Writing Gags

OK, I’ve been pretty off topic lately, so it’s time to rein it in again and get back to cartoon talk.

I didn’t feel like drawing this afternoon, so I decided to write gags instead.

Having recently watched Tom’s coloring vid, I wish I could stick a recorder or camera in my head to show you what happens, but until that’s possible…

I scrawled some notes out, and although observing the process affects the outcome, it’s pretty close to what goes on. Enjoy!

Scanning Chicago Tribune business section from a few days ago.

Pretty boring. No good catchphrases yet.

Read “Chasing dreams” in headline.

Man in bar to another – “I was all set to chase my dreams, but the damn thing is so fast.”

Lame. “Chasing dreams” is weak and not often used. Move on…

More reading. Nothing. Move to another business section.

Scan… Read… “…no frills approach…” Ooh! I can do something with that.

Frilled lizard at conference table of lizards unhappy with no frills approach.

Weak. Reminds me of that Ren & Stimpy with the frilled Ren. That was funny.

All frills. Nothing but frills. Frill heavy.

Man at in meeting looking at Powerpoint with group – “I see your point, but I’d still prefer the all frills approach.”

Nice. Kinda low-hanging gag, but it’ll do, and better than most low hangers. (Note – hat tip to Mike Lynch for the “low hanging joke” nomenclature.)

More reading… Nothing… Nothing…

“On again, off again…”

Light switch boyfriend. Girl comments about relationship.

Need something that something goes up and down on.

Back to the light switch. Will that work? Kinda weak. Did I do something like this already?

(Look on my website for “dimmer.”)

There it is. Kinda weak even there. Scrap it.

Relationships. Dating. Problems. Mixed Signals.

Semaphore flags. A woman on the couch with semaphore flags, boyfriend complains about mixed signals.

Hmmm… Maybe. What’s the problem?

How would she give bad signals? What else could she use to screw it up?

Morse code. How do you show that? What’s that thing look like?

Other flags. (Look on Google images for “signals”.)

Ooh! There’s something. (Shuttered lights for morse code.) Will people know what that is? Too big for the scene?

Traffic light. No… Back to just the flags…

Come back to it later.

“…gold standard…”

Hold… bold… cold… mold… “I’m proud to say our bleu cheese is the mold standard…”

God… Thats so stupid…

Twitter. IM. Texting. Phone. Cell. Ummm…. Email.

“I tried to get ahold you on IM, text messaging, phone, cell phone, email…”

Where’s that going? What’s the gag?

Nothing there, move on.

Back to reading… New business section.

Scan scan scan… “…mating dance…”

Ummm… what’s that thing when companies go together? (My son comes in and talks to me.)

Damn, I had it a second ago… Merger. That’s it.

Meeting in conference room – “Before we continue, Anderson here will perform the merger dance.”

Man dancing in office. Person outside to another “Oh, that’s just Anderson trying to attract a merger.”

Not bad. Let it marinate in the idea box.

Two down. Last one’s always the hardest.

More scanning… Scanning… Another business section…

“…transparent business…” I’ve done one on this before. Translucent accounting I think.

Worker to boss – “Our accounting is now completely transparent, but now we can’t find it.”

“The good news is our accounting is totally transparent. The bad news is now no one can see it.”

“Damn it, I said make our accounting transparent, not invisible!”

OK, got a third.

More reading… Housing problems… Home Depot worried… Do-it-yourselfers…

Aisle in store with signs “Do it yourself” on one section, “Try it yourself then call a professional” over another.

Lame. Already did something like it a ways back. Moving on…

Daydream… Pick something random… Mushrooms… Fungi…

Woman at bar to giant mushroom – “Listen, it’s not that you’re not a fun guy, but you’re a fungi.”

Bad pun. Bad set-up. Still kinda like it. Let it marinate…

Wait – woman to mushroom at door – “When your ad said fungi, I just thought you’d misspelled ‘fun guy'”

Still no good… Still like the pun… Marinate…

This’ll be a long blog. Need to catch up on blogs tonight… Blogs… Dear diary…

Girl writing in diary – “Dear diary, have to cool it for a while – I think my blog is on to us.”

Nice. OK, that’s four pretty good ones.

And that’s it. It’s both faster and slower, but you get the idea.

7 thoughts on “Writing Gags”

  1. You're brave to do this! Fun and interesting read about the "process." So much is persisting and failing and trying again. Speaking for me, there's an incredible amount of time spent in the search for a good cartoon. It's not pretty!

    Putting cartoon ideas away for a time is also a great tip.

  2. Great idea, thanks for sharing this! I think concrete examples can really help a lot of people understand how something like brainstorming comic ideas works. Most of the time you get something vauge like "I stare off into space and just play around with whatever comes to mind." That may be moderately accurate in the case of some professionals, but it's hardly helpful to the aspiring cartoonist.

    This post was very 2.0 of you, very transparant, and thus very good blogging! It may not be the only way to do it, but it really emphasizes that most good ideas are built, not conjured.

  3. Yep well done, the creative process is honestly laid bare. I reckon the 'marinating' or 'incubation' on an idea produces the goods. After allowing and idea to incubate the solution jumps out and slaps you on the forehead, it's great, 'illumination'.

  4. I'm glad everyone liked this so mcuh!

    For the record, this probably took about 30 minutes or so from beginning to end, and I'm sure there was some some daydreaming and other stuff that I missed in there, but it's as close to showing what happens as I can get.

  5. I brainstorm in exactly the same way! – So thanks for your post. It's shown me that I'm at the very least doing something right.

  6. No problem!

    BTW, I'm not sure this process is right per se, but at least we can both rest knowing someone else thinks the same way.

    Oh, also I see leprechauns and they talk to me. You too?

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