Clams and Toppers.

If you don’t have Jane Espenson‘s blog on your must-read list, you really ought to.

She writes regularly on the process of creating spec scripts.

Also, about what she had for lunch, but as that’s a story on a par with Tom Baker’s Scarf, we’ll let it slide.

Having started out as a comedy writer, Jane regularly talks about the tricks and pitfalls of the trade. One of the pitfalls is the type of joke known as a clam.

A clam is a joke so old that everyone knows it. Some common examples:

“Did I just say that out loud?”
“That went well, I thought.”
“I don’t mean to be impolite, but…”

Funny-once, as Mike the sentient computer might put it.

How do you defeat a clam? With a twist. Move it along and freshen it up.

So here’s Penny Arcade’s take on one of the all-time favourites. Pretty funny, n’est?

But then, the next strip is what’s known as a topper – a gag which builds on top of the first one.

The great thing about toppers is that all the setup has been done already, to get the laugh for the first joke, so they’re effectively a free laugh.

Avoid clams. Embrace toppers.

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