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Saturday, January 8, 2011


Please fill me in on how to write comedy routines for kids shows-Timing-Puppet and vent interaction-being Origional with a 3-5 minute routine-How to develope a new Char-Fresg material for the new character..The Character is a turtle, an Aligator, and a wrinkly face type dog...Where does one cull jokes from and if its for a kids show should it be jokes or a 5 min. or more routine. What are the basics of writing funny for children? You are correct in trying to make things character based. I believe that a great way to start is to write a biography about each character. It should be short, but sweet.

Turtle: Was once offered a role in the movie, "Finding Nemo" but turned it down. He decided he didn't want to be an actor. He didn't really want to come out of his shell. Although the above is a joke it is based on the character and his/her experience or life. Add to this the fact that he was once in a play in high school. He played a rock. He hates the phrase, "flat on your back!" (What comedic routine could come from that?) He flunked high school physical education because he never could touch his toes. (But look at my rock hard abs!) His girlfriend? Shelly. His mother is upset with him because he's 23 years old and has never left home.

Rules for kid comedy
1. Keep it short. The rule of thumb is one minute for each year in a child's age. So a 4 year old might be able to handle a 4 minute skit. As the year's go by I've seen that limit decrease. My LONGEST skit is 7 minutes, but most are 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Politically correct. Do the search for "7 things you can't say in kindergarten" on this forum to see what common words should not be in a public skit.
3. Welcome tangents. If you say in a story, "I have a dog" you will spend the next 30-60 seconds hearing the young audience say, "I have a dog! I have a dog! I have a cat! I have a sister." That doesn't mean you shouldn't say it, but be ready for the possible interruptions. As long as the interruptions are centered on what you are doing they are really enhancing the show! (Let me repeat that.) AS LONG AS THE INTERRUPTIONS ARE CENTERED ON WHAT YOU ARE DOING THEY ARE REALLY ENHANCING THE SHOW!
4. Old jokes are new to young kids.
5. Surprise is either funny or scary to kids. I stay away from loud screeches and noises, but you may want them. An example is taking a familiar nursery rhyme or song and changing the lyrics. This makes it funny to the kids! Or take a familiar story and change it. "Goldilocks and the three alligators." What would she try out in an alligator's home? Or the Alligator under the bridge instead of a troll in the Three Billy Goats Gruff.
6. For small audiences allow the kids to pet the animal. I often let them tickle the vinyl orangutan. (Some are allergic to latex so I prefer that they don't touch the latex.) I let them tickle his ankle as they look for a bug that might be in his fur.
7. Expound on the familiar. How would a turtle play hide and seek? Where would he ALWAYS hide? Then call a child up and have them hide while you cover the turtle's eyes.

I know that to make a show complete that all of the above should be incorporated into your performance...How do you build your show and in what order. Is there any set music you use and where do you draw the line on mixed audiences for the music, I am just beginning to learn childrens magic and thank you for the heads up on Mr. Ginn, is there any favorite tricks kids like year after year..I have incorpotated clowning into my show light facial make up, should I be thinking of making up the kids faces too? There once was a ventriloquist who told a story using his vent was the Frog prince, are there other already prepared storyskits that i can use in my shows or is it the same old same old. Thanks for the help...
Coming out of the shell
Is it true that when writing you should deside on a theme, lets use the rabbit as an example...So he is the center theme, then spokes off that center hub could include his favorite food, his hobby...and so forth can you be more what would be a funny line and thats the problem most new writers have desiding whats funny and whats not...
Writing for kids
Tony had some great guidelines there, but to get me started I use what I call the magic "What if" For example "What if Castor (my beaver) wanted to play a sport? What would be funny?" That's how we got our golf routine
"What if Horton wants to be a character in a story?" The Frog Prince and a few Bible story routines came from that.
Rather than just joke and punchline I try to write a situation and find the humour in it.

Great tip
Excellent tip, Neale. I'm sitting here thinking "What if a beaver wanted to play golf."
1. He would use the tee for a toothpick, then chew it up.
2. If he hit in the middle of some trees he would take the time to chew them down.
3. He would purposely aim for the waterhole.
4. Everytime he heard another player yell "Dam" he would say, "It wasn't mine!"
5. His teeth keeping him from yelling "Fore" so he yells, "Watch out" instead.
6. All of his remaining clubs are metal. He has no more wooden heads for some reason.

Terry Wild add his advice What I Do To Create Fun
I try and visualise what would be the most absurd thing for that creature to be, or to do. My favourite puppet is Ax's Croc, whom I call Crikey. My latest story involves Crikey confessing to me he can't swim! So the fun begins when I decide to teach him. Of course all the other swimmers in the pool climb out very fast on seeing Crikey enter the water. So, stuff like that is easy to think about and perform. Why didn't his dad teach him? There are lots of side issues there! How did he come to be delivered to my place, thousands of miles from Duckpoo Swamp? Kids love that sort of thing. I think it's because they identify with the character based on their own life experiences.
Writing a script N J
So First thank you to Terry Neale and Tony for always being there with this great advice..and next I see that when you write as Mark Wade said, you must have a central theme, such as a school playground and the spokes that comes off of it could be ideas like a 'fight' or something happening on the monkey bars boys not mixing with girls, or 'a boy and a girl meet for the first time'(these are my ideas) all this is good..he then said to view these situations threw the eyes of a child, the colors and imagination...this is where I get lost, yeah I know 'so get lost' Tony lets take the writing step by step in the above situation little boy or girl could be on the playground but it could be a wabbit,a snail, a croc, bear, monkey, well you understand I am sure... As they say in the song, lets start at the very beginning know thats a very good place to start.... I bring out a figure, lets say a snail, introduce him to the boys and girls he says where he's from and the beat goes on.......
Snail on a playground
The way I write is to jot down some ideas and then try to incorporate them into a skit. Here are some initial thoughts on a snail on a playground. "I'm always the last one chosen for relay races." "I always get in trouble after recess. The teacher says it takes me too long to come back to class." "There is a little girl that I like. But I'm shy." "You need to come out of your shell." "They always find me first at hide and seek. They follow my slime trail." "I don't eat lunch with the other kids if there is salt on the table." "The kids love me on rainy days. They use my antennae to get a good reception and we watch television." "I don't use email. We still use snail mail." "I got a letter from my cousin. He is coming to visit. He should be here in a few years." "I'm really good at slow pitch softball." "I'm really good at freeze tag. I move so slowly that I always look frozen." "The coach wants me to go out for the track team. The other school's track team!"
Writing skits/routines
So If when I write I am to use the char and put him into a situation and write how the figure would fit or not fit into that situation...
Another example could be a Chimp without any paticular situation, he is a little slow, what ever he does the kids in the aud mimic, I blow up a balloon ask him to hold it...ask him how he's doing, he answers and lets the balloon go and it travels all around the room...the balloon is blown up a few different times with various slap stick happenings, with me getting slapped a few times by him, him if I was to do this kind of stuff how do I writ it into a routine, with various axtell animals gettinvolved at different times...Lets go to the next step...
Robin add some stuff
How to write for you puppets
How I learned to write for my shows it to take my puppet shopping with me. When I do that I am forced to make conversation with the kids and come up with on the spot personality, conversation and situations.I get ideas by what the kids say and do and ask the puppet. I look at cloths (for the puppet) and try them on her or him. I make the puppet appear as real as possible so people look to see if its real (easy to do with Axtell puppets). I go to Wal-Mart, and the local food stores, (be prepared to not get anything else done). I made the mistake of taking an old rat puppet with me to the store and was asked to leave! A lady freaked out she thought it was real and it took 2 people to calm her down.LOL ( I was pretty good at moving it like a rat) Watch out when you take your puppet to the street, it might cause accidents when people rubber neck, been there too! Have fun, don't even buy a puppet unless you fall in love with it and see it's personality already,It will be a great puppet sitting in your studio but not used. I did this with one and gave it away 2 times and they still don't know what to do with it, (cause it was my puppet not their idea, even though the puppet was awesome). Now I wish I had it back!
Watch others act and get tidbits of ideas or conversation and make it your own... Dont copy make it original. If you arent sold on the joke or personality no one else will buy it either. YOU must fall in love with each of your puppets! Ribbons the clown/ventriloquist Ribbons the clown Rev. Robin E. Bremer
Author of "Feed My People Joy" available at, www.Barnes& coming to a bookstore near you.
Another thought from Robin
Jokes are great but a lot of ventriloquist just SAY the joke and that is it. A joke has to be delivered.... from the personality of the vent or puppet. It matters how you say it, The tilt of your head the naturalness of your body language. Did you pause for the laugh, the funny body movement you did with the puppet. The reaction of the puppet or you! Do NOT repeat what the puppet says! It is not natural! Some vents repeat EVERY LINE the puppet says and that's annoying and not normal or funny. HAVE A CONVERSATION, react and react use your whole body.I visualize me and my puppet having the conversation they I write down what I see INCLUDING what body movements she will do when she says that line. YOU ARE AN ACTOR and comedian.
1. I get an idea for a skit,
2. I practice it over in my head till I get the whole idea.
3. I write the basic line.
4. I practice sitting on my bed with my puppet and paper, (to memorize lines) I make edits and correction.
5. I practice it in front of the mirror. ( you can get stuck here and watch yourself instead of having a conversation)
6. I put away the mirror and practice it in front of the camera.
7. Do it in front of my husband. (3rd party gives me ideas how to move the puppet better or change a line)
8. PRACTICE PRACTICE until I can ENJOY doing it without thinking!
Thats how I come up and prefect a new idea for a show.
Hope this helps Ribbons the clown Rev. Robin E. Bremer
Author of "Feed My People Joy" available at, www.Barnes& coming to a bookstore near you.
Continuing with writing December 26 2010, 8:25 AM
Another thought from me
Maximizing Punch lines..what do you do to maximize your punch lines...remembering that the figure is the funny comedian.You the vent paint the picture your puppet derails you... Every day in every situation there is something or someone that made you laugh...what are a few examples of situations that have occured to you? I have gotten into a habit of carrying a small note pad because if I didn't and got home trying to remember the joke I tell you I couldn't...what are some other methods..
Do you add singing to your show how has that worked for you? Maybe like me magic is part of your show...what are some ways you have adhanced your show by writing into it new stuff?
Where do you get your comedy material from...Do you steal it, like milton berle buy it like many comedians have or do you write your own and in what style. Sit com, one line jokes or do you pick a subject and back and forth set up punch line?
when writing for a figure who is it?. What's its background? What's his preferences? Make a list of your likes and dislikes on one side of a page and list of the figures likes and dislikes on the other and compare.. Why does he have them, what causes them? How will the figure react to situations thrown at him? More to follow

oops! Tony you always have great stuff to say
I re-read your post and you have some great tips for people to develop their scripts. If we each do what you have suggested we will come out with stronger characters. I have mentioned in the past that Jim Adams of "James and the Professor" recommends watching television with one's character and carrying on a conversation. (Don't try this at a movie theater as people around you will get upset.)
Likewise, I have seen vents walking around with their character and talking with them even when there isn't an audience. I have even seen people in Sacramento walking around talking to themselves when they had no puppet! (But that's another story.)
Famous comics
Most comedians keep a file system of jokes. In books they are usually categorized. "Golf" "Politics", etc. So I assume they use a similar method. I was in Goodwill yesterday during their after Christmas half price sale. They had Steve Allen's private file of jokes. (No longer private since he published it.) The problem with most joke books is that they are not character driven. You're lucky to get a dozen usable jokes out of the hundreds written inside. I think it is better to build on the character of the puppet. Then something that is said is funny because of who said it. Garfield is a great example. It takes awhile to figure out his character and the strip seems unfunny until you do. Once you do then it is fantastic.
This means that you need a bit of character intro for audiences as well. Edgar Bergen used a slow fanfare for Mortimer Snerd. He established Mortimer's limited intelligence very quickly in each script then went on to the funny character based lines.
Here are some character "traits" that drove past stars:
Jack Benny was cheap. "Your money or your life, Mister!" (I'm thinking about it!)
Rodney Dangerfield got no respect. "My parents gave me a radio for a bath toy."
Edgar Bergen was seen by Charlie McCarthy as cheap. "All my shirts have a hole in the back!"
Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy always wanted to help, but it would invariably backfire.
Frank Burns in MASH was an adulterous hypocrite whom everyone loved to hate. His many funny story lines would come from getting his due. (In my opinion he had one of the best TV characters of all time, but it must have been very difficult to play. Larry Linville, who played him, was a well respected actor even though his character was universally disliked because he played him so well.)
In modern comedies you have Charlie Sheen's womanizing character and his backward, though intellighent brother in Two and a Half Men.
Monk is obsessive compulsive and filled with phobias, but also driven by the storyline of a murdered wife.
So a good goal is to streamline your character's description.
"This is my bear, Gladly the Grizzly. He loves food and sleep, but not necessarily in that order."
"This is Sally. She is a child psychologist who is actually a child. She helps her friends understand their world."
"This is Leo the Lion. He's a scaredy cat who thinks his tail is a giant bug trying to bite him."
"This is Magic Monkey. He THINKS he can do magic. (All of his tricks are plays on word.) Ex. "I can say two magic words that will make this volunteer disappear."
What are the two words? "Go home!" Ex. 2 "I can make that man's hair disappear. Hair BE GONE!" His hair is still there. "Wait for it." Nothin happened. "You have to wait a long time."
Write for kids shows...
When I enter my show after playing some intro music to to warm up the children yes and the adults as well..I enter with one of my figures if possible through a back door and work through the aud up to the stage area...It could be the Chimp, My bear, any of the larger figures intermingle with the children..stop for a picture or two announce to the kids who they just met and bring out another figure when I get there, possbibly the story teller, have him do a short routine, if the theme is Jungle Jay he will ask the kids to make sounds of different animals, or he might ask for a few vol to come up to the stage and we place different animal noses on them and I will discribe the animal, very discretely and have them say which animal and make its noise, there is no losers each vol gets a gift, and then some magic and balloonie toons depending on the show or party some musical chairs which might include one of the figures, and try to make him lose right away and he goes into his sob story of why he lost and I tell the kids that its not right to be a party pooper, but a good player because there are no losers...
If you were to write this into a routine on paper how would it be discribed? Would you include puns, cliche's or idioms we are talking first about children ages 3-6 then 6-8 and lastly 8-11 Is it wise to write three different routines for the different age groups...My routines are short because I have found that the kids like to be more involved with action such as musical relay games, musical chairs ect. My question is what works for you? I guess the question here is not only what to write but
HOW DO I PREVENT THE ROUTINE FROM BECOMING BORING??? What I mean is how do you go about keeping it interesting?
How to Write a routine More ideas into writing
I have found it safe to carry a pad and pen or a tape recorder to not lose a joke Imight have heard- because I am the type who would forget the joke before I got home if I left it to memory.No matter what age group the joke is geared to. I then rewrite the joke to have it fit into a routine for children, I have heard some jokes meant for adults and completely revamped it and it became a funny childrens no matter what you hear it is usable if you gut it and replace it with a new engine that fits a childs mind. I am sure I am not the only one that does this..anyone Else have other ideas for writing for children?
Here is a good example:With a traffic jam situation
F My dad said he was in a traffic JAM..V-Oh I am so sorry for him F-why... he said he had his coffee and toast
F-were you ever in a traffic jam-V yes I was in one this morning F was it sticky?
F-Are we there yet V-no were bumper to bumper F-Oh are we going to play bumper cars...
Seems puns work well for younger children, but it has to be boom boom boom set up punch line rapid fire...
jam In the traffic jam my Dad's car got bumped. He was glad because he needed "ajar"! Or He was in a jam so he made his door ajar.
Neale add some more thought Another reason to come to Venthaven December This is the kind of subject that comes up at Venthaven convention. I remember Tom Ladshaw did a great lecture on adding punch to the punchline, and Dan Horn did a whole workshop on using puns in your routines.I have re-read their lecture notes many times.
To pun or not to pun
Puns are considered the cheapest sort of humor. That puts them in my price range. I know we have a past forum topic on puns. "Punishment" "Pun"itive damage.
But they can be useful. The movie "Tangled" is actually the story of Ra-PUN-zel, for example. I think they work great for certain puppets whose character would be likely to use a pun.
On the other hand, a little go a LONG way. Too many and the audience will be ready to yell back at you with their own better versions.
puns *#%@ Puns... hmmmm... let's see. I think puns can be fine to use in a performance. Distinctions need to be made, however. The challenge is to be clever with their use. Worn out, over used punnery is why the word "hackneyed" is not a compliment. Effective humor should get a laugh or even a smile from the audience... NOT A GROAN! Some say "A groan is as good as a laugh". You could also say "Dirt is as good as a dollar" - doesn't make it true. One groan, maybe - but groans to me are buyer's remorse for people who didn't pay to get in.
It's good if puns are not all one has to offer as a professional entertainer. And if you're clever in the use of puns, Jeff Dunham can never say you stole his material.
Off the cuff from Sleve Petra
Steve, If "Dirt is as good as a dollar" does that make farmers filthy rich?
Words from my dodo My Axtell dodo gave some wise advice. If given EGGStemperaneously and not EGGSorbitantly, puns can be an EGGSiting addition. Try not to be EGGStravagent or your audience will be EGGSasperated! I told him his advice was for the birds! (Above you have a clever use and a poor use of puns, depending on the age of your audience.)
That's not punny! I grew up quite a pun lover, and really liked the pun humor of the older comedians like Rip Taylor . When I got into entertaining and making puppets, especially animal puppets, the puns were a natural for quick jokes and tying some cheap dialog to specific animal or character. About 20 years ago at a Vent Haven Convention Jeff asked me to help write a routine, along with Mark Wade for a new character he was going to perform with that night. I wish I could remember what it was, but I began prolifically writing a long string of puns. Jeff who we all now know is at the top of the comedy game, stopped me and said, I'm after more character driven humor. It made me very aware that "character" is another layer over top of the puppet. Personality and situational driven humor is where the real comedy and funniest laughs are. I still mix the puns in but more sparingly. Ax
Writing for children
I think there is a slight difference when putting together a childrens show...There is still a lot of preperation..there is a lot of music, and entrance routine (a lot of which could be adlibbed) a short routine getting me to my platform (stage area)to work with a second figure, some ballonie toons, some magic, a relay race for the kids, another figure (generally saving the best for last) But if its parties my question here would be what to talk about, or should I refrain from talking and stay with lots of audience involvement? and then to close with a fairy tale using...I know many of you who do childrens shows have some feed back and I look for any imput here....Tony I have put a lot of effort in the things you've said here as well as Steve Petra's great skill, maybe i just might reach a level of your calibre before i reach pubity.. AX I find that many times when I just walk in with your puppets the ooohhhs and aaaahhhhs begin..Thank you for those great figures...I just don't know where I will be going with this years sellections, but thats not the subject we are discussing writing routines, wish Mark Wade was reading this...
in defense of the much maligned but not puny pun
I have only two words to say... Veterinarian Hospital!
Steve Axtell Now that's Punny!
Yes....Puns play good when the routine it's short and intentionally puns for puns sake. Veterinarian Hospital was indeed great as a stand alone segment, but if the entire Muppet Show had been built on a steady string of puns it wouldn't have had the life it had. Solid character and situational comedy driven comedy made it hit. Kermit was a frog, but he wasn't based on frog jokes or puns....his staying power was his well developed kind insecure self (character) amidst the chaos of crazy critters putting on a show (situation). My point is just base your comedy writing on character and situations first, then if a few puns fit in, go for it. Ax

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I see its been awhile since your last post!
Im just a fan of ventriloquism and was trying to inform anyone and everyone I can that there is a new documentary called "Dumbstruck" coming out at the end of this month and will run until the end of April!
I believe if the turn outs in each of the select cities that the film will be shown are good, then it may be possible for the producers to entend the tour of the film!
Check out the Dumbstruck Facebook Page to see the films trailer and learn which cities it will be playing at!