The Guardian newspaper are running some articles about comedy and comedy writing next month. They asked me to write something for them, so here's my "Write A Joke In 10 Steps" guide...
WRITE A JOKE IN 10 STEPS
1. Choose your subject (EG vacuous celebrity culture)
2. Define your attitude. How does the subject make you feel? Happy? Sad? Angry? A passionate point of view makes a joke stronger.
3. Write as much as you can about your chosen subject. Use similes, oxymorons, clichés, proverbs, double entendres, whatever you want.
Make lists of people, places and things associated with the subject. (EG Jordan, Kerry Katona, Big Brother, Paris Hilton, Heat magazine, BBC3, Lily Allen, Pete Doherty, her with the rats maze hairdo and tattoos, Heather Mills buying a shoe.)
4. Cast your eye over what you've written and the funniest bits will stick out. That's the bits we want.
5. Edit, edit, edit. Cut away as much as possible. Your mildly amusing two-page story can become a fantastic one-line joke.
6. Misdirection. Inflate the balloon. Lead the audience as far away from the joke as you can.
"Me and my friend Allison have been invited to a fancy dress party…"(*)
…We're going as Paris Hilton and Jodi Marsh."
7. Time for a PAUSE. What you don't say is just as important. The audience thinks quicker than you can speak so let them do their work. Let them conjure up their own pictures of a fancy dress party.
8. Quickly spin them in the opposite direction and burst the balloon.
"I'm getting a lobotomy and Allison is having her vagina widened."
9. Listen to the audience. Audiences will help you write the joke.
Originally Allison and I were going to be "John Leslie and Ulrika Jonsonn", then we were going to be "Lembit Opik and Abi Titmuss", it was the British public who, after much trial and error, chose "Paris Hilton and Jodi Marsh".
(*) I'm aware that it should be "My friend Allison and I…" but (10) jokes don't obey no rules of English grammar, baby.
PS Always put the punchline at the end, don't laugh at your own jokes, don't get them wet, keep them out of strong sunlight and never feed them after midnight.
Go to The Stand or phone they direct: 0131 558 7272
This is what they have to say about my show:
"The minute Jo Caulfield hits the stage you know you're in for a good time. She's sharp-witted, delightfully bitchy and according to The Scotsman 'incapable of doing a bad show'. Oh and as an extra bonus Jo promises to write 5 minutes of new material each day about Scotland and/or Scottish history for her forthcoming Radio 4 series.
One of the most successful female comics in the country and star of her own Radio 4 series, Jo Caulfield is a classical comedian, simply holding forth on whatever subjects vex her.
And this year Jo has a lot of subjects to go through!
Badly behaved children, 'loved-up' couples, greedy property developers, drunken babysitters, geeky autograph collectors, mirrored bathrooms, institutionalised sexism and senior citizens who expose their genitals in Stirling will all feel the brunt of Jo's acerbic tongue.
There'll also be a warning about internet friendships, the Great Wall of China will get a good kicking and Jo will give advice on what you should do if you ever have a job interview with Sir Alan Sugar.
That sounds like a serious amount of comedy and gives a big clue as to why Jo's Edinburgh Festival shows have become such legendary sell-outs.
For the last 7 years Jo's mixture of cutthroat wit and wildly accurate observations has brought Festival audiences to their knees with laughter. And no matter who's in the room, they soon find themselves caught up in Jo Caulfield's world - whether talking about her Irish Catholic mother or bitching about various celebrities.
Jo's 2007 Edinburgh Fringe show Jo Caulfield Goes To Hell at The Assembly Ballroom garnered rave reviews and sell-out crowds.
Please note: The show is not suitable for children. They've got to be 16+ and accompanied by an over 18."
I'm really looking forward to this years Festival. I've been working through new material most nights and I'm confident this is going to be my best show yet.
It's coming together quite strongly.
I'm calling it 'Jo Caulfield : Two-Faced Bitch?' The basic premise is every review I've had this year mentions the world "Bitchy"... The Guardian calls me “wonderfully sharp and bitchy”, The Observer thinks I'm “feisty, funny and wickedly bitchy”, even the Radio Times said “Jo Caulfield has a great mix of observational humour and hilarious rants on life’s irritations... She is scathing, bitchy and intelligent with masses of attitude.”
The thing is – I don’t agree with those reviews.
I don't think I'm in the slightest bit “bitchy”.
I think I'm just saying what other people secretly think.
In 'Jo Caulfield : Two-Faced Bitch?' I’ll be telling the audience some of the things that happened to me this year – (getting thrown out of a major department store, dealing with a greedy property developer, punching my nextdoor neighbour, meeting my best friends new partner) - and how I handled the situations (badly!). At the end of the show I’ll take a vote and let the audience decide whether I acted "bitchy" or not.
If they think I did - I'll pay a forfeit.
Mind you, the show is still developing so don't hold me to it. I'll tell you more about it nearer the time.
I think my tickets go on sale next week - from 9th June (?)
You can book them through the Fringe Office or you can contact the The Stand direct - why not do that? Why not phone The Stand (0131 558 7272), order your tickets and have a chat with Eva or Nicky or Christine? They're all friendly people.
Anybody else doing a show this year? Let me know who I can go drinking with.
You might have seen me on one of these shows recently?
The first one, “The Most Annoying Pop Moments” is billed as “…a light-hearted countdown of those memorable moments in pop that have annoyed and enthralled us in equal measure”.
While the second one, “The Most Annoying TV… We Love To Hate” is billed as “…a light-hearted countdown of those memorable moments in television that have annoyed and enthralled us in equal measure”.
So I got this email this week…
“Dear Jo, think your fab but why do you appear on all them rent-a-gob 100 Best/Worst/Most Annoying People type shows. You should have you’re own show”
Okay – a couple of things.
Number 1 – That’s not how you spell ‘YOUR’.
Number 2 – I actually enjoy doing those ‘most annoying’ list shows because I like the exercise of writing jokes on subjects I wouldn’t usually tackle in my live shows, and I like giving my opinion.
YOU try giving YOUR opinions, unprompted, about Elton John to the ladies in Waitrose Supermarket and they’ll look at you like your mad! Well that’s what they did to me. The first time. Now they just ignore me.
Of course some people say there’s too many of these type of shows around and they should all be scrapped to free up more TV space for Russell Brand or Nigella Lawson… Mmmmm. Yes.
Anyway I was watching myself on The Most Annoying Pop Moments the other night (because I have nothing better to do with my life) when I realised they’d cut out my profound insights on Elton John.
1) If Lady Diana had lived, Elton John’s career would have died.
2) Show me someone who can name Elton John’s last 5 singles (or his last 2 albums) and I’ll show you someone who knows an awful lot of information about bland, meaningless, insipid music.
Not really profound insights, more a long post just to tell you how much I loathe Elton John.
And now my Top 10 favourite numbers between 1 and 10:
At number ten – 10 At number nine – 9 At number eight – 8 At number seven – 6 At number six – 5 At number five – 3 At number four – 4 At number three – 7 At number two – 1 And at number one – 2.
My friend Simon sent me a Christian wristband. He did it for a joke I hasten to add. He’s not religious. Or mental. Anyway it’s a bright yellow plastic wristband with ‘What would JC do?” embossed on it. Do you get it? JC = Jesus Christ. But it could also mean Jo Caulfield.
Look, I never said it was a funny joke! I mean, Simon’s not a professional comedian or anything. He works in telesales.
Anyway it got me thinking about a couple of Biblical stories and how I would have handled them. What would THIS JC do?
Lets take the feeding of the 5 thousand with the loaves and the fishes. Basically, a lot of people come round unexpectedly and Jesus gave them bread and fish. That’s just sardines on toast isn’t it? That’s a bit shabby. A bit council estate.
So what would THIS JC do?
Well, first off I’ve got to say I don’t think much of HIS planning. I always keep an extra pizza in my freezer for occasions such as this.
Or I might give my unexpected visitors the bread and fish but I’d do them with herbs – some lemon and dill. Or maybe rub Cajun seasoning on both sides of the fish and grill until cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Mash up an avocado and some mayonnaise in a small bowl, and then assemble as sandwiches. Spread the avocado mixture on the bottom half of each roll. Top with the fish, arugula, tomato and onion.
And put out some olives. People love olives.
Now the other miracle people love speaking about is the whole ‘turning water in to wine’ routine. HE’S at a party, they run out of alcohol - what does JC do? HE turns the water into wine.
Not bad but what would THIS JC do?
Well, I wouldn’t piss about with wine. I turn the water into a huge crate of Bacardi Breezers – that’s a party! That’s what the people want! Rum-based alcopops! Apple, orange, pineapple, watermelon, cranberry … and all 5% proof. That’s a party.
He’s over at his side of the room with the wine and fish and bread…
I’m over at my side with the mango flavoured Bacardi Breezers, the seasoned fish on ciabatta bread, a bowl of olives – be honest, who do you think is going to pick up the most disciples?
This happened about two weeks ago; it crystallises a problem I so often come across as a female comic.
I was asked if I wanted to take part in an advert to launch ‘The National Year of Reading’. It’s a campaign run jointly by The National Literacy Trust and the Government to encourage people in Britain to read more. How could anyone not want to encourage people to read more?
They were making a short funny film with various comedians. The concept was a game of consequences. Each comic would read one line from a different publication that would then be put together to make up a story.
I didn’t receive the script till the night before filming. I scanned down the page, Omid Djalili reading something funny, Sean Lock being funny on a bus, Ben Miller reading something straight in a funny context, all was making perfect sense – comedians and funny people being funny.
Then, I saw my part.
“Jo Caulfield reads from Emanuelle. She is filmed recreating the Julie Christy book cover.”
Basically I was to read some soft porn while reclining half naked on a wicker chair.
I re-read it.
I looked up the cover of the book on Amazon……yes it’s Julie Christie half naked on a wicker chair. I couldn’t believe it. Am I missing the joke or was this completely sexist?
Maybe the idea is I’m SO unattractive that me trying to look sexy in a camisole will be hilarious. In which case I thought – Fuck right off!
Or maybe it’s got nothing to do with looks, maybe it’s because I’m female that’s all they could think of.
Unfortunately that’s more likely the case – the people making the film didn’t see me as a comedian. They’d obviously thought – she’s a woman….what do women have to offer? Oh yes….sex.
And what an idiot I’d look, selling myself as cute and sexy. Sitting there with my tits half out –“Yeah readings good, and I’m reading soft porn, cause it’s not too difficult and that’s what us girlies do when we’re not baking cakes”.
So I phone my agent and tell them to warn the film crew that I won’t do this. If they want to cancel me I will quite understand.
Next morning I arrive for the filming and as a flesh coloured Basque is handed to me I realise they’re still under the assumption I’m going to do this.
Anyway I tell the director I’m not comfortable with the idea but am very happy to read from something else. I said what self respecting female comic is going to be seen in public in a Basque?
There’s a lot of whispering and looking at me sideways. I’m beginning to doubt myself but then the thought of seeing myself on National Television as some sort of literary Jordan strengthens my resolve.
Myleene Klass! That’s who they should have asked to do this. She likes to wear a bikini while reading.
In the end they ask if I’ll read from Jane Eyre. They asked me this in a soft voice. In fact everyone spoke to me in a soft voice for the rest of the day.
Aha! I realised I’d gone from being a feminist fighting for her dignity to a ranting diva causing trouble in the space of one conversation.
My part is now the polar opposite. I have my hair scraped back in a bun, barely any make-up and a blouse done right up to the neck! If you see the ad on TV I’m the Amish lady reading from Jane Eyre.
Anyway here are tonight’s lottery numbers…
Number (1) My cousin put some Security software on his laptop.It didn’t work.He was crossing a road and got hit by a bus.
Number (2) Have you seen Holiday Inn’s new advertising campaign? You get your choice of 5 different pillow types: soft, firm, non-allergenic, eiderdown, or duck feathers. Travel Lodge have quickly followed suit but they only give the choice of 2 pillows: stained with semen or stained with blood.
Number (3) Knock-knock. Who's there? Interrupting two-faced bitch. Interrupting two-faced bi-- Get on with it!
Number (4) On my birthday my husband said he had a big surprise for me – he said he’d booked a table for 8 o’clock. I was surprised right enough – I’ve never played snooker before.
And tonight’s Power Ball is… Knock-knock. Who’s there? Suicide bomber. Suicide bom-- Bang!!
I found this old Q & A thing I did with GaydarNation.com. If you've never been to Comedy Camp you should go. Its a great club. I've been doing a set there every Tuesday for the last 4 weeks (don't let that put you off). Building up new material for the Edinburgh Festival. I'll write something about that next week...
GaydarNation Q & A Top circuit comedian and Graham Norton script writer Jo Caulfield ("Quite simply one of the funniest women anywhere on the worldwide comedy circuit" Evening Standard) heads the bill at London`s award-winning Comedy Camp this Tuesday. More from Jo below.
JO CAULFIELD Q and A
Which character on EastEnders do you most identity with? Dot Cotton - Cigarettes and Jesus have helped me through life’s difficult times.
Why do you like performing at Comedy Camp? It always has a really happy, lively atmosphere and they appreciate a comedian who is well accessorised. Mainly it’s that the audience understand jokes and references that other audiences don’t. At Comedy Camp you can never be too rude or too vicious, so I’m very at home.
What`s the worst job you’ve had? Entertaining in an old peoples home. One woman kept taking off her stockings and asking me to dress her and the rest of them just heckled me - "Rose’s only got one lung and she sings better than you." They were old and vicious - exactly how I want to be when I’m 80.
A fantasy date would include.....? Lots of free gifts.
The best thing about stand up comedy is? You don’t have a boss and you don’t have to get up in the morning.
What`s your best feature? I like the fact that I’m tall, it shows I’ve made an effort - small people are very lazy.
Do you have a party trick? Does vomiting in your handbag count?
Your duvet cover is? So lovely. I love my bed, I am obsessed with getting sleep, and I never think I’ve had enough sleep. Sometimes I think it would be nice to be in prison as you get to go to bed really early.
Hecklers are.....? Usually ugly and badly dressed.
Who was your first celebrity crush? The Dad in Little House On The Prairie, Jim Bob in The Waltons and Doris Day in Calamity Jane - I had a whole Western / Christian / lesbian thing going on.
First snog? Mark Boggis - I thought it was very odd that he put his tongue in my mouth.
Are you a good flirt? No, because I talk too much and straight men like you to listen to them - but I’m much more interesting.
Who would you do on `Stars In Their Eyes`? Celine Dion because I can`t sing either. My real fantasy would be to be Rita Hayworth in Gilda singing, " Put the blame on Mame". Younger readers can - well don’t be so young!
What is your favourite tipple? GIN. Also, champagne, beer, red or white wine. The only things I don’t like are vodka and hot chocolate.
What do you sleep in? A drunken stupor.
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it saw a fabulous chicken shoe shop on the other side.
What`s the best piece of advice that your mother gave you? A good coat can hide a multitude of sins and never let a man sit too long.
Best one-liner? Come and see me, then you can pick your own to take away and keep.
Gay audiences are…? …fantastic because they are always clean and smell nice.
Describe yourself in three words. Very, very lovely.
For all the latest information and to book tickets to this great night out – pop over to the Comedy Camp website.
Comedy Camp Downstairs at Barcode 3-4 Archer Street London, W1 Information: 020 7483 2960
Tickets cost £6 for members (or £8 including membership) and doors open at 7.30pm every week, with the show at 8.30pm. Bookings (recommended) can be made at www.comedycamp.co.uk or from TicketWeb on 08 700 600 100 (national rate number) - - a small booking fee applies.
Jo Caulfield is one of the most successful and instantly recognisable comedians in the UK.
Jo has been nominated as "Funniest Woman" (LAFTA Awards), "Best Female Stand-Up" (Chortle Awards) and one of "The 100 Greatest Stand-Ups" (Channel4).
The Guardian calls her “Scathing, bitchy and intelligent with masses of attitude", while The Observer advocates "Jo Caulfield is an inspiration to all would-be female comedians".
A regular guest on "Mock The Week", “Have I Got News For You” and “Never Mind The Buzzcocks”, Jo is also the star of her own critically acclaimed Radio 4 comedy show “It’s That Jo Caulfield Again”.
“Many of the points Jo Caulfield makes about the human condition would have sociologists stroking their beards in admiration, but her audiences tend to be laughing too much to notice” – The Times.
“Pick of the day. Scathing, bitchy and sharp-witted comedy” – Radio Times.