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Comedian Johnny Steele Explains How To Do Funny

San Francisco-based Comedian Johnny Steele, talks about learning to do funny. Steele is a co-star in 3 Still Standing, a documentary about three down-and-out stand up comics trying to make a comeback.

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"Then you personalize it, my family, my parents, they live out in Pittsburgh, they're so cheap, but they have every light on in the house, I mean, they have a light that's so bright, they turn it on and three wise men appeared at the door."

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Photo Credits : (GettyImages)
Ethan Miller Scott Gries Bryan Bedder David Silverman John Moore
TRANSCRIPT This transcript was generated by AudioBurst technologies

So, walk me through this, so you've got a gig coming up, Johnny Steele, come to my birthday party and perform. - Oh heavens. - What are you going to do, how do you prepare for that? What kind of jokes do you do, what do you do? - You know, I have them send me as much material as possible, that's another thing, you can't create jokes, you can't build a house out of nothing, you need all sorts of materials, the same is true of comedy, when I'm going to write for somebody or if I'm going to host an event, I need to know everybody's who's going to be speaking, who's giving out awards, I need to know what the event is for, and then I can just put, I put all that on a piece of paper, and it's kind of hard to describe on the radio but let's just take a topic maybe, let's just say, a great guy named Jose Simon, he was a San Francisco, well a founder of the San Francisco comedy scene along with Robin Williams, and Dana Carvey and Michael Pritchard and a bunch of others, he  taught me years ago a couple of different ways, and one way is, he would bring a lamp and put it in the room, and he would say, anybody, can anybody write a joke about a lamp, and I can write a joke about a lamp, and he would say ah, here's the first thing, pick a characteristic of the lamp, you have to focus, you have to rein it in, so people said, oh, it's ugly, oh, it's tall, it looks like it's from the 70s, and he turned it on, and it had a very bright light bulb, and someone said, it's very bright, let's go with brightness, so he writes brightness on a chalkboard, and then he draws all these lines off it, you know the sort of idea map thing, and he says, yell out things that you associate with brightness, the sun, the moon, an explosion, a nuclear explosion, okay, so then he starts doing circles there, and then you take say a star, and then what do you associate with the star, and then people say, NASA, spaceships, the birth of Christ bible story, okay, let's take that, the lamp was so bright we turned it on, it looked like the star of David, or whatever, no that's not right. - the star of Bethlehem. - The star of Bethlehem, well that's not funny, so you keep tweaking it. -That's not funny. - Then you personalize it, my family, my parents, they live out in Pittsburgh, they're so cheap, but they have every light on in the house, I mean, they have a light that's so bright, they turn it on and three wise men appeared at the door. So you skip a step, - And that's funny! - Because you skip a step, you pulled a step out, you exaggerated it even more, you pulled a step out and the step was, you don't say it looked like the star of Bethlehem, you pull that out, then you go one step further, make people act it out, see there I'm talking to the audience directly, as me Johnny Steele, then act it out, then act it out, how do you act it out, ding dong, hi, what are you guys doing, we've come to see the Christ child, that was actually 17th century British guy, but hey look, I'm not teaching a class on accents people.