Am I some kind of comedian?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Pull-Back-And-Reveal Gag

How very tiresome, and yet effective.

The pull-back-and-reveal gag is very simple to do. A classic example is the fist of fun 'and then I got off the bus...' gag. You create a little vignette of depravity, and then you place that in a situation where it is shocking.

'I woke up this morning, had a wank and a poo.

Then I got off the bus...'

'My parents were unsupportive, I remember being told you're a bloody poof you, you even stand and talk like a poof.

That's a very cruel thing to say... Mum'

Do you see what he did there?

When I was at a gig on monday in manchester, I was shocked to find that all the comedians that were manchester based, had exactly the same style. A bit of banter with the audience, take the mickey out of the drunk girl who had already been set up by the MC, then a series of pull-back-and-reveal gags. Rinse, repeat.

I have a couple myself, but I don't rely on them throughout. Maybe I am being a comedy snob, but I find the writing process so hard, it really gets my goat when people just keep using short cuts.

Maybe I shouldn't be so anal about it all. This is my resolution for the week, to have no fear about doing whatever it takes to get a laugh.

So, come to the dog and parrot next week to see me doing racist gags that bernard manning wrote in the 60's, and if all else fails, yelling cunt at the top of my voice and wearing a WWI flying helmet.


  • The pull-back and reveal gag can be more subtle than that:

    "I hate it when you start a new job and they force you to make the coffee. I've been at my new place for 10 weeks and I'm still doing it. Bloody Starbucks."

    Part of the art of such a joke is not giving away the one fact which makes the surprise, and it can be nice to bait an audience and then, at the last minute, change direction on them.

    However, it's not surprising that Manchester, with its fairly incestous comedy scene, is both generating tons of new acts and also generating an archetypical style that all of them seem to fall into. The same can be said to some extent for London and Scotland - anywhere where there's a strong comedy scene and comedic identity. If you can take from these scenes something which you do like and incorporate it into your act/persona, without becoming a slave to the fashion, then you will have appeal in these places, but will also have a greater breadth (or depth, or some dimension or other).

    Here's another formula gag style. The rule of three. You list three properties of something, the third of which is a surprise. For example:

    "I love my landlady. She's generous, kind, and a racist!"

    Same surprise ending, but more punch.

    The rule of three also applies to any joke:

    Setup, elucidation, punchline

    and can also be applied to things where you have multiple possible punchlines for something - three is usually the most you can get away with.

    But if there were a general formula for comedy, that wouldn't be funny.

    By Blogger Ashley Frieze, at 13/9/06 03:07  

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