makes me laugh.

JRTurner
12-06-2008, 08:22 PM
Hey, I think there's some truth to this :) Not because I'm any good at telling jokes or because I believe any theory can be all-inclusive--especially one as specific as this one. But I have a little story of my own to share :)

Okay, I read all the books on how to write, Dwight, Swain, Maass, Frey, Card--you name it, I probably own it or did own it at one time. However, it wasn't until I picked up a book from my library that just blew me away that I began writing a much higher professional level--and then sold:

"Damn! That's Funny! Writing Humor You Can Sell" by Gene Perret

I don't write funny books--I write books along the lines of Tom Clancy or Clive Cussler--but it always lacked that special somehting I could never emulate from my favorite writers: that humorous warmth even in the face of dire and dangerous circumstances.

After reading how to write funny and applying those principles, I finally (FINALLY) captured that part that I just couldn't figure out on my own.

So, I would say that humor is important to understand and use well for most authors, and while it may not be something natural (as in my case) the techniques can be learned and enhance any writer's work--if you believe along the same lines that I do that all knowledge is useful :)

Or, I could be talking out of my butt!

Warmly,
Jenny:)

wrinkles
12-07-2008, 03:57 AM
This doesn't have much to do with telling jokes, but I agree with JRTurner. I think humor is too often left out of both novels and movies. I'm not talking about comedies, but dramas. Humor in the midst of the most terrible, awful, wrenching occurrencies is what makes fiction seem real. It can make drama truly dramatic.

Too often drama and comedy are seperate and never the twain shall meet. In my experience that isn't the way life works. It can't be corralled.

kuwisdelu
12-07-2008, 04:34 AM
I'd love to fill my drama with humor to break the tension once in a while.

Unfortunately, many people don't seem to share my opinion of what's funny.

However, I've had plenty of people compliment my (written) stories.

I agree with tehuti.

hammerklavier
12-08-2008, 07:09 PM
Many jokes are not that good when written down; tone of voice, facial expressions, and timing have a lot to do with making them funny.

aruna
12-08-2008, 07:54 PM
Well, I'm obviously a lousy writer since I can't tell jokes to save my life and in fact loathe any kind of public speaking!

In fact, the following is true for me. I really don't laugh at most jokes; I just don't find them funny. For me, humour and jokes are two totally different things. I can laugh out loud at humour in books, but still not find jokes funny. There's so much humour, for instance, in the novels of Dickens!




I don't laugh at most jokes I'm told. Not usually because the person telling them is lousy at jokes, but because I just don't find them funny. What's funny is very subjective, and just because I don't laugh at somebody's jokes doesn't mean they'd be a lousy storyteller. That might be the issue, if they tell the jokes poorly, but more likely than not I'm just not amused. *shrug*
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