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Zainal Bostaman
June 2, 2017
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Does being funny make for a good comic?

It’s a great start. What’s best is if you’re naturally funny and willing to work on the craft.

For people who aren’t funny at all, is there hope?

Yes, it’s a skill. You’re not born with it. Honestly, I’ve never met a funny baby.

Ha! Can you walk us through the process of making a comedy set?

For me, it’s: Something funny happened. Share a funny thing. Friend didn’t laugh. Don’t tell that ever again. If friend laughs, that’s the starting point.

 

you’re naturally funny and willing to work on the craft.

What’s next?

Sit and write it in long form. I’m not trying to be funny; I wanna be detailed. Next, try it out with comedy-orientated friends for validation. Feedback builds up the joke. Then I place actual punchlines in it. Finally, I’ll test it out in public.

Where do you get that?

In Brunei, we have an open mic night for Comedy, Poetry and Storytelling, calling that Spoken Word. I record my performance and listen to it afterwards. Anything that gets belly laughs is a winner, so I’ll expand on that one, test it out, get feedback, rewrite, repeat.It’s a pretty tedious process.

And painful! You and your friend think it’s funny. Once onstage, nobody laughs. It’s the worst thing ever. Sometimes there’s that one giggle, and you get super excited. It’s a sympathy laugh but you’ll take it! From that sentence, you come up with another. Eventually you have a five-minute comedy set of all funny sentences.

 

you’re progressive if you can go deeper, working with things that look mundane or neutral.

You also do improv. Is the process the same?

Improv comedy is more team-based. You rely on your fellow players. You all go on stage, get prompts and do a scene. Hopefully it’ll be funny, but you never know. What makes it work?
There are basic rules. First, say yes. If someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, here’s a cake”, to say yes means like saying, “Oh, thank you”. You agree there’s a cake.
It takes imagination and being in tune with each other. Any other rules?

Make the other person look good. Otherwise, it quickly becomes a competition. But if you agree, everyone’s gonna look good and be better together.

 

Zainal-Bostaman-Bruhaha

Bruhaha event

The processes for improv and stand-up are quite different! You’re not alone and there’s no script. How do you prepare for a show?

We play the games and try to get on the same page with each other so when someone says something, you’ll know where the story’s leading towards. However, no act’s the same. One starting scenario can go down a million possible routes. For both comedy types, though, don’t take things personally cause that’s hard for the soul.

Gotcha. Lastly, what does being progressive mean to you?

In the context of comedy, being progressive means both moving forwards by pushing boundaries and taking a step back, respecting the known forms of comedy and revisiting them, to bring them back to today. Content-wise, you’re progressive if you can go deeper, working with things that look mundane or neutral. Traffic. Washing machines. I’ve yet to write a joke about washing machines. Another level is when you turn things that are naturally depressing, dark, and even tragic into comedic material. That’s looking at human nature and making it funny. Now you’ve progressed.

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