By Wayne Manigo
After watching your favorite sitcoms, have you thought to yourself “Can I learn how to write comedy? Am I funny enough?” Enter John Vorhaus! As a former writer for hit television shows Married with Children, The Wonder Years, and several others, he travels the world consulting on various television sitcom projects. His first book, The Comic Toolbox: How To Be Funny Even If You’re Not, is an Amazon bestseller. His readers quickly discover how “comedy is cruelty”; John explains how important it is to set up a target for your joke and to hit it. He continues to review how comedy is “truth and pain”. Imagine seeing someone stuck in traffic on a hot day, and the air conditioner stops working. Then he gets a flat tire and the car jack is missing, as it starts to rain. One mishap after another – and it’s always funny when it happens to the “other guy”!
When I inquired about “the art of being funny” John said, “Everyone has humor within them. What separates people from ‘funny people’ is the willingness to take a risk. We’re afraid of bad outcomes, and that cripples some people”. I agree with this statement, because the first time a person goes on stage to perform comedy, the risk is there! They’ll bring friends and co-workers for support to open-mic comedy shows. In front of an audience, they must accept the challenge of attempting to make people laugh. It may not always work, but getting up on stage proves that they are willing to embrace the risk.
For potential writers who wish to sell their material without going through the traditional publishing route, John cautions, “Anyone who has a comedic idea can be a published author these days, and the tools are available. It’s not enough to be funny. It’s not enough to have the words on the page. You need to be prepared to sell. Identify your market and figure out how to reach them. Markets change and you have to adapt to them”.
As a stand-up comedian and comedy writer, I’ve had my share of negative reviews and rejection letters. John’s impetus is unmatched when it comes to writing (with nine books to his credit). I requested words of wisdom for the budding writers who are working their craft. “Keep giving them you until you is what they want. There is a way that you are funny that other people are not. You know what it is, you can exploit it and you will exploit it better the more your explore it and refine it. That’s your voice. And your voice is the part of you from which the comedy comes most naturally, where it flows most easily, where you have the most fun doing it. When you rear from your voice because the market demands something else, you put yourself in a situation where your writing is not organic, where you’re not being true to your own understanding of the world or what you think is funny; you’re trying to fit yourself into someone else’s box. And even if that works, it’s not going to work great, and it’s not going to ma
ke you happy.”
On August 25, Mr. Vorhaus will be in DC for a “Comic ToolBox Remix: New Tricks For Old Dogs” seminar. Attendees will learn techniques including how to create comedy characters, how to use story structure properly, and how to trust your inner voice. As an author who writes over 1,000 words on his scheduled writing days, he will also discuss ways to avoid writers’ block using creative problem solving.
Join in on the John Vorhaus Seminar “The Comic Toolbox Remixed: New Tricks for Old Dogs!” at Restaurant Judy’s: 2212 14th St. NW, DC on August 25,
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sign up at www.dccomedywriters.com. Keep tabs on John at www.radarenterprizes.com.