Comedy Writing Tips From Billy O’Connor – The Rule Of Threes, Parallelism And The Power Of Your Subconscious

Tip one: The rule of threes. Readers and listeners are conditioned to the rhythm of three’s.

Red, white and blue – Hop, skip and jump. Etc.

So don’t disappoint. If you have two examples, give a third.

When setting up a punch line, two straight examples and then the kicker.

Deliver your punch line after two set-ups.

THIS RULE ISN’T WRITTEN IN STONE and can, of course, be broken.


Tip two: The rule of parallelism. Never use a gerund and then switch to an infinitive after a conjunction.

Wait. Don’t panic from the polysyllabic introduction. This is the simple rule of parallelism.

E.g.: Tommy loves to ice skate and go skiing.

This sentence structure follows the verb “loves” with the infinitive “to ice skate.” It then follows the infinitive with the “gerund — skiing.” This causes un-necessary disruption to sentence flow.

The following examples would be better.

E.g.: Tommy loves to ice skate and to ski.

E.g.: Tommy loves ice skating and skiing.

If you choose a gerund, follow with a gerund.

If you choose an infinitive, follow with an infinitive.

Now for re-enforcing the most important rule of writing:

Reinforcement: Carry a pen

You write with your subconscious, not your computer.

When comics say they have no time to write new jokes, that’s ridiculous.

You write in the shower, your car, while jogging or when you just start to fall asleep. You edit in front of a computer.

How many times have you played that thought game, “I should’ve said . . .?

That’s your subconscious talking. That’s the treasure chest you need to delve into. Tap that resource and you’ll have something.