Laughter is the Best Medicine

Jokes are my superpower: Danny Zuker at TEDxManhattanBeach

hi today I'd like to talk to you about a book that changed my life and made me want to be a writer The Great Gatsby one of the great American novels arguably every sentence lyrical was not that book no the book that led me directly to the stage today the reason you're all here listening to me is this one dinosaurs and more dinosaurs it's a classic check it out I was a first grader in a New Jersey elementary school and our teacher would hold reading time we'd pair off pick a book off the shelf sit on the floor and take turns reading to each other I remember that day I was paired with my best friend Josh and I watched him grab the aforementioned dinosaurs and more dinosaurs off the shelf and he handed it to me and I remember looking at it and a smile formed on my face and I said to him dinosaurs and more dinosaurs wouldn't dinosaurs have been enough we laughed so hard at that that we disrupted the class our teacher came up to us and said what's going on and I repeated what I had said and then she laughed and I felt ten feet tall I didn't realize it at the time but I just written my first joke now it wasn't the best joke I'd ever write and sadly it wasn't the worst joke I've ever heard but it was a joke something I came up with made my friends and an adult laugh and this is not an exaggeration in that moment I felt like I'd been given a superpower and I needed a superpower I I know to look at me this is gonna come as a shock I was not an athletic kid it's not that funny but I quickly found out that I could make the kids who might otherwise bully me laugh and long before I pursued a career in comedy I discovered that a couple jokes sprinkled through a b-minus paper could turn it into an A the right jokes told at a school dance could make up for the fact that I'm a worse dancer than I am an athlete and uh jokes make the worst times my parents divorce my myriad heartbreaks and deaths of loved ones somehow more tolerable and uh you know if that's not a superpower I don't know what is I'm gonna tell you a little secret to don't tell anybody every one of you has this superpower – well not you using very serious but everybody else has this superpower here's what I mean you could go through an entire lifetime and never sing inkay you may never sketch a perfect likeness or be good with numbers but at some point you made someone in your life laugh intentionally falling off a chair spinning out soup this doesn't count we're talking about you intentionally made somebody laugh I want you to try and remember that moment you know it could have happened in a classroom it could have happened on a date or on a family vacation maybe we're sitting on the couch watching the news and you quipped you made some authors observation you told an anecdote and the person or people around you laughed in that moment your comedy writer honestly I were gonna show called Modern Family hold for applause thank you and we've built entire episodes over small little comedy moments like the ones you yourself created when you made that person when you made the people around you laughs it's my belief that we are an inherently funny species not as funny as ostriches because they're ridiculous but I think we're wired to be funny and some of us we get addicted to that rush and we become comedy writers or comedians others have healthy relationships with their fathers and don't but it's in all of us hold on my notes just went to sleep I'm using that it's comedy so today I'm going to challenge you to recall your comedy writer moment and I want you to pare it down to its bare essentials and turn it into a joke or better yet come up with a know your own joke you know I'm sure something's happened in the news or pop culture or maybe some small observation of your family it doesn't matter think of a joke I'm giving you a deadline you have one year to come up with it and when you do I'm gonna give you the opportunity to tell it to a couple hundred thousand people my to requirements is the joke must make me smile and it must be less than 140 characters long which brings me to Twitter Twitter is a comedy writers dream yes it's been very valuable in spreading democracy and keeping people informed during emergencies but I think history will show that its main value is to bring humanity together to make fun of the Kardashians but it really is a godsend for comedy writers it's gotten rid of the gatekeepers that have traditionally kept the writer from his audience I remember when I was starting out I wanted to be a writer on the David Letterman Show I was in it my New York apartment typing at all hours of the night jokes pages of pages of jokes and I'd send them to the head writer in hopes of getting read and I didn't get that job and I'm not bitter I'm really bitter but it was frustrating because I was playing to an audience of one with Twitter an aspiring writer can self publish a good joke writer I'm talking about somebody who tweets every day and is consistently funny will develop a following and I actually know about a dozen young comedy writers who've been hired strictly on the strength of the jokes they've written on Twitter and I resent every one of them for a working writer like myself it's helped me stay sharp uh I do view these little 140 character jokes as little math problems you know this this is my Sudoku and and disciplining myself to tweet every day has made me a stronger joke writer but that's really a rationalization because that's not the reason I tweet jokes I tweet jokes for the reason I'm going to encourage you to do it because when I write a good joke and I get that feedback from my followers I'm right back in my first grade class making my teacher laugh and I want you to have that and with a little practice you can like I follow a dentist in Detroit and a housewife in Houston and many other funny people with no further comedy aspirations they simply write jokes for the thrill of it so here's the assignment again one year I want if you don't have Twitter I want you to get Twitter and I want you to start following funny people simply in the search bar you're gonna see you can type in funny people or comedians or comedy writers read through their timelines and if they make you laugh follow them and follow me damn it where's my slide follow me there I am handsome devil and and get a feel for what a 140 character joke sounds like and feels like and then I want you to take a shot surely your husband has done something to annoy you this morning or you had your teacher has an annoying habit or someone in Hollywood or Washington has said something ridiculous I want you to take a shot and write a joke at first it will probably be terrible but that's okay give yourself permission to suck and then keep practicing and when you feel like you have a joke that might make me smile I want you to tweet it to me at Danny's uber with the hashtag TED joke and if it makes me smile I will retweet it to my minions and if it makes me laugh I will steal it because because who's gonna believe you ok I won't steal your joke but my goal is I want you to feel what I feel every time I write jokes and more jokes thank you

7 thoughts on “Jokes are my superpower: Danny Zuker at TEDxManhattanBeach

  1. This video is basically an advert for his Twitter feed. He may be funny, and he surely must pay his bills, but this is not worthy of "TED".

  2. i've always thought of it tha tway as well. Also, I can't believe I'm the first to comment on this! Of course, another fellow Jersey comedy guy. You can learn to draw and learn to play music and be great at it. Comedy is not like that. A sense of humor is powerful and wonderful, but doesn't mean you have what it takes to be a comedian or comedy writer. 

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