Taoblog: Recipe for Funny

The Dreaded Cake Metaphor

“Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?”  — The Tao Te Ching

“…Look in a recipe book and write down the ingredients of basic cake.”  — The Tao of Improv

My cat is funny. My dog is funny. Unerringly funny. No one has the ability to make me laugh more consistently than my dog or cat.

In part, that’s because everything they do is deadly serious. They have no idea they are funny. They have never once tried. But they never fail.

Are you funny? Yes? Great! That puts you roughly on the same level as my pets. Take a bow.

You don’t need to be a funny person or act like a funny person to do comedic improv. All you need to be is human. (The more my pets do things that seem human, the funnier they are!) Some beginner improvisers fret over the fact that they don’t know if they can think of enough funny things on the spur of the moment. They worry that they don’t have enough comedy ammunition. What I tell them is, “Write down the ingredients of cake.”

We have flour, baking powder, salt, butter, sugar, eggs, milk…maybe a few other ingredients. Nowhere in the recipe is “cake” listed as an ingredient. And the ingredients that are listed do not, on their own, resemble cake in any way. They don’t taste, smell or look like cake. But when you mx them the right way and put them in the oven, you get cake. It’s magic!

What are ingredients of comedy? We have pathos, shock, pain, insecurity, revulsion, anger, jealousy, misunderstanding, tragedy, danger…maybe a few others. None of them, on their own, resemble comedy. But mix them the right way and put them on a stage, you get comedy. It’s magic!

Making cake? Don’t start with cake. Making funny? Don’t start with funny. Comedy is not an ingredient of comedy. Comedy is a result. Trust the recipe. Trust the process. Use pure, fresh ingredients. Never prepackaged or stale. It goes for cake. It goes for funny. Then just slice it up and serve it. The frosting? That’s up to you.


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