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Brian McKim p4

Comedian Brian McKim talks about how he creates some of his gags and structures his routines...

READERSVOICE.COM: Do you find yourself studying gags comedians tell, analysing the setup and punchline, which, in one podcast, Traci Skene noted was pioneered by Phyllis Diller. Or do you just enjoy the gags, and maybe think about them later?

BRIAN McKIM: I enjoy the gags at the time, but simultaneously analyze the method used. There are a million ways to get a laugh. I marvel at some comics’ ability to elicit laughs. I sometimes start with a phrase or expression. Or I will, rarely, start with a topic and work backwards. Most of the time, I seize on a premise– a capsulization of an absurdity or concept that has a central contradiction that contains potential for comedic exploitation. For example, for some reason, I heard the phrase “student parking.” I then thought of student parking at an elementary school. I then recalled that I had heard that Las Vegas schools have a reputation as being inadequate. I eventually wrote the joke, the basic premise of which is “the schools in Vegas are so bad that the elementary school near my house has student parking.” I further recalled that I had several other “ideas” or premises for jokes– and even a couple already written and developed– that centered on education and how bad it is i 21st century America. I married the student parking joke to those other jokes and wrote a setup for it that spoke about how, since I am not a homeowner, do not pay property taxes and have no children, I don’t really care whether or not the schools suck or not. I now have a nice two- or three-minute “chunk” that talks about education that serves as “intake” for any further jokes I might write that either directly or indirectly relate to poor education or stupidity. Some of the jokes in the chunk are a decade old, others are only weeks old. It constantly evolves.

RV: Your latest podcast, number 12, played some old comedy albums. I thought Jackie Vernon was hilarious, and I’d never heard of him. Who are some of your favorite comedians of all time and do you find they all end up influencing your standup?

BMcK: As we said on the podcast, my style was influenced by Jackie Vernon. His was a “setup-punchline” style, with elements of the absurd, delivered dryly. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that accurately describes my act! I watched Ed Sullivan. I saw dozens of comics and probably didn’t fully understand most of the material but came to appreciate their stuff much later on. Alan King, Myron Cohen, Phyllis Dilller– When I became a comic, I revisited their material. Or, in the case of King, I watched their contemporary specials and appearances and appreciated them at the time. I remember visiting Saginaw, MI, when I was twelve and listening to my brother’s wife’s brother’s Bill Cosby records. I also listened to Monty Python (and watched the TV series in first-run) and bought Firesign’s Theater’s I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus and memorized it. I saw Proctor & Bergman live on the University of Toledo campus in 1976! I saw Robert Klein live in 1979 on the campus of Temple University (my alma mater). All of this before I did my first open mike.

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