Greg Dean‘s definition:Hammocking is the term used to describe the process of putting a weak joke or bit in between two strong jokes or bits. It’s called that because you often find weak jokes lounging on beaches. Here is
“hammocking a technique for placing weaker material or improvisation between two strong comedy bits.”
The concept is simple: the two strong bits (the trees) hold up the weaker new one (the hammock) and make it seem like a good idea and not a semi-flaccid deathtrap that kills more people annually than sharks. Even though it’s a simple idea that’s easy to execute, it does have some nuances.
- You don’t want to put your weak new joke in between your best two jokes. Even if your brand new hammock turns out to be decent it will seem bad if the stuff before and after it are great. You want to choose some good solid jokes but not your best.
- The opposite is also true: sometimes the trees holding up your hammock are good enough that they make your new joke seem better than it actually is.
- Don’t leave the hammock there for ever. Apparently jokes are magical hammocks. When they are young and weak they appear as hammocks but when they grow strong they turn into trees. Once you feel like the joke is working and no longer needs support make sure put it somewhere in the show where it can grow.
It’s not the only way of trying new joke in a show but Hammocking is the safest way to try new jokes in the show. You are secure in the knowledge that the audience will be happy after your first strong joke and if things go poorly there is another strong joke on deck. That way you can relax (maybe that’s where the name comes from!) and focus on giving the joke the best chance for success. You can also Hammock whole routines. Sticking your new thing between two established ones. It works best to place your hammock inbetween your penultimate routine and your finale.
You can also Hammock jokes between skills. If you have some great tricks that you know the audience will like you can always pause between tricks to try a couple of jokes, if they bomb you can just shrug and balance a club on your forehead and then let it fall behind you and then kick it blind behind your back to land back in the pattern. Or whatever.
What other methods do you use to try out new jokes? I know I’ve tested the waters using Twitter and Facebook for some one-liners and occasionally I’ll employ the peek behind the curtain method. How do you go about it?