Here's a good breakdown of a Louis CK joke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufdvYrTeTuU
Jerry Seinfeld also gave an interview with the NYT about the process — I think Jerry is a good example because so much of his comedy depends on the delivery.
Can't remember a specific example now, but the two of them often generally discuss how comedy works, etc.
He's a bit OTT about how it can't be taught and it seems a bit contradictory as they'll discuss how they learnt the craft and often find they did the same thing.
Now that you mention it all of the preroll interviews in his recorded acts do seem really forced... I could never tell if that was me reading him wrong, or if he was keeping up the "I don't care" character.
On stand-up comedy... I've heard more about the "making of" in recent years too, as comedians invaded podcasting. It's very interesting, how a joke or set evolves in the telling. I guess certain jokes and bits don't make the cut, but moreso, they are refined for timing, cadence and the stuff this article points out (kreshendo?).
A curious paralel is (perhaps) speech-making. There is someone on stage, live audience. They do the same talk/set over and over, to different crowds. Each time, the punches are fuunnier. The misdirections get more subtle. The impacts are better. The crowd cohesion grows.
Orration is ancient, and I suspect that stand up comedians have a lot in common with orators of the past, before mass media existed.
If you listen to (for example) a recorded malcolm X speech (I think he was exceptionally talented), you are probably listening to the 100th delivery of the speech. It didn't just pop out of his mouth with that much impact on day 1.
You can work as hard as you want beforehand, your work on a story is not done until you told it dozen of times to a real, live audience.
Still impressed by standup comedians, as they have a way smaller error margin than us.
Does this get billed as one man show theatre?
We are considered as actors/comedian and are paid accordingly (or not at all, for open mics, obviously).
Maybe you should bill yourself as "speakers." They get paid better.
The really compelling bit for me is watching a skilled comedian get a feel for the crowd. It's easier to spot with a comic you've seen more than once, but you can see this with others as well once you know to look - you'll see them go into a routine, and for some reason the jokes just aren't hitting with the expected force (the crowd seems into it from my perspective, but what do I know?). They'll then almost seamlessly pivot into another completely different bit, and NOW it almost audibly clicks, and the audience just swells and starts laughing with their whole being. It's difficult to describe, considering that much of it is a feeling in the air. An off-the-top example...a comic is doing political material, and it's not being totally received, so they'll segue into sex material, and it pops with this crowd, so they'll continue from there. Considering that even within the same town, an 8:00 crowd and an 11:00 crowd may differ wildly in their tastes, to the point where the 8 crowd wants politics, and the 11 crowd wants sex. Geography plays a factor, too. It's an incredibly complex skill to master, and generally takes several years of road work to get down. Some of the hardcore touring comics are on the road for 250 - 300 days a year, which is insane to me.
It's easier to get a feel for these moments if you watch a lot of amateur comedy (not open mic beginners, though, as that's another beast), where the comedians are working on material or honing their chops - they're not as skilled as the headliners, usually, in mastering the pivot, so you see them successfully feel out the crowd dynamic, but not necessarily execute completely, so the struggle is much more obvious.
It's incredibly difficult work. Weeks of writing and 20 pages of notes might lead to 3 minutes of actual, usable material (likely less), if you're lucky. All respect to these professionals.
I think I prefer seeing them working in the small venues like this when their act is quite raw and not just seeing the highly polished finished routine. They are incredibly talented and getting an insight into their thoughts is wonderful.
Full video on youtube, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrqkP1JpBRY
It's crazy how complicated design is since there are so many form factors to get right. Miss one, and you lose part of your audience.
I have so much respect for front end engineers and designers, because this stuff is not easy.
Commenting on the design, as a slow reader and non-native English speaker I felt annoyed at having to read against the clock ticking away for each slide (or alternatively, having to click 'pause' again for each slide individually). I hope whatever package this page is based on changes their default settings in future releases.
Imagine writing an article titled "The Structure of Software" and using code from one application to define the structure of all software.
I once watched 100 videos of top 100 comedians of the decade. I realized that no two comedians were alike.
I like to think that comedy is a place of anti-logic or no logic or beyond logic with room for non-sequitur and absurdism and hence no structure.
William James said that philosophy “sees the familiar as if it were strange, and the strange as if it were familiar.” The same is true of standup comedy. Simon Critchley has written that both ask us to “look at things as if you had just landed from another planet”. 
Don't you see the paradox you have introduced. What came first the strangeness or the familiarity?
We are all very good at meaning/structure making post hoc.
The main thesis of “Inside Jokes” is that humor is an evolved adaptation used by humans to “debug” mental representations, i.e. find tacit incongruities and contradictions within representations and bring them to light.
The animations are decorative, not informative. Run through the piece again and you'll see they convey no independent actionable or memorable content that isn't already conveyed in the text, and/or couldn't be illustrated just as effectively with static diagrams.
This is an absolute monster load of development work for what's really just a one page magazine article.
And if you know a little about dramatic form, you'll note that it doesn't explain the design of the structure in any detail - certainly not any kind of detail you could repurpose if you were interested in writing or stand-up.
It's just "Stand-up has structure" - which you could get across in a single sentence, and which is probably a thought a lot of readers will already have had.
Personally, the animations drew me in. Basically all things can be reduced to a single sentence explanation, but that doesn’t mean a single sentence has all the impact of the original.
A few thoughts on comedy:
- In "Step by Step to Stand-up Comedy" (great book about doing standup), the author describes the process of writing a standup routine. Basically, first you write a lot of jokes on random topics, and tag them by categories (like "driving", "postal service", "marriage", etc). Once you have a few dozen jokes, you organize the ones that can belong to a similar topic together, and then figure out how to string them together into a coherent routine, where one joke leads to another. So routines are written "bottom-up" from jokes, first you have jokes, then you find a way to put them together in a way that makes sense, but doesn't need much meaning or structure beyond that.
- Movies or sictcoms, on the other hand, are written "top-down". First you have a story structure, which can, but doesn't have to be that funny(laws for comedy and drama are the same), and then you brainstorm jokes using your scenes as topics. If you came up with some good jokes or scenes separately, that don't necessarily fit, you can find a way to "shoehorn" them into the script, nothing wrong with that, but generally it goes structure first, jokes second.
- Jokes are "absurd associations". Our brain thinks in patterns. When you put together two patterns(ideas) that don't belong together, it creates the feeling of absurdity, the less patterns belong together, the less they fit together, the more absurd they will feel. ("A man on a bicycle" is not absurd, "a man on a unicycle" is a little bit absurd, "Hitler riding a unicycle" is very absurd, "Hitler riding a unicycle while wearing a white dress and juggling fish" is absurd as fuck). Comedy is the art of finding connections between patterns. You "connect the dots" between two ideas, find an overlap(an association) between two patterns that are far apart, and you put them together. The more absurd(less compatible) the two ideas are, and the stronger the connection(the more it makes sense), the funnier the joke will be.
"During a stand-up routine from 1996, Victoria says the word "bollocks" then comments on the scandal inherent in this. "It will be in the paper on Monday. ‘Woman says bollocks near Cheadle'.’’ As Rebecca Front states in the documentary: “Cheadle being the absolute perfect near-Manchester town. It just falls in the right way.” Victoria could have said "Sale" or "Hyde" or "Droylsden", but they wouldn’t have been as funny as "Cheadle". She had an unerring instinct for the mot juste."
I upvoted you.
I wrote a post  once talking about this in more detail, but it's pretty old and my thoughts have changed a bit since then. I'll try to write an article explains it better once I have the time and energy.
I’d propose she repeat the show but leave out the physical comedy that goes along with the specific point they are obsessed with and if their hypothesis holds the laughs will be just as big, since they postulate that it’s the structure of the preceding jokes tying in it that causes the laughs and not the joke itself.
This reminded me of Hannah Gadsby's "Nanette" because, like Ali Wong's show, it has a strong narrative arc, and because, like this presentation itself, it analyzes the structure of comedy.
Latest tour "Content Provider" -- https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bdcnwq/stewart-lee-c...
Relevant to the article, he also wrote a book that deconstructs some of his routines. There are a few brilliant youtube clips somewhere, where someone has taken video of those routines and added annotations of what he said about each joke, as the joke comes up. I'd link them but I can't find the damn things.
I don't understand why jokes about vaginas, being fat, being gross or sex are funny to so many people.
Something is ultimately funny cause it is unexpected and true in a certain perspective.
My guess is that people think it is unexpected that people talk about these things and that is why they laugh and think it is funny.
To me the concept of using such a simple idiotic picture of what a human is, is cringe. It is sort of embarrassing that people find it funny.
IMO, comedy is a great vehicle to help people realize taboo topics should not be taboo. Are Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy not quality comics? Do you also have an issue with cussing? George Carlins famous bit showed how absurd it is to ban words from TV.
But in this specific case it is about the amount of quality work that went in to the material.
Trying to find consistent logical reasons in comedy is a pretty futile game.
The article measures the time between big laughs. That timing is not what happened in the auditorium. It's not worth measuring. The data was edited and cannot tell you anything about precise timing. Why doesn't the author of the article acknowledge this?
I brought up the topic of multiple filming and editing. I am also aware of the reasons for it, thanks. It is what makes the article so dumb because it says "Oh, look at the precise timing of laughs in this pristine routine."
As a side note when you're calling something stupid you come off as not thinking it through https://sivers.org/ss
Yes, that's why specials are almost always film the same routine twice with the space hair and makeup for each show. It's better after editing. Anfter editing you cannot talk about any big findings on timing of laughs in the routine because you are only talking about the timing of the editing.
> As a side note when you're calling something stupid you come off as not thinking it through https://sivers.org/ss
Derek Sivers is an actual idiot. He didn't know you could write a macro to control a desktop UI and also write a mock WAV file to CD-ROM driver for Mac OS. The guy is lucky, not smart https://sivers.org/itunes
He also hates paying taxes so he can fuck right off
I genuinely enjoyed the material and found it very fresh, especially as someone that didn't really think standup comedy was for me before that.
... the delivery better do some magic 'cause I was depressed after couple of sentences and not in a mood for laughs at all...