If Kafka Tried His Hand at Standup

Posted on 25 March 2014

Once in awhile I get people who want to know how to make money writing jokes who have never wandered in front of an open mic. They tend to think they are uproariously funny, just ask their family. Worse are the academics who get the occasional laugh from their students.

This is not to say that these people couldn’t develop into fine comedians, but they often think they are already fully formed. I tell them to spend some time in front of an open mic or festival audience, and get some experience. I snagged my job writing for an animation company precisely because I had done standup.

People respect when you have developed your skills through trial and error in front of real audiences. This of course exposes you to failure, repeated failure in fact. That’s part of the process. And even when you have honed your skills to a fine point, you will still get the odd audience who doesn’t jibe with your humour and absolutely no one is at fault. Poor matches happen now and again. If you want to do comedy, you can’t hide…you can only keep at it.

Kafka’s Joke Book by John McNamee is a sort of anti-metahumour. I read it and think, “I can believe Kafka would do that.” I’ve run up against too many people like that to not find this a side-splitting pastiche. Kafka would probably think he was being pretty funny too. Oh dear.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

It had been crossing so long it could not remember. As it stopped in the middle to look back, a car sped by, spinning it around. Disoriented, the chicken realized it could no longer tell which way it was going. It stands there still.

Kafka’s Joke Book at McSweeney’s.

Peace and kindness,


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