Laughter is the Best Medicine

How Louis CK Makes Everything Funny

Louis C.K. is one of the most respected comedians in the world and part of it is because he seemed so effortlessly funny. There’s no big action like with Jim Carrey or Robin Williams — no elaborately clever setups — just simple truths that make audiences crack up. …kids are mean and it’s because they’re trying it out. They look at a kid and they go, “You’re fat,” and then they see the kid’s face scrunch up and they go, “Ooh, that doesn’t feel good to make person do that,” but they got to start with doing the mean thing. But when they write, “You’re fat,” then they just go, “Mmm, that was fun. I like that.” (Conan and audience laughing) But it’s not that simple because while the truth can make for great art, it isn’t always funny. Louis, though, has developed a way of delivering his stories and jokes in packages that are very different from what most of us do and because of that, he’s able to create hilarious moments from everyday commentary. So today, we’re going to explore three of Louis’ most common techniques that are going to allow you to make just about anything that you say funnier. For instance, one of the most basic yet difficult things that Louis does is to nail his timing and that means, specifically, that after his jokes, he leaves a beat for people to laugh. Check it out in this next clip. Yeah, google pearl necklace, you’ll see a bunch of pearl necklaces and… what this joke mean. This might seem like a small thing but it is absolutely critical because unless a joke is hilarious, people will need dead air space that ques them to laugh. And using this space often allows Louis to get double from his punchlines meaning that first, he leaves that space before punchline and he gets a laugh and then again, he finishes his point and people laugh. So take a look at this next clip and you’ll notice that the first laugh comes as Louis pauses and the second one comes when he actually says the punchline that people were anticipating. …and then the kid from the other— he took another— his other hand had a paper bag and he put the glue in and he (Louis huffs)… and he huffed it… and his eyes rolled back… and he got high… and then the group kept going and I couldn’t believe what I just saw that the misery in this country at that time was so calculable and so predictable that this guy thought, “My shoe’s broken… oh, there’s a child,” he’s sort of have some glue in his hand… So you can see that silence is a very important ingredient to humor. The problem is that many beginning comedians, and maybe even yourself, typically try to fill any silence that they hear because they think that they’re bombing — that people do not like their jokes — and unfortunately, this is exactly the opposite of what they ought to do. For an example of how over-talking can actually hurt your sense of humor, watch this earlier clip of Louis C.K. — he’s doing stand-up and he blazes through a number of punchlines which could be funny but don’t get much reaction because they don’t have a chance to hit without a moment of silence. I’m doing okay and actually I just got over the flu which is kind of crappy but a the worst part is that I smoke and I think it’s one of the stupidest to feel about being a smoker is when you’re sick and you still smoke, you know, no matter how sick you are. I mean you can wake up in the morning you’re coughing up little furry animals, you know, you’re coughing up tickets to the Ice Capades but you’re really in bad shape and first thing you reach for is a cigarette, (sound of huffing a cigarette then coughing) “Jesus.” And you finish it. You force yourself to smoke all day long no matter how much it hurt. And in case you’re wondering, even comedians that are well-known for being fast talkers purposely leave space for the audience to catch up and laugh. Check out this clip of George Carlin and notice how the audience is quiet when he’s speaking but catches up and laughs when he stops. I’m a non-believer and an overachiever, laid back but fashion-forward, upfront down-home low-rent high-maintenance, super-sized long-lasting high definition fast-acting oven-ready and built to last. I’m a hands-on Footloose knee-jerk head case, prematurely post-traumatic and I have a love child who sends me hate mail. (audience laughing) I say all of this to make one major point — a critical component of humor is leaving space for people to get the joke. And in a group of friends, that means that you can come across as funnier if you just stop speaking after you’ve cracked a joke. But of course this feels like it can backfire because you might hear crickets and an awkward silence if the joke doesn’t go over well. So to avoid this you, need to combine that short bit of silence, usually only as long as it takes to take one breath, with another technique. And this is a technique that Louis uses all the time. It turns dead jokes into riots and it’s the repeat punch line like this — …and the joke was that the basic premise was that I think we don’t keep… we don’t need to keep making porn — there’s enough porn… So this is the first punch line and the one that Louis is going to riff on — “We have too much porn.” The first time, it gets only a few chuckles in the audience but watch how Louis expanding on that punch line will get more laughs each time. …so much porn. If we stop no one would, like, run out. No one’s going to see it all and go, “What else?” It’s not like Harry Potter, like, “But then what?” (Jimmy and audience laughing) So the lesson here is, yes, to give a slight bit of silence and not crowd the end of your jokes but also, don’t abandon your jokes prematurely. Sometimes, when you get a small laugh, all you need to do is have more absurdity or descriptiveness in a repeat punchline to make people crack up. And while this technique can save jokes that are dying, it’s especially powerful on jokes that are already working. Watch how often Louis loves to repeat these punch lines when jokes are just killing it — typically, he does it in groups of three. (Louis sniffs then sings) …and in about ten seconds, everything just… (descending tone) (descending tone) And I’m like, “Oh, shit.” (audience laughing) “This is an ordeal now.” (audience laughing) “I’m not going to feel okay for a very long time.” (audience laughing) …women try to compete and they’re like, “Well, I’m a pervert. You don’t know?” (audience laughing) “I have really sick sexual thoughts. No, you have no idea.” “You have no idea.” “Because you get to have those thoughts — I have to have them.” (audience laughing) “You’re a… you’re a tourist in sexual perversion — I’m a prisoner there.” (audience laughing) “You’re Jane Fonda on a tank — I’m John McCain in the hut. It’s a nightmare.” “I can’t… I can’t lift my arms.” The rule of three is so strong that the audience has come to recognize it to the degree that they even begin to clap as soon as Louis hits his third and most specific elaboration on the punchline. They know that that’s the big one. And if you take this into your own life, you can repeat your own punchlines or build on punchlines that your friends have said which typically makes them feel good and we talk about that more in another video which I will link to in the description so if you want to check that out, click the button the top right or the description. Anyway, main idea here is that repeating a punchline in more absurd terms is a great way to milk the humor in any situation and instantly become funnier because you don’t need new material — just more of what’s working. But there is one last piece that is worth mentioning from Louis because it allows him to get as much from his punchlines as possible and it’s that he doesn’t just tell the punchline, he shows it like in these clips. …sometimes, I’m like sitting in an airport or wherever and I remember that moment and I go… (startled sound) …it’s me feeling upset and I look at things that I know we’re gonna upset me. You know? I guess I just like the hit from going, “Ugh.” (audience laughing) Like I’ll go on my computer and I’ll google an image that I don’t want to see so then I see a whole wall of it… you know, like, big dicks with nails in them… “Ah!” (audience laughing) “Ah!” (audience laughing) “Ugh!” So you can see in those clips that Louis is physically embodying the joke but also, when he’s speaking, he will take you into the present text so rather than summarizing what someone said or what he said, he shows you, in real time, exactly as it was. I don’t if you’ve ever called 911 and you don’t realize until they answer how you shouldn’t be calling 911. “911. Tell us your emergency.” “I-I’m sorry… very sorry to be bothering you. This doesn’t qualify.” “Sir, what’s the problem?” I said, “There’s bat in my house.” (audience laughing) “And I don’t like it.” It’s worth mentioning that Louis isn’t much of a physical comedian but these tiny bits of acting, of showing a physical reaction, or acting out a scene push many of its bits over the edge into hilarious and it’s something that we can all do. So when you’re taking a humorous angle, don’t simply say, “I told her that she was crazy.” Show people. Say it in the tone that you said it. Make the face that you did at the time and act it out with your hands and body. You’ll be surprised by how much more humorous this makes every joke you tell and every story. Now, clearly, Louis is doing much more than this — all of his bits are well-practiced even in interviews. But here’s a quick recap of three very simple things that you can do right now to make all of your jokes and stories funnier. First, don’t crowd the funny pieces. Give them a bit of breathing room and the time that it takes to take a breath is usually enough space. Second, after that breath, add on to the joke whether it’s funny or it’s not. Keep pushing it in terms of descriptiveness and absurdity and usually, the third time that you do that will be the funniest. And lastly, act out your jokes. We’ve covered this before but Louis C.K. is rather special here because he acts out jokes in the way that would be appropriate in any context. So speak as the character in the joke would speak, use your hands, show physical reactions like the shaking rather than just describing them and you’re going to get more laughs. So, if you like this video and you want more, check out our videos on first impressions. This video covers four emotions that are going to help you make a great first impression on anyone and one of those emotions is covered in this video but the other three are not. So if you want to know what those are in order to just be consistent in making people like you and want to see you again after a first meeting, click the button here or in the description, drop your email on the next page and you’ll get access to that video right now. If you want more videos like this, make sure to click the subscribe button. I’m getting back to uploading once a week, I’ve been a little bit off but if you subscribe, you’re going to keep this stuff top of mind and that’s really how it becomes a habit. So I hope you click subscribe now, click that notification button to watch along and of course, to practice along in your real life. If you have any suggestions of video topics, please let me know in the comments. In honor of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, I’m thinking of doing one on Chris Pratt who I think is hilarious but if you have something better, definitely let me know and I can add that to the end of the list or even do it before. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this video and I will see you in the next one.

100 thoughts on “How Louis CK Makes Everything Funny

  1. George Carlin is the greatest. And woke as fuck too, and not in the cringe-y use of the word

  2. This man Louie CK has been funny, but he also says things that are sick and disgusting AS IF he is poking fun at life, well people don't live like that and the thought of it is not funny. A warped mind is not a funny mind and I think his humor of late reflects this in an attempt to reduce the seriousness about people who behave like he does, or did, whatever.

  3. Hey! Louis fan have you noticed that there are many jokes which are inspired by Dave Chappelle e.g., "911 joke", and " how a woman tell a story" is it right?

  4. I've found humor to be impossible in group settings. Usually people don't realize you're setting up a joke, and they'll interrupt you in the middle of a sentence thinking you're finished, and that completely destroys your cadence.

  5. If I were Louis C.K. I would claim that my entire career was based on minimalism, the absolute minimum amount of observation that I can relate and still get a laugh, The kind of thing people say to each other in the car or walking into work. Turn "Huh!" into laughs.

    I mean that would peg him as a genius of sorts even if it means that public taste has dropped to rock bottom. Because if he isn't that clever, then his "jokes" just suck.

    This reminds me of something I wrote for Amazon about JJ Abrams, just after LOST 's conclusion, being an idiot or a genius and if he dropped dead right then we could figure out which – whether he was trying to make a point about "belief" and how it steers peoples lives into false conclusions, or whether he just didn't understand what people mean by "belief" and wrote a bunch of shit about people doing stupid crap for dumb reasons. There was evidence between LOST and PROMETHEUS to indicate the former but I'm pretty sure of the latter…

  6. Wow, these jokes have NOT aged well.

    …kind of like after Kevin Spacey got accused and you remembered his love interest in American Beauty was a child…

  7. The #1 way to make something never funny again…explain why it’s funny in a video no one asked for…dude…STOP

  8. Am I the only one who never found Louie CK that funny to begin with? It felt like he was just stating facts – especially when he does bits about his kids

  9. I love louis CK's jokes and the guy seems awesome but the opening line… "louis CK is one of the most respected comedians in the world" lol not anymore post his sexual misconduct stuff. But I hope the guy makes a come back because he is seriously a great comedian

  10. Charisma on command: Here is what makes Louis CK funny

    Me: Oh wow, this did not age well.

    Just kidding. Wanking or not, the dude is funny AF

  11. Could you do a video on bill burr? He has my type of humour and I would love to get better at it. 🙂

  12. Could you do a video on Michael McIntyre? I don’t know how big he is in America (I’m not aware of any yours he did there which I know of) but in the uk he is the biggest comedian over there

  13. you could be telling the worlds greatest joke but if you happen to be talking to jimmy fallon, his fake fucking laugh can ruin the joke and he will make it cringe.

  14. You need to do a breakdown of Bill Burr. His humor is funny and makes me laugh without me knowing how

  15. Hey man I just wanna let you know I appreciate everything you do. Your channel is solid and very informative. I spend a lot of time studying psychology and human evolution through people like Jordan Peterson and Rhonda Patrick and James Marshall. For you to be named in that list is a huge honor in anyone's standards so keep doing what you're doing. And I'll keep learning

  16. These are 3 little points that yeah, do somewhat contribute to his performance, but I think they fall short of describing the main reasons he's so brilliantly funny, which revolve around (1) him simply being funny, a real genius; and (2) his style and performance – but no the things mentioned in the video. For example the way he'll always say the thing you'd least expect (that falls under both categories).

  17. Would love for you guys to do a study on norm Macdonald. He breaks all of your rules on charisma and charm, but does well in the right audience. Maybe it's a lesson in not caring.

  18. one tip to be humorous, drama queen, to visualize the whole scene and how you react to things. Add space for people to laugh after a joke. After the break, add on a joke. Acts out joke, use physical reaction like shaking.

  19. This is one of my favorites!! As someone who's working on becoming a stand-up comedian… This is TERRIFIC info!!

  20. same with music. repetition is everything. too bad for us. getting things "right" is a mistake. i prefer the journey to the plateau. that's the problem with all comics. they can't grow past success like a musician or writer can. they have one note to play always and forever once they reach success. best of all is not being a pro musician. you have absolute creative freedom, and isn't that what life is for? variety. i prefer a wild garden to a tended one any day. just sayin'. maybe we should all just lighten up? this "system" of living is a bit scary to me, a bit fascist.

  21. Love your videos, but I feel this one misses the mark. These are common techniques any decent comedian uses. What makes Louis CK brilliant is way more complex than this.

  22. Why are people mentioning me too? When it comes down to it, Louie will forever be funny and most people would agree that he is one of the best comedians in history, regardless of your opinion on the me too situation.

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