You may be surprised to hear it but like other skills, wit can be learned too. A quick, funny response is broken down into what Max Matteson, a legendary comedian who has been called one of the funniest men on the planet, calls an action-reaction chain.
Person A says or does something that potentially provokes a humorous response.
Person B rapidly reviews a range if possible responses to Person A's action or statement and selects one.
Person B has the ability and skill to pick the most appropriate response for the situation and they have more than one response to choose from.
How do they think of funny responses so fast? Do their brains actually think faster, more quickly and different?
Basically, Yes but the reason why is because they have developed the comedic mindset and confidence to make funny or witty comments. They basically use a time-compressed version of the action-reaction response above.
Quick wit or as Max Matterson calls it, "Comedic Spontaneity" is a basic formula that can be recreated over and over again by you as well. Like a muscle, you can build your comedic wit to become stronger and faster.
Comedic Spontaneity = Lateral Thinking + Confidence + Speed.
The definition of Lateral Thinking is the ability to use your mind with flexibility to come up with as many diverse but linked ideas as you can on any given subject.
Lateral Thinking is at the heart of improvisational humor.
It's like brainstorming but you have a faster speed of the response.
You will basically break it down into steps until you feel comfortable enough go through the comedic thought process quickly and confidently within a short amount of time. Here's how you can practice.
Grab a pen, some paper and a timing device. In a few minutes time per subject, come up with as many uses as possible for the following objects:
* A Brick
* One shoe
* A Rope
* A Tape measure
* A Stereo Speaker
Here's a quick example by Max Matterson:
Pencil might give you: lead, words, sentence, write, sharpen, draw, pictures
Judges could give you: sentence court, wig, life, oath, right
What links these two things together? You might say wright(right) and sentence...
Now put them together in a joke:
In what way are pencils and judges the same? They pass sentences, always have the last word and are wright all the time.
The key: Disregard an item's usual use and ask what else could the subject be used for.
Two things determine the quality of the joke: the amount of time you put into it and the ability to make the joke follow comedy's two basic rules of truth followed by the unexpected.
What do you do if you try a joke out once and it gets no laughs? Max Matteson suggests that you - Don’t just throw the joke away or give up. Try it a few more times on different people. If you get the same result every time then you will know the joke is no good.
Consider revising it or starting over with the same two words to develop an entirely new joke from scratch.
There are many associations you can come up with for one word.
For example: A Pencil can be a distance measure(5 pencils long), a weapon, straight-edge, building materials for a child’s project(make a log cabin of pencils), drum sticks, used to push a button just out of reach, used to plug a whole in a boat, puncture a hole in a tire, pop a balloon, back scratcher, #2 pencil is used a lot in schools...
Here is the process with two more words. We will use another example by Max Matteson. This time we will use eye trouble and dyslexia.
Eye Trouble: Lazy eyes, tearing, cross eyed, can’t see well, have trouble reading, need glasses, world looks funny or different.
Dyslexia: Have trouble reading, letters and numbers look funny or different, can’t read well, can’t read quickly, have trouble concentrating.
These are just a couple examples thrown together in a hurry to give you the idea. Obviously there are lots of other associations we might make from these, and yet we can already see that there are some pretty useful links between the two. So all we need to do is to make these links by applying a bit of lateral thinking and then presto. You have a quick joke like...
If you are cross eyed and dyslexic, does that mean that you can see perfectly?
The concept of two items that seem to have little in common has constructed many great one-liners.
For example: What’s the connection between a skeleton and a bar?
A skeleton asks a barman for a pint of beer and a mop.
There is no connection between the two except that we recognize when the skeleton drinks there is nowhere for the liquid to go except the floor. What makes it funny is that the skeleton is unable to drink but wasting his money and good beer.
Remember the key to doing these exercises is to disregard an items usual use and ask what else it could be used for. This forces you to change your perspective. For example the a brick could be a door stop, paperweight, marker, prop, straight-edge, distance measurer, anchor for boat, murder weapon and so on.
Taking another example from the list, why would you have one shoe?
Perhaps you lost one... Or it's a fashion statement... Or it fell off while you were running... Maybe your feet are sore... or your feet might sweat too much and begin to smell... Maybe you always wanted to be a detective (gumshoe) and carry a shoe around to remind yourself... Or perhaps your shoe is a weapon to throw at neighbors’ animals that keep doing their business in your garden.
The possibilities are endless. Use your imagination and think of any connection with a shoe that comes to mind- no matter how lame or bazaar the ideas may seems. Then take two of these and use them to construct your joke.
For example: You could take the idea of running and your feet smelling. Now put them together to make another joke:
If your feet smell and your nose runs, you are built upside down.
When doing this exercise be certain to limit yourself to predefined time scales. Time limits force you to think faster. The brain responds to training just like any other group of muscle in your body. If you allow yourself lots and lots of time, your brain will doodle along. Give it firm guidelines and regular practice and it will learn to respond quickly.
Remember to Use an Alarm, stopwatch or egg timer set for two or three minutes. Forcing a time limit will help you become Quicker with your witty responces.
So practice coming up with as many uses as possible for any object and remember to disregard an item's usual use and ask what else could it be used for.
Link two different objects or things lists by finding common words or similar themes in the lists. Make sure the jokes or associations you think up have the 2 comedic elements of truth and the unexpected.
Everybody loves individuals that make them laugh.
So practice and become a person people love to be around even more because you can make them smile and feel good with ease.
Free Game: Think Quick Man
This game actually helps you improve your wit because it teaches you to think faster laterally and thinking laterally is a key to becoming Quick Witted.
Number of people: 2 or more.
Type of Game: Verbal
Supplies: A timing device(egg timer, stopwatch, watch etc.)
How to start the game:There are a couple ways to start the game. One way is to randomly agree on an object or thing for each player before it’s their turn in the game like a piece of string, a brick, a sleeve from a shirt etc. A second way to start the game is for each person to write down 5 things on 5 small, separate pieces of paper, fold them and put them in a bowl.
Then each person picks a piece of paper out of the bowl when it is their turn to play.
Within 1 to 3 minutes time per person (you choose the time before the game starts), a player comes up with as many uses as possible for their word picked. Another player counts the number of valid uses of the word.
The person who comes up with the most valid uses each round wins.
The key: Disregard any item's normal use. Ask yourself what else could it be used for.
For example: A Pencil can be a distance measure(5 pencils long), a weapon, straight-edge, building materials for a child's project(make a log cabin of pencils), drum sticks, used to push a button just out of reach, used to plug a whole in a boat, puncture a hole in a tire, pop a balloon, back scratcher, #2 pencil is used a lot in schools etc, etc...
Drinking Game Variations: A person drinks every 7 seconds they don't say a valid use for their picked item. If a player repeats a use of their item in the round, they drink. Example: If a player's word is 'String'... they say a string can be used as a belt then later during their time limit they say it can hold up you pants like a belt again, then they drink.
After the round, all the losers have to drink.
Drinking Game Variation: At the end of each round... Subtract how many valid uses each loser came up with from the number the winner came up with. The losers drink that number of sips from their drink.
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