Tag Archives: Joke Warfare

iO Class 10-14
I spent the weekend substitute teaching for Michael McCarthy's writing classes at the iO. Here, I'm showing the Sketch-writing class Monty Python's Joke Warfare/Funniest Joke in the World Sketch as we study editing (an appropriate choice on the Python anniversary weekend, I thought). 
This was my first time teaching in the new building, and I'm still amazed just walking into the place. I always have to think back to the crumbling, barely building-code legal Crosscurrents cabaret, where the iO (then ImprovOlympic) first started; to say it's come a long way is hugely underestimating it.
I highly recommend anyone in the Chicago area stop by for first-class improvisation (or, in the case of Dave and TJ's Mission Theatre, first-class sketch comedy), and stick around for drinks and dinner as well. It's only been a couple of months in the new building, but it's fast becoming a landmark. In fact, it's the Great Wall of China of Improvisation. Go now and thank me later.

More Killing Jokes…

Since I made mention of the “Killer Joke”/”Joke Warfare”/”Deadliest Joke in the World” Monty Python sketch the other day, it struck me that since most of the people reading this weren’t in my iO classroom last weekend, I should probably elaborate on the two versions of the sketch.

The original version of “Killer Joke” is in the very first “Flying Circus” show aired (which is actually the second one recorded), and runs about nine minutes. When I was interviewing Terry Jones a little while back, he mentioned that when the Pythons released their “Personal Best” DVDs, he had actually re-edited it, shortening it by over three minutes. He was proudest of the the fact that, with nearly one third of it removed, he still hadn’t lost a single laugh.

That seemed like a lot to edit, so I viewed both versions afterward. And, not surprisingly, he’s absolutely right! The original version, which is the one I’ve embedded here, is very funny, but there are still a number of slow spots that can be edited out without damaging the sketch whatsoever. The most glaringly obvious is probably the pan from the British lines to the German lines, which seems to take forever. Terry took the whole thing and tightened it up, and when you view it on “Terry Jones’ Personal Best,” it zips right along and you don’t lose a single laugh.

I use it in my classes to teach students the value of editing, and it works wonderfully. Anytime the audience isn’t laughing is a good time to examine the sketch to see if anything should be cut.

Actually, there is a third version in “And Now For Something Completely Different,” the first Python movie. It’s also shorter than the original version, but as I’m too busy to get it out and time it, you can check it out for yourself if interested. In the meantime, here’s the original.