Matt Lyle Breaks Down Basics Of Comedy

April 2, 2020

Playwright Matt Lyle led workshops in comedy writing as a part of the Literary Festival.

Lyle started off the session by asking students if their friends thought they were funny. He coaxed most of them into raising their hands by adding the qualifier “sometimes,” and used this to prove that everyone is at least a little funny.

Then, he asked what made students laugh. He got a myriad of answers, the most common being TikToks, clever wordplay and something unexpected.

“People getting hurt can be funny if you know they’re going to be ok,” freshman Todd McPherson said.

After collecting these answers, Lyle said that these answers mostly boil down to one concept: an expectation, and a subversion of it. 

Lyle gave the room of students the sentence, “Outside of dog, a book is a man’s best friend,” and told them to each write a punchline.

“I’m illiterate and I’m allergic to dogs, so I’m really lonely,” James McAnalley said.

After hearing students’ own responses, he revealed the original punchline: “Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

Using the expectation and subversion framework, Lyle walked the class through making up an abstract sketch subverting the idea of a first date. A student came up with an unusual take on each stage of the date. Instead of a normal first date dinner, it was in space. Instead of a normal meal, they had alien tentacles. 

“I found his presentation really interesting,” senior Victoria Taverna said. “[I] really loved the amount of audience participation that occurred throughout it.” 

Lyle ended the workshop by prompting students to start work on their own sketches in groups of four.

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