By Lisa Olson (Contributor)
Comedy writing: you’ve actually done this. Yes—you!
When your coworker is mocking that hyper office person who is over-the-top dramatic about all that is The Copier and you add to the story, in a Terantino style: “Yeah! So the background of the conference room is blurry looking and spinning slowly, and the board members applaud her because their packets were stapled upper-left, angle. The co-chair stands and applauds in that slow-clap style, eyes filling with tears, and says, ‘Well done Sharon. Well. Done.’”
You both laugh at the absurdity of this.
Now you have insight on how creative freeform thinking evolves into sketches or song parodies for my team of comedy writers.
Children have no problem doing this whenever possible. Pay attention whenever the Parent Taxi is in operation. Listen to those backseat giggles and rants. Kids are always one-upping and topping each other with imaginative endings that generally include a super hero or someone getting punched in the ding-ding.
But as we age, we only share our wildest thoughts during happy hour, it seems. We have to totally trust those around us to truly let loose. Who is that person for you: the one with whom you can really let go and be silly? If you aren’t able to see a face or a name, get on that.
To be healthy from the inside out we have to find the laughter in the day. As we age we lose the belly laughs because all along the way we are told by teachers, parents and crusty elders in general, to “Stop being silly” and the dreaded “Be serious.” Squish. Smoosh. Flop.
What if we stopped worrying about God in school and added a non-alcoholic happy hour where minds could roam and silly was celebrated? What would that look like? To me it would look like a writing session for a comedy show, a safe zone where no ideas are slammed. Where over-the-top thoughts are celebrated and written down. We take the wacky and make it workable. That secret formula is also usable in boring office meetings. It’s a charming tool I call “Get Your Butt Fired” and it encourages wild ideas, things that would truly get you fired if you did it, like suggesting “Shirtless Wednesdays” and then tone it down to “Wild Wednesdays” where everyone who reached a goal was allowed to wear (gasp) jeans to work. Kinda cool, huh?
Gathering a team at a table to write a sketch comedy show is an open minded process. Members of my team each have their personal shining skill that helps to form a sketch. Keep in mind: the writers are also the performers.
There is a formula to having a scene make sense to an audience. We have to introduce the characters, and show their relationship. Our goal is to parody local issues and national headlines. There has to be an ending or an out. We have a fine blend of individual writing styles. My personal contribution to our writing is that I prefer clean, relatable humor.
Let me introduce the group of Heart of La Crosse Comedy Troupe and Comedy Alley Improvisation:
- Brad Williams is very up to date on news headlines and can whip out a song parody after he’s spent some time on the road. We have offered to buy him a steering wheel to see if that was his inspiration, but he declined.
- Doug Lietke, is a pun-filled goof who is completely ‘yes and’ with his style. He’s also a master rhymer (which could be his rapper name, now that I think of it.)
- Tracy Balzer is our hip person who keeps us in the loop with what is trending as well as being the one to pull us back to reality when it’s gone too far. From Midwest twangy Tammy to the raspy Marlboro-sounding host of Smoke Talk, she is versatile!
- Todd Olson, my wonderful husband, is amazing at seeing a sketch in every-day interactions. His talent is in seeing the background of people, picking up an accent and filling in the life history in a humorous way. He is currently hung up on writing about a zoo animal who works in the fast food industry.
Are you an improvisation artist? Take this quiz: Are you a parent? Do you have a partner? Do you have a boss? Were you someone’s kid?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you indeed ‘do improv’ as you make it through your day, just trying to get to the next thing. You may not get paid for these award-winning performances as you answer “Where do babies come from?” but you are indeed a star of the living room couch-stage in that moment.
I invite you to play a game the next time you are at one of those dreaded super stores. Look at the items of the person in front of you as you are checking out. What are the two extremely different items? Now create a story about them to tie together why they bought socks and ammo.
What I share during my keynotes is not brand new science. I am not an expert, but rather someone who reminds herself while sharing these thoughts with you:
- Set down the smart phone and embrace your free-spirited mind. (Recharging is free and happens along the way).
- Release endorphins and lower your blood pressure through laughter.
- Surround yourself with people who leave you inspired and refreshed.
- Avoid the energy vampires who find delight in filling your head with the bad news of the day and bringing you down into their gray mucky world.
- Find the fun!
Lisa Olson is a comedic writer, performer, speaker, cool friend and embarrassing mom. She owns the sketch comedy troupe Heart of La Crosse and improvisation company Comedy Alley. Writing and performing since 1999, she enjoys improv gigs for corporate events, sketch comedy, giving keynote talks that are interactive, based on friendship, and affordable adventures. Joining forces with her husband Todd, the two are often spotted performing random acts of improv in the produce section. You can visit her at: http://www.findthefun.net