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How to Write Jokes that Go Down Your Pants: The Iron Duke | Projects Update
Let's get under the hood.
When I started getting serious about joke writing, way back in the previous century, I looked for places where I could learn some fundamentals.
There were lots of resources for writers and some resources for standups, but very few resources for people who wanted to write humorous prose.
Over the years of reading books, taking classes, and listening to the silence at my standup, I managed to cobble together some guidelines. And, I think, if you get to that level with something then you should share knowledge with people who are just starting out. So, I started a subreddit and, later, a Discord.
And that’s how I got into a position where I regularly see what new comedy writers are writing. And that’s how I got into a position where I tried to explain how dick jokes work to a mechanic using the Iron Duke as a metaphor.
That’s what I want to get into today… butt first! Share this post if you have, or know someone who has, a (1) genital.
Thank You Satire Slides Attendees
It was very much an experimental show and I appreciate the good faith on the part of everyone who came out. Thanks also to Miguel and his team at Dynamic Eldorado for having me.
I wish I could spend more time writing, booking, and performing live shows, but then, the whole reason I started working on film and TV projects is that, other than whatever press we did, when my pre-pandemic live shows were over I felt let down that there was nothing permanent to show for all the work. Tradeoffs.
Projects are going well, though. My humorous wine documentary that has been “almost done” for a year or so is even more almost done. I got some new interviews recorded and some extremely experimental comedy reenactments which I can’t wait to show you.
The animated show we launched last year, Grievance Gulch, is being shopped around to streaming sites at the moment. Some have accepted it, but they haven’t yet actually made the title live and I don’t have a date when that will happen. So, right now, no one can watch it at all. Huzzah!
One other streaming site accepted it, got all the digital files it needed, and then un-accepted it. I didn’t know they could do that. Huzz… oh?
Let’s get on with it. Gird your loins, friends. We once again foray into the weeds of comedy. Make sure to share this post if you have ever laughed or seen someone laughing or are a mammal.
How to Make a Dick Joke (Maybe Don’t)
Let’s say you’re an auto technician about to make a joke. Hopefully that urge starts somewhere positive. That’s when humor is at its best: lifting others up, and, by extension, all humanity.
But choosing to do that using a dick joke puts you on the back foot, and I’m going to get into a detailed breakdown of why that is. To do this, I’ll be using a metaphor I think an auto technician can fully understand. Namely, the General Motors Tech IV engine, also affectionately known as the Iron Duke.
Let’s get under the hood and do a little comedy maintenance. But first, for any who are not familiar, let’s get ourselves an eyeful of the Iron Duke as it was in fighting trim.
Mind you: our dick joke Iron Duke will look much, much worse than this.
The Sunbird Takes Flight Once More
Imagine you went to a car meetup and saw someone with a lovingly restored generation 1 Pontiac Sunbird with original and pristine Iron Duke.
This is a car so utterly uninspiring that even when painted other colors it evokes beige. Nobody knows if it even has a top speed because they can’t bear to look at it long enough.
But if you were at that car meetup, drinking a cup of coffee, and you ran across one absolutely lovingly restored to factory condition, well… There’s nothing you can do but say to the owner, “Okay, partner, I'm gonna shake your hand on this one.”
What you will not say is that you think he’s gotta be finger-biting crazy to spend $1000 bucks on a Sunbird and this absolute madman’s got to have 20 grand in this thing minimum and why in the hell would anyone…
That's the kind of grind you have to put in to make a dick joke work in 2023. Possible: Sure. Risk of failure: High. Top speed: Who cares?
Over-tried and Under-true
Most people seem to understand that being funny will make them interesting to other people. But because they don’t know how to be funny, they use what they consider to be tried and true jokes.
Problem is, some of the stuff your father or grandfather could rely on as tried-and-true has been tried way too often and is past true. On the plus side, this is because of necessary improvements in society.
What happened when engines evolved from carburetors, through the bizarre-o era of throttle body injection, like the Iron Duke had after 1982, to electronic fuel injection? Fuel efficiency got better and technicians adapted.
It’s the same with jokes. Folks gotta adapt.
Lots of people who want to be funny, but don’t want to adapt, bitch and moan about how we, “Can’t say anything any more!” This is directly akin to saying, “We can’t use carbueretors anymore!”
You can, but why? There’s better technology. Lots better. So much better that you’d be a fool to not take advantage of it.
But take heart. If you don’t know how to make your own modern jokes, instead of reaching for a clapped-out dick joke, reach for a little surprise.
If You Can’t Make Funny At Least Be Trans-mundane
Most of the time, people speak idiomatically. They use phrases they’ve heard before that have a known meaning and paste them together with a little connective tissue. Here are some examples:
Let me be clear
I hate this one because a person who intended to be clear would simply do so and a person intentionally being unclear would not call attention to clarity at all. You don’t need permission to be clear. But you do need the communications skills. Regardless, saying, “Let me be clear,” is meaningless.
At the end of the day
This is an appeal to consider the ends of a given situation rather than the means, which can be dangerous.
Why yes, we solved the problem with the weeds in your vegetable garden. We soaked it in gasoline and blew the whole thing into the stratosphere. One of your turnips took out a GPS satellite.
But, at the end of the day…
Insert Different Words
Whenever you’re writing or speaking, think about the times when you can guess what a word will be. When you hear, “At the end of,” you can pretty much guarantee that someone’s about to say, “the day.” When they say, “Let me be,” the next word is definitely, “a pickle.”
If you’re doing the writing or speaking, swap out any word that you think someone can guess for some other word. Any other word. Height of comedy? No. But more fun than using the idioms right off the shelf and less problematic than a joke your dad might have said.
Let me be a pickle. At the end of a chicken, if you are determined to write a genitals-related joke, you definitely won’t be alone. And it is possible to make it serviceable. But you’re going to have to work at it with both hands.1
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Not like that you sicko.