Want to Write Better Copy? Think Like a Comedian.

Estimated reading time: 13 minute(s)

Whether your job is to generate laughs or sales, these techniques will help you seal the deal.

Our guest writer Thiago Macklin Lima explores how the elements of great joke writing can be applied to create powerful, persuasive copy.

Have a distinct voice. Capture big ideas with simple phrases. Finish with a surprise we don’t see coming. Comedians spend their lives in comedy clubs honing these skills so that when they have a captive audience, they can be sure to deliver an act that’s entertaining and unforgettable.

It just so happens that the hallmarks of great comedy are also the hallmarks of great copywriting. Both have the same intention: Get people to listen, tell them something about you that’s worth hearing and then close strong by delivering on those ideas in rewarding and unexpected ways.

Here, five comedians show us how it’s done with hilarious bits that sum up their unique ways of looking at the world in a few carefully chosen words.

Mitch Hedberg: Show your weird to the world

“I want to hang a map of the world in my house. Then I’m gonna put pins into all the locations I’ve traveled to, but first I’m gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map, so it won’t fall down.” – Mitch Hedberg

If there’s any comedian who had a singular, one-of-a-kind voice, it’s the late comedy legend, Mitch Hedberg. Here he sets up a classic image: the aspiring world traveler hanging up a world map on their wall. But just as we place that image in our heads, Mitch inserts his wonderfully weird worldview into the picture and delivers us a fresh and exciting take on this standard idea. Just like Mitch’s joke does here, any good piece of copy should put a premium on showing off what makes us fascinating and extraordinary, so we can be sure to stand out in a crowd.

Mark Normand: Sum it all up succinctly

“It’s tough being an introvert; people don’t get us. I was in an Uber and the driver said ‘So you’re an introvert. Tell me about that.’ I said ‘Well. That’s not really how it works.’ ” – Mark Normand

In copywriting, as in comedy, sometimes who we are and what we want to say feels too complicated to get across. Here Mark shows us why a great joke writer, just like a great copywriter, is worth their weight in gold. By summing up a therapy session’s worth of complex emotion with one sharp, clear, and concise quip, he finds a way to make us understand his whole predicament without wasting a single breath.

Ali Wong: Say what you mean

“DIY stands for “You Should’ve Married Someone With More Money!’ ” – Ali Wong

With so much vying for our attention these days sometimes the best approach is to say it loud and say it proud. Ali Wong’s bombastic approach to telling the world how she feels has made her one of the hottest names in comedy. Having personally seen her shake a room with uncontrollable laughter, I can tell you that when someone is willing to speak with energy and conviction the way she does, people sit up and listen. While the words are still succinct Ali shows us that good comedy, like good copy, isn’t just about having clever lines. An unapologetic stance on the way we feel can be the difference in creating that special connection with those that feel the same.

Jim Gaffigan: Heighten to the heavens

“You wanna know how good bacon is? To improve other food, they wrap it in bacon” – Jim Gaffigan

How important is bacon? To Jim Gaffigan, it means the whole world. Watch any one of his specials and you’ll find a bunch of oddball humor that focuses solely on minute subjects like the different types of foods he enjoys. But like many of his jokes, this Jim Gaffigan bit is a masterclass on how to take things that may feel trivial and remind us that they are in fact, exceptional. Very few people spend their days thinking about the milk they drink, the banks they choose, or the socks they wear but an excellent copywriting team can find a way to elevate even the simplest service or product to heavenly heights and highlight their importance in our day-to-day lives. Just like Jim.

Maria Bamford: Compassionately connect

“If you ever start thinking ‘Oh I’m a waste of space and a burden. Remember, that also describes the Grand Canyon” – Maria Bamford

Another oddity in the comedy landscape, Maria Bamford is one of the few comedians working today who isn’t just a sarcastic cynic. This joke showcases her emotional intelligence in dealing with tough, uncomfortable feelings and finding a way to uplift the listener through compassion and humor. Depending on the context, being clever or sharp may not always be enough. People still need to feel the humanity breathing through our words to know that they’re being taken care of by someone who understands their pain. Maria’s hot takes might pack slightly less punch than others, but the sympathetic connections she makes through her comedy have built a loyal and passionate fanbase that feels less alone with her in the world.

If you’re looking to give your copy a punch-up to connect with the crowd the way these creative giants do, contact us today!

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Paul Rosevear

What do you get when you combine the soul of a musician with the mind of a writer? Copy that sings. And for the last decade, that’s precisely what Paul has delivered for global brands, bootstrap startups, and everything in between. When he’s not hard at work crafting top-notch communications, you can find Paul hanging with his wife and two young daughters, singing and playing guitar for The Vice Rags, or roaming the streets in search of the nearest slice of pizza.

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