Q: How Can I Be Funny Like You?
A: lol um...ok so, well, the thing about that is...imagine you're a banana peel -
Hiya one and hiya all, especially the new kids here. You are all cool and worthy and, get this, you belong.
About once a month I do a lil something called Help Wanted where I answer questions sent in by you, the live audience. In many cultures, this is called an advice column. But this ain’t Greece or Rome, and I don’t know if what I dispense can much be called advice on account of it being pretty dumb most of the time.
BUT: It is the only place that I, a comedy writer with a psychology degree, am legally allowed to give advice.
AND: I do enjoy the form. The questions that come in are amazing because they are real and thus they are alive. And so, in answering them, I find myself getting real. In other words, the questions are amazing prompts to get me writing. Is that selfish? No, its halibut, relax and eat your fish.
Below is the first question anyone ever asked back in November 2020. I’ve updated it with new references to ensure it stays FRESH. Enjoy!
Want advice? Your question/conundrum/pickle can be SS (super serious) or DAAD (dumb as a doorknob) or anywhere in between. I’ll fucking answer them all I don’t even care. Except I do care so much and that is why I’ll answer em.
Submit your questions to email@example.com.
Q1: How Can I Be Funny Like You
— James from Seattle, WA
A1: James, I'm sorry but I think you've got me confused with someone else. Another Alex maybe? Perhaps funnymanalexthomas, a way more successful comedian with whom I share many traits (we’re both on Instagram)? I've reached out to him for an answer to your question. Waiting to hear back. (hey also speaking of instagram follow me here I am funny i swear)
I sort of want to end the answer there. That would be funny. But alas, I am not funny, so I shall continue.
I’m battling against the urge to continue down this road of self deprecation by questioning the very premise of your question. I want to tell you, “I am not funny, James.” But that’s not a good look, so instead I’ll share a quick anecdote from my early days in the Austin improv community that I hope to god relates.
I learned how to improvise at The Hideout Theatre, a blackbox theater in the heart of downtown Austin with a coffee shop and just about the best teachers and fans I’ve ever known. The theater had a tradition where, after every show, the whole cast would rush out of theater and into the coffee shop and wait for the audience to file out and say hello. This, I realize now, is deranged. No one should ever have to face people who have just seen them perform and would like to wish them well. It’s traumatizing.
And that’s what would happen — real human people would walk by and often stop and tell us how much they loved the show and sometimes even single out one of us and say something like “you were so funny!”
As much as my ego craved / lived off these compliments, I was awful at receiving them (life — a heterodoxical paradox for polymaths everywhere).
More often than not I’d respond with some real dipshit retort and diminish their praise much the same way I began my answer to you. I’d say something real dumb like, “You thought this was good? This was…okay. You want funny, go see the new film 80 For Brady (2023). Now let me tell you all the reasons why this sucked."
Many n00b improvisers were guilty of the same. One night after a particularly egregious display of this ‘not so humble negging’ (the opposite of a humble brag), our show’s director and a co-owner of the theater, Roy Janik, decided to take us to school. In the most kind and loving Roy way, he explained, "When someone gives you a compliment after the show, just take the compliment. It isn’t your job to question the compliment, or correct and educate the person giving the compliment.”
The compliment isn't even about you, he explained. It's about them. People give compliments largely for their sake, not for yours. It is your job simply to receive it, fully and wholeheartedly. And if you don’t, you’re being a dick and rejecting their kindness. Say they were complimenting you on some food you made:
Friend: That butter board (2023) you made was sooooo good.
You: Ahhh thank you but no it sucked…it’s nowhere as good as some really really good actual butter boards. See, mine suck because I use ‘I can’t believe its not butter’ but the real chefs, they use butter.
Friend: Oh, um, okay, well, see ya later then.
You: Haha of course yes byebye! Let’s go get a real butter board soon, you dumbass uncultured fuck!
Friend (inside brain thought): Huh, I must be a real piece of garbage. I thought that butter board was good, but obviously I don’t know what I’m talking about. I need to read more hip magazines like that one with the Kim K butt cover that one time what was that one called? Square? Juice? Coaster? Gosh I don’t even know the names of the cool magazines I should just stay home and eat mashed potatoes till I die.
Woof! I hope Friend is okay!
Given this logic, I should delete the pandering “i’m not funny” garbage intro to this answer. I should now, knowing what I know, delete all of this and begin again with a simple and kind "aw thanks man, I appreciate your kind words."
But I won't, because I’m a weak man. And maybe, just maybe, the above is an obtuse way of showing you how you can be funny like me - by being honest and sharing your vulnerabilities in a humorous way. He was answering the question the whole time 🤯
Not buying it? Me neither. Let’s try one more time.
Your question: “how can I be funny like you?”
My answer: you can't!
But you can be funny like you. *cue inspirational music written by HanZimmer (2023)* Even better, you already are funny like you. There's nothing to it (put your back into it, James, for god's sake).
Still not satisfied? I can’t get your money back but I can share a few tidbits on how to be funny or, more specifically, now to connect more with the funny that’s already in your life.
Write what’s true: I know this sounds cliche trust me I hate it too but it’s also just…true. Comedy / laughing is the gap between what’s true and what’s expected, so if you just say what’s actually true in your mind, it might be funny! It might also not be, but it’ll be whatever it’s supposed to be which is better than the alternative: You trying to be funny. Cuz you know what that looks like? Someone trying to be funny. Yuck.
Explore the weird: Notice when you find something odd, different, or funny. Explore why it is weird for you. Inside of that reason why is a whole lot of comedy, probably.
Speak the subtext - In a conversation, the subtext is the unspoken stuff that’s going on inside of you or between you and someone else. The subtext throughout this post has been that I am an insecure and self centered prick. Now that I said it, it’s funny! Maybe? Because now I am self-aware and If you can name it and call it out, it’s usually funny. And if it isn’t, just comment on how your trying to call something out that wasn’t there was rough, and that will be funny!
Love the mistakes - Enjoy the lower status world of being the one who loses, who fails, etc. That is funny. It’s also humbling and prevents you from looking like a pretentious prick. Win win!
This is, by the way, the hardest thing in the world. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution’s got nothing on how trying to ‘win’ in life makes you suck at comedy.
Increase, hold and release tension - People on TikTok (2023) are doing this better than just about anywhere else. Watch them and become a social media superstar. If you do, I want 10% of all your followers.
Fart - When all else fails, and it will, James, it most definitely will, let one rip. Then another and then a third. Farts are funny. No way around it. I just learned men fart an average of 20x a day. Women only 13x a day. Ladies — what’s going on? Let em rip, you deserve fart equality! But James — you get TWENTY farts a day. That’s twenty guaranteed funny moments. Use them well and don’t just fart into the toilet like everyone else.
EDIT: I AM AN IDIOT WHO FORGOT TO MENTION IN THE ORIGINAL POST THAT LITERALLY TEACHING A WORKSHOP ON THIS WITHwho is very nice and forgiving of me and my forgetting to mention this originally. You can sign up here https://foster.co/season3!!!
Did you know Both Are True now has a real deal big boy paid offering? I published my most vulnerable essay of ever on there called Beautiful Disasters and also my tell-all guide of everything I've learned on the road to 3211 free subs / 111 paid subs, so if you wanna see those you can become a paid lil guy! No worries if not !!
Have a question you’d like some advice on? Please email me with your question at firstname.lastname@example.org
Qwestions & Cawments
Are you funny? Is it weird to consider oneself funny or na?
What sort of stuff is funny to you? Shows, ideas, people, situations, whatever?
Do you have a fav joke?
Do you have a go to funny story you tell and if so what is it and can I turn it into a criterion collection movie?
Is skipping a few numbers funny?
this is an illegal thing to say. i am going to idiot jail now for saying it.