Welcome to Carrie Gravenson's website. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you laugh again. You seem emotionally unstable.

punchlineAs many of you know, doing stand-up comedy and being funny have sadly not a lot to do with each other.  If only being a successful stand-up were only about being a funny person — although being funny certainly helps.  Lawdy knows I'm still learning but I've come to understand that stand-up comedy is so much about presence, attitude and timing.  Think of all the funniest stand-ups and how you can't always explain why what they're saying is funny but it just is: that's presence. Sometimes, when I'm telling a funny story to my friends at a social gathering, I think to myself, "Wow, Carrie, everyone is laughing, perhaps this would make a good bit." — but this is a trap, because when you're telling a funny story to friends there are things at work that aren't at work when you're on stage.  Generally speaking:  1) On stage, you aren't bouncing off the funny things your friends say or ask.  2) The pressure is off to get a laugh; you're just telling a story.  3) There is no expectation of a punchline.

Ah, the punchline, my best friend and my mortal enemy.  Turning a funny story into a concise joke is an art form and often the hardest part of the being-on-stage element.  You have to say the joke out loud to hear where the funny parts are.  And sometimes the punchlines are formed through a conversation with a funny friend.

An example of a funny story with no punchline:

I love my stupid cheap watch — had it for years.  When the battery died, I went to get it replaced at the watch/shoe repair place.  The guy said it would be 10 minutes and $7 which seemed reasonable.  When he returned the watch, I could see that the second wasn't moving, so I said, "Um, it's still not working," and the guy didn't act surprised and took it back and "fixed" it again and handed it back to me a few minutes later.  This time, the second hand was painfully jerking in one spot. "Um… it's still not fixed" I said, confused.  On the watch face, the ONLY thing that moves wasn't moving.  Did he think I wouldn't notice that the ONLY thing that illustrates a working watch wasn't working?  That's all a watch does and he tried to Jedi mind trick me into seeing it work? What the hell?

Now, that's a [sort of] funny thing that happened. But it's not a joke.  It's a passing story about bad/weird customer service.  So, can I appeal to my friends to help me with the punchline? Possible ways to go:

1) Imagine if airline pilots tried this technique: "Here we are in sunny Hawaii.  Everybody off the plane."  Like you wouldn't notice you were still in Newark.
2) It's like, "Is my watch fixed?" [Jedi hand gesture] "You don't need a wrist watch."
3) It's like a waiter trying to convince you a glass of water is a steak dinner.  [Same basic joke as example 1]

I could potentially use all three of these.  Can any of you think of a better punchline?  Is story not worthy of the stage?  Does it take too long to get to the point?  More than a couple of sentences for a set-up is pretty dicey.  What do you guys think?

Also: can someone tell me if "punch line" is one word or two?  Even Wikipedia switches back and forth in the same article.

It's happening.

Happy New Year!