Instruction Manual for Comedians

Júlia Cot

Not so long ago, when I was getting ready to become a comedy writer, I’d often attend talks and classes where some professional from the sector would discuss their experience. Whenever they talked about their work method, they’d describe a shameless creative process where they’d start with the first crazy idea that popped into their head. Afterwards, they’d reflect, fine-tune the idea, and finally write freely. When the joke was made public, the audience would either laugh or they wouldn’t. And that was the only thing that mattered.

Humour is a tool for interpreting reality. Humour is thought, and thought should have no limits, they said. You should be able to present the audience with anything, even in bad taste, since the form of the message isn’t the same as the message or the joke itself; it’s just a way of drawing people’s attention to an idea.

That’s what they used to tell us, but today things have changed; now, that way of working seems to be only for the bravest. If you look hard enough at the penal code, any joke can be considered a crime.

But you, dear reader, shouldn’t lose hope. If you’re an aspiring comedy writer who fantasizes about making jokes about the political news, you just need to adapt to the new reality of censorship and follow these simple steps when it comes time to write a joke. If you follow these instructions, everything will be all right.

1. Think about what you want to say.
2. Once you’ve though about what you want to say, think again.
3. Put yourself in the mind of the average retrograde politician.
4. Ask yourself if your joke could offend this politician, or if they could benefit from saying it offended them.
5. Make a list of all the crimes you could be accused of for this joke in the name of law and order.
6. Did you get “hate crime”? Congratulations.
7. Worry.
8. Imagine having to defend your joke before a judge.
9. Worry.
10. Imagine having to pay a fine.
11. Worry.
12. Imagine yourself in prison.
13. Worry.
14. Repeatedly bang your head against the keyboard of your computer.
15. Submit a blank sheet of paper.

Júlia Cot